Malika Andrews isn’t just a Band-Aid for ESPN. She’s brilliant in her own right
Rachel Nichols's racially insensitive comments are producing transformational results at ESPN. Today, the worldwide leader in sports announced reporter Malika Andrews will host its new daily NBA show NBA Today, in a clear effort to rid itself of the mess Nichols created.
ESPN is making sure Andrews's new show will be one of the centerpieces of its daily sports show roster by debuting NBA Today on October 18, the day before the highly anticipated start of the 2021-2022 NBA season. The show marks an unprecedented rise for the 26-year-old reporter, who will host her own show only three years after joining ESPN prior to the 2018-2019 NBA season. With Maria Taylor no longer hosting ESPN's NBA Countdown following her move to NBC Sports this past Summer, NBA Today is currently the only ESPN daily show hosted solely by a Black woman. In a statement, Andrews professed, "our goal every day is to deliver information and analysis to our viewers that can’t be gleaned anywhere else," but the show has a bigger purpose than overanalyzing why LeBron James didn't pass the ball to Russell Westbrook in the clutch.
For all intents and purposes, NBA Today is an exorcism of the demons ESPN had to come to terms with following reporter Rachel Nichols's racially-motivated comments from a private conversation about Taylor from last year. At first, ESPN and Nichols thought her surreptitiously recorded devaluing of Taylor's talents from 2020 would be forgiven for a disrespectfully short 26-second apology to open the July 5 episode of her show The Jump. It wasn't, at all. A little over a month later, ESPN announced Nichols's show was canceled, and the 15-year ESPN veteran would be removed from ESPN's NBA coverage. In the announcement of NBA Today, ESPN made the point to mention how the show will replace Nichols's The Jump, in more ways than one.
Besides replacing The Jump in its mid-day time slot, ESPN is filling NBA Today with most of the on-air talent which made The Jump popular. ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski and ESPN NBA Insider and Senior Writer Ramona Shelburne, frequent guests on The Jump, will also make appearances on NBA Today. The show's panel will feature The Jump mainstays Kendrick Perkins, Chiney Ogwumike, Vince Carter, and ESPN Senior Writer Zach Lowe. Perkins was so inextricable of The Jump, he used his own Black wife to defend his choice to not take Nichols's to task over her racially insensitive comments. Perkins also remained a personality on The Jump after Nichols's removal, as ESPN kept airing episodes of the soon-to-be extinct show with the criminally unfunny former NBA champion Richard Jefferson at the helm.
The Jump's final episode airs on October 8, 10 days before the new era begins with NBA Today, but don't misconstrue ESPN's attempt at washing itself of Nichols's dirty laundry as an act of tokenism. Andrews deserves every second of airtime she gets on NBA Today. When Nichols was removed from NBA coverage in July, Andrews stepped up and delivered, holding a poised yet entertaining interview with Phoenix Suns point guard and future Hall of Famer Chris Paul after his first ever win of an NBA Finals game. When the Milwaukee Bucks were down 2-1 in those same NBA Finals, Andrews got a heartfelt testimonial from Bucks's All-Star Khris Middleton about his emotional bond with Bucks's franchise player Giannis Antetokounmpo. When the NBA was about to put players into a Disney World bubble to conclude the 2019-2020 NBA season, Andrews was one of the first reporters to get player reactions to the health concerns they had prior to entering the bubble.
Andrews's new role is probably inspired by ESPN's attempt to wash away a history of white-washed sports coverage. But she is more than capable of picking up where Nichols left off and taking ESPN's daily sports coverage to new heights.