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A major element of any important sporting event is the quality of the pregame, in-game, and post-game commentating. ESPN/ABC has taken full ownership of the NBA Finals and thus dictates viewers’ satisfaction to a large extent. They have done an average job at best and should begin to re-evaluate their “talent,” if they have not already started doing so. Here’s how they graded out:

Jeff Van Gundy–  Far and away the most entertaining of ESPN’s announcers. Actually knows a lot about basketball and actually is funny/witty. Obviously context helps in that he is announcing his brother’s games, but he has provided consistently good commentating all season. A

Mike Wilbon– Would be in a dead-heat for first, but does not say all that much in his pre and postgame appearances. Absolutely is the most intelligent individual on this list and certainly has the ability to formulate a coherent, humorous, and unique analyses of each game. Perhaps taking him off of the PTI set has left Wilbon out of his comfort zone; or maybe he just cannot deal with being around a group of individuals so low on the IQ totem pole. A-

John Barry– Very easy to listen to. Barry takes very few risks in his stances but manages to break down games very well– especially for a former player. Has the broadcast tangibles and intangibles that many others on this list lack. B

Mike Breen– The black and white outline to Van Gundy’s color commentating. Breen is good at what he does, but does not do a whole lot. He does set Van Gundy up well for some golden comments, and is fairly accurate and concise in the few statements that he does make. Too mechanical to be an “elite” announcer. B

Stan Van Gundy– Obviously not a paid ESPN employee, but his post game is far more entertaining than anything else on television. Whether or not this diminishes his credibility and authority as a coach is up for debate, but would be right at the top with his brother if announcing was his job. Certainly has a place to work after he retires.  No Grade Applicable

Jalen Rose– Outside of Barry, the best player-turned-announcer. While sometimes obviously befuddled by the teleprompter, he brings a smooth swagger to ESPN’s otherwise clunky post-game team. Rose also knows the tendencies and thought patterns of most players, making him even more of an asset. His confidence, coupled with his knowledge is almost enough to mask Avery Johnson’s incompetence. B-

Mark Jackson– Unlike his on-court skills, Jackson is rather streaky in his sideline role. There are spurts in the action where he appears in the groove and provides insightful commentary, but there are also long stretches where he appears lost and resorts to stating the obvious or awkwardly chuckling at Jeff Van Gundy’s jokes. B-

Stewart Scott– A true disappointment. Perhaps it is simply that the “Boo-Yah” effect has worn out its welcome to me, but Scott’s pre and post-game input seems very forced and fake. Everything remotely intelligent that he utters seems to have been scripted by ESPN, not by Scott. His job is to simply bring life to the team of Barry, Johnson, and Wilbon. Fail. Also, the glass eye kind of freaks me out. C

Michelle Tafoya– Like Breen, Tafoya is proficient at what she does: asking obvious questions. Her sideline analysis is average and her voice is bearable. She loses major points for not being anywhere near as hot as Erin Andrews. Why couldn’t ESPN give her the NBA Finals? C-

Magic Johnson– Really irritates me. He is good in small doses, very small doses. ESPN made a mistake by hiring him. The logic is clear; Johnson was a Laker and a Hall-of-Fame player. Those two qualifications make him an obvious candidate to cover the finals. However, what looks good on paper certainly does not always sound good on the air. He tries way too hard to be Stewart Scott. The only things that he brings to the table are his stat-sheet and somebody whom the Lakers, like Kobe Bryant, are comfortable talking to in an interview setting. D+

Guest (Andre Iguodala/Jamal Mashburn)- I only put these individuals on the list to further emphasize the failure of Avery Johnson (below). Mashburn, as an example, fills the same niche that Jalen Rose does. They have been brought in with no other purpose than to freshen up the mundane ESPN post-game picture. And while they do accomplish that objective, hearing the same thing that Jalen Rose (a B- analyst) said twice-over does very little for the overall post-game experience. These individuals are no asset and often have some sort of an awkward tendency– like Iguodala’s severe under-bite. D

Avery Johnson– The person whom I would LEAST like to hear speak for an extended period of time. Why ESPN would even consider somebody who sounds like they are breathing in helium is beyond me. He brings absolutely no legitimate analysis to the table and vainly attempts to be funny. I have vowed to never again watch the post-game analysis solely because of him.  Worst hire of all time. F

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