Wednesday saw a huge number of ESPN writers and personalities announce their departure from the company after the sports media giant went forward with a huge wave of on-air and writing talent. While Wednesday was the day that most learned of their fate, there have been more layoffs that have trickled out over the past two days, and on Friday, we learned of two massive departures from ESPN’s NBA coverage.
Reporter and the company’s best NBA news breaker Marc Stein announced on Friday evening that he had been let go as part of the layoffs, as had Henry Abbott, the long-time editor of ESPN’s TrueHoop site and network that launched so many NBA writing careers.
Those departures, along with the likes of Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Calvin Watkins, and Justin Verrier, remove significant figures from the company’s NBA footprint, in reporting, editing, and story-telling. Many have questioned what ESPN could possibly be doing to replace those writers internally, as they all play extremely valuable, high-profile roles. However, it appears as though there could be an explanation for the moves that goes beyond just company layoffs in the name of the bottom line.
As Jim Miller, an expert in all things behind the scenes at ESPN, tweeted an hour before Stein officially announced his departure, the moves on the NBA side at ESPN seem to signal more of an opening of space rather than trimming salaries, and that the beneficiary of that space could be Adrian Wojnarowski.
Wojnarowski has been rumored to be connected with ESPN for months, but those rumblings died down after the All-Star Break. However, there now seems to be some evidence in the form of these, on the surface, surprising moves from ESPN to strip their NBA coverage of some of their top guys. Woj wouldn’t be coming alone from Yahoo!, with the expectation from those around the league being that if he were to change companies, he would bring much of his team from The Vertical with him wherever he goes.
This would make sense, considering everything ESPN is losing right now on the NBA side, but it still is a tremendous amount of loss for an NBA partner during the playoffs, losing the top news breaker and reporter in Stein, as well as their beat writer for the NBA’s best team in Strauss with the Warriors, and one of their top editors in Abbott. We’ll have to wait and see until the summer if the Woj speculation is true, but these latest ESPN moves have caused the rumors to circulate once again.