On Wednesday night, Maria Taylor was in her typical role hosting NBA Countdown on ABC prior to Game 4 of the NBA Finals, but she may not be in that role, or with ESPN, for much longer.
It has been reported for weeks that Taylor and ESPN are at an apparent impasse regarding contract negotiations, with ESPN reportedly lowering its offer that had been on the table two years ago as the company continues to deal with budget issues following the pandemic. As such, Taylor’s future with the company has been in doubt, with the reported tension in ESPN’s NBA camp from Rachel Nichols’ leaked comments suggesting Taylor got her Finals role due to ESPN’s issues with diversity only furthering the belief that Taylor could be on the way out the door.
As for where she would go, with her pedigree as a host and sideline reporter for some of ESPN’s biggest properties of college football and the NBA, Taylor figured to have plenty of suitors. According to Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, NBC Sports is apparently the frontrunner for Taylor’s services, as the two sides are apparently close on a deal.
“The deal’s at the half-yard line. But that can still be a long way in contract negotiations,” said a source. The negotiations could still fall apart or ESPN could raise its offer.
As for what Taylor’s role would be at NBC, that seems to be the biggest question in all of this and likely what needs to be sorted out most. It’s possible she could contribute to their Notre Dame football coverage, although that isn’t exactly a step up for her, but with Mike Tirico set to take over for Al Michaels in the near future (this upcoming season is to be Michaels’ last), she could take over as the host on NBC’s Sunday Night Football studio show in 2022 — and possibly serve in a dual sideline role with Michelle Tafoya in the immediate.
There is also the allure of Olympics coverage for Taylor, although whether she would be added immediately to NBC’s Tokyo coverage seems like a bit of a logistical hurdle given how close that would be to the end of the Finals. McCarthy also notes that it’s possible the NBC deal is an overlapping one with Amazon, which has also pursued Taylor for some sort of role in their Thursday Night Football coverage when they take over exclusive rights for the NFL’s weeknight game in 2022, or includes a role on Today to give Taylor a presence beyond the sports world.
In all, there are a number of possibilities for how this could work, but it seems increasingly likely that Taylor will be the latest to move on from ESPN for greener pastures, leaving a massive hole for the company on both NBA and college football coverage.