Thursday, February 11, 2016

Golden Age of NBA Podcasts?

I love podcasts, and I love the NBA.

And lately it seems the two have intertwined in a joyous symbiosis.

For me, it started several years ago with Bill Simmons and his ESPN podcast, "The BS Report."  Simmons is often the "gateway" pod for many sports fans.  The first sports (and pop culture) stop down the rabbit hole of on-demand, digital audio content.

Simmons spoke on many subjects, but NBA basketball was his bread-and-butter, or better said, his pick-and-roll.  The hour-long discussions with players, coaches, executives, media personalities, and friends were enlightening and engrossing.  I often find that conversations don't hit their stride until 10-15-20 minutes into discussions.  That is when the magic happens, and the point at which typical radio interviews end, leaving you wanting more.

Now, it seems that quality NBA podcasts are sprouting up every week.

My first break-off NBA podcast was from Bill Simmons' Grantland network, in the form of Zach Lowe's "The Lowe Post."  Lowe was ,and is still, able to get great guests - especially head coaches - who give him honest banter and a lot of their time, because they seem to know he cares about their world down to the Xs-and-0s.  Recently, he somehow snagged a podcast interview with Sacramento Kings headman George Karl for 40-plus minutes in Karls' hotel room, all while there was open discussion that the coach was about to be fired (he is still hanging on as I write this).

When Grantland was suspended at the end of October 2015, not only did I lose Bill Simmons' podcast (which had ceased to be six months earlier), including an NBA-only show that he had just started called "Bill Don't Lie," but I thought Lowe was then gone too.  I dejectedly deleted his show from my queue, only to find out down the line that he would keep his show and his presence on the ESPN mother-ship.

Concurrently, sometime around Fall 2015, Sports Illustrated began their own podcast network in what would seem a direct response to ESPN's success with the format.

It was there that Chris Mannix, the talented Sports Illustrated writer, began his own "Open Floor" podcast.  His hour-long show also included a mix of coaches, players, and media.  He was less analytic-y than Lowe and more general in his discussion of the game.  Professional and enthusiastic.

Then, around the end of 2015, it was announced that Adrian Wojnarowski - the preeminent scoop master of the NBA, and a great writer to boot - would be launching his own NBA site for Yahoo, called "the Vertical."  This too would include podcasts.  "Woj" launched his show first, with great guests that included Adam Silver, the Commissioner, and General Managers Bob Myers and Masai Ujiri.  His guests have been top-notch.

Chris Mannix joined "The Vertical," bringing his podcast, and Los Angeles Clippers guard JJ Redick was also added to the roster as the host of his own show.

Mannix's Sports Illustrated "Open Floor" podcast was taken over by SI's NBA feature writer Lee Jenkins.

Bill Simmons - who is now with HBO - came back too, in October, to re-launch his podcast.  It appears the show is actually done from his house.  Projected earnings from advertisers are thought to be in the $5 Million per year range.

It is quite possible I listen to people talk about the NBA 10-20 times as much as I actually watch the games at this point.

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