The NBA Playoffs have been garnering strong viewership, so it makes sense for ESPN to take advantage by creating additional basketball coverage. Who better to anchor that basketball coverage than Stephen A. Smith.
According to ESPN’s Andy Hall, Smith will be prominently featured during the 6 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter during the NBA Conference Finals and anchor a 7 p.m. ET version of SportsCenter preceding each NBA Finals game.
“Stephen A. Smith is an authority on the NBA and we’re excited to provide another way to showcase and maximize his contributions to our NBA coverage,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president and executive editor, studio production. “With the SportsCenter editions originating from the game sites, there will be ample opportunities for A-List guests to join him and prepare fans for the night’s action.”
According to ESPN, their 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter has enjoyed an increase in viewership for April and March over the corresponding months in 2017. In February 2017, ESPN rebranding the 6 p.m. SportsCenter as SC6, hosted by Michael Smith and Jemele Hill. Often criticized for being too opinionated, at times diving into topics outside the realm of sports news, Michael Smith and Jemele Hill were removed as hosts, reverting back to a traditional version of SportsCenter for the 6 p.m. hour.
More widely known for hosting First Take weekday mornings on ESPN, as well as his successful radio show, Stephen A. recognizes the importance of SportsCenter to the network.
“It is the SportsCenter brand that has made ESPN what we’ve become. To have my name up in lights as HOST during the NBA Finals is unreal. An incredible honor for me. And I plan on making the most of it. Buckle up! Stay Tuned. And don’t miss it.”
While Stephen A. has made a variety of controversial statements throughout his career and remains a highly opinionated personality, the focus of his SportsCenter involvement will be the NBA Conference Finals and NBA Finals. Whether or not ESPN has larger plans for the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter, after the NBA season is over, remains to be seen.
Coming off Stephen A. hosting the show, ESPN could continue a more creative approach to the program, but the recent ratings increase from the traditional SportsCenter will probably keep the networking for trying something similar to SC6.