Chris Broussard has had a rough month. First, he was terribly miscast on ESPN’s NBA Finals pre-game show. Every sports pre-game show needs an “information/news” guy – at ESPN, think Buster Olney on baseball, Chris Mortensen on the NFL – and it appears the network thinks Broussard can be their NBA news guy.
Problem is, he didn’t have any info on the pre-game show, and ended up attempting to talk X’s and O’s with former players Magic Johnson and Jon Barry. It was awkward and didn’t go well.
Then, ESPN thrust Broussard onto the set of the NBA draft last week, a disaster that should have never happened. His range was essentially the Top 7-8 players (he watched March Madness!), and then he offered pithy NBA thoughts. I’m still waiting to hear ESPN explain how/why Broussard was chosen to be such a prominent part of the set when the other reporters were brought in as news guys to talk trades.
Free agency hasn’t been kind to Broussard, either. He’s been a step slow on everything, and when he does jump in on the twitters with some “news,” it has either been already reported (probably by the Yahoo Guys), already announced by a player (like Deron Williams) or already announced by a player in a statement to the press (like Eric Gordon).
Clearly worn down by the beating he’s taken online, Broussard – who by all accounts is a very nice, very religious guy; he was once incredibly kind to me on one of my early forays to cover the NBA at Madison Square Garden – lost it this morning before jetting to the Caribbean on vacation. (It reminded me of this LeBron “real world” rant in 2011.)
Why have things gone so horribly wrong for Broussard?
1) For starters, he’s had little or no help. Where’s Ric Bucher been? Where’s Marc Stein? (Stein has had a couple nice free agency breaks, but he didn’t get the Steve Nash story, even though the two are buddies and he played in his soccer game last week.) ESPN must have a dozen guys covering the NBA, from LA to Chicago to New York. They’ve all been getting destroyed on breaking news. One theory – is everyone receding out of the spotlight a bit out of fear of getting their ass kicked in the news department by the Yahoo guys? Broussard, now ESPN’s most highly visible reporter, is the face of the beatdown.
2) Stephen A. Smith syndrome. Remember when ESPN was so enamored with Stephen A. Smith that it gave him a TV show, radio show, and everything else in the world? Sometimes, it’s good to say no. Easy for me to say from my computer chair; much tougher to say when they’re waving big money at you. The Stephen A. Smith story ended badly – we broke the story that his contract wasn’t renewed – partially because he was stretched too thin (also, new management). In the span of a couple years, Smith went from prominent NBA columnist in Philly to Mr. Do-it-all at ESPN, to out at ESPN, and later, to back at ESPN as a talking head.
3) Broussard, who has caught the TV bug the last couple years, needs to start telling ESPN that his forte is being an information guy, and it probably isn’t a good idea to jam him into places where he’s going to be useless (ie, the Draft, ESPN pre-game show, etc). There’s something to be said for staying in your lane. It’s impossible for anyone to juggle all those TV spots, all those radio spots, and still be an elite reporter on the NBA beat. You don’t see Mort talking X’s and O’s with Bill Parcells and Herman Edwards, do you? Hey, more power to Broussard if he wants to go the entertainer route; but it opens him up badly for criticism when he attempts to “report.”
4) Following-up on that other point – being a top-level reporter (Peter King, Mortensen, etc) requires year-round work and maintenance. Even though you’re at ESPN, people aren’t just going to talk to you because you’re at ESPN. You’ve got to work at those relationships constantly, cultivating them as frequently as possible. (Remember when Broussard went to church with Dwight Howard last summer?) You can’t become that guy who only calls when you need something. You run the risk of losing your sources to the other hungry reporters (David Aldridge, Ken Berger, whomever) who don’t have to juggle TV/radio appearances on a daily basis.