SportsCenter is no longer the crown jewel of ESPN and various new iterations have been subjected to intense and arguably unfair scrutiny in recent years. But all that noise should not obscure the fact that it was the network’s most important program for decades. Through revolutionary foresight and an endless stable of creative innovators, SC transformed the way sports fans consume news, gather information, and made the world smaller. And while the highlights themselves have always been the lifeblood, the personalities delivering them serve as the heart to keep the life coursing through veins.
Attempting to determine which of the hundreds of SportsCenter hosts have been the best is an impossible task. Viewers have differing tastes and mileage will vary. Despite these pitfalls, we gave it a try anyway.
Longevity, star power, innovation, and a certain je ne sais quoi were weighed in the decision. Our apologies to the snubs. Remember that those who can’t do judge those that can.
#15 Sage Steele
Steele and Kevin Negandhi have turned the 6 p.m. SportsCenter around ratings-wise. She excels at no-nonsense pregame and breaking news. One of ESPN’s most versatile anchors, she is set up for a long run.
#14 John Anderson
Anderson is workmanlike in the best ways. Steady. A rock. He doesn’t have to go out of his way to get a laugh or use a particularly clever line. And sometimes, like in the case of Fear the Deer, he isn’t immediately credited for nailing it. For 20 years he’s been showing up and getting the job done. Tough to outdo his star turn on Wipeout, but that’s how good he’s been.
#13 Robin Roberts
Roberts was part of a 6 p.m. SportsCenter with Charley Steiner and Bob Ley, which is pretty remarkable in retrospect. She was polished and had gravitas from the beginning and it’s no surprise she transitioned into news at the highest levels with ABC. Her ability to connect with people — both in person and through the television — is elite.
#12 John Buccigross
What Win Butler is to Arcade Fire, Buccigross was to the late SC, in an era when it was allowed to stretch its legs. He shines in freeform conversation and is incredibly comfortable away from the desk, whether it be a bit with Barry Melrose or a setting up an analyst at a touchscreen.
#11 Charley Steiner
Another testament to versatility. After providing some of the funniest on-air moments of the show’s history, Steiner left for greener pastures and became one of the finest baseball announcers working the game today. His SC ride dovetailed with the program’s ascension.
#10 Kenny Mayne
There are countless ways to get from Point A to Point B. In SportsCenter terms, that means showing those what happened in sports. Mayne has never been afraid to take every damn one of them. It’s a joy to watch him perform his own type of rebellion, in a suit, behind a desk. It’s a wild, unpredictable ride that audiences have enjoyed since the late 1990s.