ESPN does an outstanding job with its NBA coverage. The network has an army of insiders, reporters, analysts, daily noon TV shows as well as the stellar match broadcast quality that has long satirized a high school student. unhappy to see his beloved NBA on NBC gone forever.
But for all that ESPN does correctly, it has never figured out the best way to showcase NBA games. They feature the NBA Finals on ABC, one of the biggest sporting events in the world, but the topic is always a bit misleading. It’s not like NFL on Fox, CBS College Football, March Madness, or The Masters. When you hear the falling beat of those events, it’s equal parts nostalgia and mood music. They’re almost Pavlovian in a way that helps sports fans get ready for those specific events in seconds.
With the new NBA season just two weeks away, what ESPN is working on in the studio has been revealed – their new NBA theme song. It’s part of a brand new presentation that includes a much smaller new score bug, and it will identify teams by whatever color they’re wearing for that particular game.
You can never go wrong when introducing a sporting event. The crisp and bold sound from those instruments can put viewers in sports mode. All national broadcasts are trying to be cooler to better reach their young audiences, so why not tear down the machine? The intro music will evolve with me over time. I don’t hate it, but I’m also indifferent to old music. That’s because the NBA can roam the earth forever and it will never find anything as good as John Tesh’s Roundball Rock.
That first Sunday after the football season was over was sad, until the outline of the peacock formed on that old Zenith television, then colors filled in feather by feather as the music gradually builds, and then, boom! Those strings hit and it’s time for Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing to do battle as the Chicago Bulls take on the New York Knicks.
Tesh tells The Ringer in 2020 that the song came from a tune he had in mind while in France, he then called his answering machine in Los Angeles to have it recorded and he wouldn’t forget it. He did the demo on a synthesizer, and while NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol liked it, he wanted a full orchestra. Because hey, Boston Pops, Larry Bird, why not? Tesh bought an orchestra out of his own pocket and would go on to compose a tune synonymous with the ’90s like “Go, go, Power Rangers. “
Themes need to have an attachment to them above all else. NBC had a ton at the time. Another world, Congratulations, Tonight’s show. Each topic can start to pop into your head as soon as you read the program title.
It’s also not just the music that makes NBA on NBC so epic. That’s Marv Albert and Bob Costas’ storytelling in the introduction. Not that Brent Musberger and Pat O’Brien were interrupted multiple times by 1980s Macintosh themes and graphics but in the making of Boston Garden. Albert and Costas made the game interesting by offering opening monologues that not only said, “Isiah Thomas and his Bad Boy Pistons are looking for revenge, but Magic Johnson is not ready to deliver the years just yet. 80 for the Pistons” On NBC you take “Hakeem Olajuwon’s play has exhausted all the best.”
In the 2022 NBA Finals, the intro was just the players’ statements to the media about whatever the production team decided to use that week. It’s smooth and looks sleek, but it doesn’t really boost the game’s energy. Combine that with the fact that instead of showing the starting lineup in the stadium, ABC spends 2-3 minutes airing ads for Holy moly, and the rest of its summer programming. Sorry, though I was still laughing when Rob Riggle yelled “Shut up!” In HangoverListening to him make cheesy jokes while someone was thrown into the water on a pitch made me lose interest in the basketball championship.
For more than two decades, the partnership between ESPN and the NBA has been fruitful. It has greatly expanded ESPN’s live events portfolio and given the NBA a continued presence on the sports network’s launch in the US.
They may have all the gold, but to us who remember, they will never have, what Roundball Rock and NBC are NBA fans. I’m sure that keeps ESPN and the NBA running at night when they’re sprayed with a bunch of money.