The NBA on ABC is a presentation of National Basketball Association (NBA) games produced by ESPN and televised on ABC .
ABC originally broadcast NBA games from 1965 to 1973; in 2002, NBA games returned to the network as part of a contract signed with the league (along with ESPN).
ABC gains the NBA for the first time
In 1965, ABC first signed a deal with the NBA to become the league's primary television partner; the network's first game telecast aired on January 3, 1965 (a game between the Boston Celtics and Cincinnati Royals).
For much of the 1960s, ABC only televised Sunday afternoon games, including during the NBA Playoffs; this meant that ABC didn't have to televise a potential NBA Finals deciding game if it were played on a weeknight.
In 1969, ABC did televise Game 7 of the Los Angeles Lakers–Boston Celtics series in prime time on a weeknight. The following season, ABC aired the 1970 NBA Finals in its entirety, making it the first Finals series to have all games televised nationally.
The commentators for the original "NBA on ABC" included play-by-play announcers Keith Jackson & Chris Schenkel, and analysts Jack Twyman, Bob Cousy & Bill Russell.
On April 8, 1967, a strike by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) forced ABC Sports producer Chuck Howard and director Chet Forte to call Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, as its regular announcing team were members of the union.
Curt Gowdy also served on play-by-play for half of the 1967–68 season.
The first nationally televised Christmas Day NBA broadcast occurred in 1967, when ABC broadcast a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and San Diego Rockets from the then-San Diego Sports Arena in San Diego. Jerry Gross and Jack Twyman called that particular broadcast for the network.
ABC would continue to televise Christmas games through 1972. The remainder of these broadcasts were based from Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. Chris Schenkel did play-by-play for ABC during this period with the exception of 1970, when Keith Jackson held that responsibility.
Jack Twyman remained as color commentator for the broadcasts up until 1971, when the position was assumed by Bill Russell.
ABC lost the broadcast rights to the NBA to CBS after the 1972–73 season, with the network's initial tenure with the league ending with its last NBA Finals game on May 10, 1973.
ESPN outbids NBC for the NBA contract
In late 2001, the NBA was in the midst of putting together a new broadcast and cable television deal.
At the time, conventional wisdom was that NBC would renew its existing broadcasting contract with the league.
A Sports Business Daily article on October 5, 2001 cited The New York Times sports columnist Richard Sandomir regarding the possibility of ESPN joining with ABC in obtaining a portion of the contract, writing: "[it would be] difficult to imagine the NBA being so overwhelmed by an ESPN offer that it would let [ESPN] team up for a broadcast deal with ABC that would yield fewer games, promotion and exposure."
The negotiations were closely watched by those in the business world, as it was the first time that a major sports league crafted a television deal in the new economic environment since the September 11 terrorist attacks a few months before.
Declining ratings for NBC's NBA game telecasts had already led many to believe that the NBA's next television rights fee would be lower than previous years, and the economic recession made that a likely scenario.
As predicted, NBC's offer to the league was lower than the previous agreement's amount; had the NBA agreed to the network's offer, it would have been the first sports league to experience a decline in rights fees.
However, the NBA rejected NBC's offer and after the network's exclusive negotiating period with the league expired, ABC and ESPN stepped in.
On January 22, 2002, the NBA signed a six-year deal with The Walt Disney Company & Turner Sports, renewing an existing deal with TNT and allowing ABC & ESPN to acquire the rights to air the league's games.
ABC and ESPN reportedly paid an average of about US$400 million a season. Technically, ESPN pays the NBA for its broadcast rights and "buys" time on ABC to air select games (this is noted in copyright tags during the end credits at the conclusion of the telecasts, saying "The preceding program has been paid for by ESPN, Inc.")
In all, the contract allowed the NBA to increase its rights fees by 25%.
NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said regarding the deal, saying: "The definition of winning has become distorted. If winning the rights to a property brings with it hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, what have you won? When faced with the prospect of heavy financial losses, we have consistently walked away and have done so again.... We wish the NBA all the best. We have really enjoyed working with them for more than a decade to build the NBA brand."
In 2006, after ABC Sports became "ESPN on ABC", the "NBA on ABC" started to be produced by ESPN with ESPN graphics; all broadcasts have an "on ABC" suffix on their titles after this rebrand.
In June of 2007 and again in October 2014, the NBA renewed its television agreement with ESPN (as well as TNT) with the current contract, extending it through the 2024–25 season.
- Mike Breen (2006–present)
- Mark Jones (2016–present)
- Dave Pasch (2015–present)
- Hubie Brown (2004–present)
- Mark Jackson (2007–2011; 2014–present)
- Jeff Van Gundy (2007–present)
- Doris Burke (2008–present)
- Israel Gutierrez (2015–present)
- Tom Rinaldi (2017–present)
- Lisa Salters (2004–present)
- Steve Javie (2012-present)
- Rachel Nichols (2018–present)
- Sage Steele (2013–2016)
- Chauncey Billups (2015–present)
- Jalen Rose (2012–present)
- Michael Wilbon (2005–2013; 2017–present)
- Jim Durham (2005–2006)
- Al Michaels (2003–2005)
- Brent Musburger (2002–2006)
- Brad Nessler (2002–2004)
- John Saunders (2005–2006)
- Mike Tirico (2006–2016)
- Sean Elliott (2002–2004)
- Len Elmore (alternate game analyst, 2004–2006)
- Steve Jones (2005–2006)
- Tim Legler (2006)
- Dan Majerle (2003–2004)
- Jack Ramsay (2005)
- Doc Rivers (2003–2004)
- Tom Tolbert (2002–2003)
- Bill Walton (2002–2003, 2005–2006)
- David Aldridge (2002–2003)
- Heather Cox (2008–2016)
- Mark Jones (2005–2007)
- Sal Masekela (2002–2003)
- Michele Tafoya (2002–2008)
- Dan Patrick (2006–2007)
- John Saunders (substitute studio host; 2003–2005)
- Stuart Scott (2007–2011)
- Hannah Storm (2011)
- Mike Tirico (studio host, 2002–2006)
- Avery Johnson (2008–2010)
- Doug Collins (2013–2016)
- Magic Johnson (2008–2013; 2016–2017)
- Steve Jones (2004–2005)
- George Karl (2003–2004)
- Scottie Pippen (2005–2006)
- Byron Scott (2004)
- Bill Simmons (2012–2014)
- Tom Tolbert (2002–2004)
- Bill Walton (2002–2003, 2004–2005, 2007–2008)
- Howard Cosell (game analyst; sideline reporter)
- Bob Cousy (game analyst)
- Dave Diles (sideline reporter)
- Bill Flemming (play-by-play)
- Chet Forte (play-by-play)
- Jim Gordon (play-by-play)
- Curt Gowdy (play-by-play)
- Jerry Gross (play-by-play)
- Chuck Howard (game analyst)
- Keith Jackson (play-by-play)
- Johnny Kerr (game analyst)
- Jim McKay (play-by-play)
- Bill Russell (game analyst)
- Chris Schenkel (play-by-play)
- Jack Twyman (game analyst)
- Jerry West (game analyst)
During its first year of coverage, ABC used the same graphics package as partner network ESPN, with the "score bug" being the only difference between the two networks' packages;this habit had already been put into practice by the network in regards to its NHL and college basketball coverage.
However, ABC did utilize its own graphics (though they were similar in resemblance to ESPN's at the time) for college football and other sports broadcasts.
For the 2003–04 season, ABC established new graphics for its NBA broadcasts, in an effort to differentiate its telecasts from ESPN's.
On February 5, 2006, ABC established another new graphics package which included a horizontal scoreboard (similar to that introduced the previous fall for its final season of "Monday Night Football") for the network's NBA telecasts.
ESPN (along with partner network ABC) began using graphics packages inherited by ESPN's "Monday Night Football" broadcast starting in 2006, featuring a score banner with an oblique red and white design.
The graphics were later replaced in April of 2009 with a more compact grey design, with panel-like lower thirds and a permanent "stats bar" located underneath the score and time; this was replaced in 2010 with an updated appearance based on another redesign adopted by "Monday Night Football" in late 2009, featuring a more metallic appearance that would later be adopted by other ESPN properties, along with the addition of yellow lights beneath a team's name to indicate remaining timeouts.
At the start of the 2011–12 season, an updated version of the design was adopted with a more translucent appearance, and the addition of a "BONUS" indicator under a team's score if they have reached enough fouls to initiate the Bonus situation.
Starting with the 2013 Western Conference Finals, a newly designed banner featuring 3-dimensional renditions of the team logos were used.
During the 2015 NBA Finals, the graphics were updated with gold coloring, patterned backgrounds, and a modern, unified font; however, at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, ESPN reverted to the banner used since 2013.
On May 17, 2016, the aforementioned updated graphics package from the previous year's NBA Finals returned for the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals and again for the 2016 NBA Finals.
Beginning with the 2016 NBA preseason on October 4, 2016, the graphics were updated again, this time, they are formatted for the full 16:9 letterbox presentation.
The score bar, which is significantly larger than the previous one (used since the 2013 Western Conference Finals), was given a complete overhaul, with a numerical representation of timeouts replacing the "lights" used since the 2010-11 season and a permanent "stats bar" being moved to the right side of the score bar.
The new, co-branded NBA on ESPN logo is now seen as an overlay on the upper left hand corner of the 16:9 screen.
As was the case the previous two years, the gold coloring and patterned backgrounds were used again for the 2017 NBA Finals; notably, this is the first time that both ESPN and ABC have used the full 16:9 frame for its graphics in the networks' NBA coverage.
For the 2017-18 season, the stat bar is only shown at the beginning of the game and after commercial breaks.
One common complaint about NBA coverage on ABC is the use of unconventional camera angles, including the Floorcam and Skycam angles, used by the network throughout its coverage.
Other complaints are of camera angles that appear too far away, colors that seem faded and dull, and the quieting of crowd noise so that announcers can be heard clearly (by contrast to NBC, which allowed crowd noise to sometimes drown out their announcers).
Some complaints have concerned the promotion, or perceived lack thereof, of NBA telecasts.
The 2003 NBA Finals received very little fanfare on ABC or corporate partner ESPN; while subsequent Finals were promoted more on both networks, NBA-related advertisements on ABC were still down significantly from promotions on NBC.
According to the Sports Business Daily (during the week of May 23, 2004), NBA promos took up 3 minutes and 55 seconds of airtime on ABC, comparable to 2 minutes and 45 seconds for the Indianapolis 500.
The promotions for the Indianapolis 500 outnumbered promotions for the NBA Finals fourteen-to-nine between the hours of 9:00 and 11:00 p.m. during that week.
ABC was also criticized for focusing its coverage on a select number of teams, particularly the decision to broadcast a Lakers-Heat game on its Christmas Day schedule for three consecutive years.
However, for 2007, ABC decided to break this tradition by instead having the Heat, for the fourth straight time, appear on Christmas Day facing the 2007 Eastern Conference Champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In 2008, the Boston Celtics replaced the Heat on the Christmas Day schedule, and faced the Los Angeles Lakers. In 2009, the Cavaliers played the Lakers on Christmas Day.
However, the Heat-Lakers Christmas Day special would make its return in the 2010–11 NBA season, as a result of LeBron James' recent move from the Cleveland franchise to Miami.
For the 2011–12 NBA season, the Lakers and Heat played again on Christmas Day, but against separate opponents.
The Lakers played the Chicago Bulls, while the Heat played the Dallas Mavericks in a rematch of the 2011 NBA Finals; both the Bulls and Mavericks made their ABC Christmas Day debuts, which also acted as the league's opening day that season due to the 2011 NBA lockout delaying the start of the season.
In the case of the latter, ABC aired the pre-game championship ring and banner ceremony for the Mavericks, which marked the first time in NBA history a national broadcast network televised the ceremony.