Rachel Nichols will not be suiting up as sideline reporter for this year’s NBA Finals, in the wake of her year-old comments about ESPN colleague Maria Taylor coming to light.
Malika Andrews will instead serve as sideline reporter for the championship series.
Nichols will, however, continue to host The Jump, ESPN’s weekday NBA show, during the NBA Finals, alongside a cast of analysts and reporters including Richard Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins.
In July 2020, during a conversation with LeBron James’ advisor, Adam Mendelsohn, Nichols expressed frustration that Maria Taylor — a Black analyst at ESPN — would be hosting coverage of the 2020 NBA Finals, when Nichols was under the impression that she would fill that role.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said during the conversation, the audio of which was recently shared in a New York Times article. “If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it. Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.”
Nichols added at the time that hosting NBA Finals coverage “is in my contract in writing,” though ESPN declined to comment on the specifics of her pact.
On this Monday’s episode of The Jump, Nichols apologized, saying: “The first thing they teach you in journalism school is don’t be the story, and I don’t plan to break that rule today or distract from a fantastic Finals. But I also don’t want to let this moment pass without saying how much I respect, how much I value our colleagues here at ESPN, how deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor, and how grateful I am to be part of this outstanding team.”
The 2021 NBA Finals tip off tonight at 9/8c on ABC, with the Phoenix Suns hosting the Milwaukee Bucks for Game 1. Mike Breen returns to call his unprecedented 16th NBA Finals as a play-by-play commentator, joined by analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. Andrews will provide sideline reports.
Additionally, Steve Javie will continue to be available to provide officiating analysis and reaction from the NBA Replay Center, while Maria Taylor returns for her second season as the pregame and halftime host, alongside analysts Jalen Rose and Jay Williams, and reporter Adrian Wojnarowski.