NBA

Doug Gottlieb Questioning ESPN’s Maria Taylor Isn’t Completely Wrong

The problem with hosting a talk show is that it requires a lot of talking, sometimes without the benefit of doing enough thinking ahead of time. Social media is supposed to be different, but Doug Gottlieb committed a boo-boo over the weekend by tweeting out criticism of ESPN reporter Maria Taylor before thinking it all the way through.

Gottlieb caught flak for what he wrote, but here’s the thing: The Fox Sports radio host actually was right for a while. He just didn’t know when to shut up.

Maria Taylor of ESPN messed up her all-star voting

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Maria Taylor is an experienced reporter for ESPN, beginning work there in 2013 primarily as a sideline reporter. She added a major new duty last fall, taking over hosting the network’s pregame show for Friday and Sunday NBA telecasts.

With her new assignment came a perk. Taylor was added to the NBA’s lists of 101 media members who cast votes for the league’s postseason awards such as MVP, Rookie of the Year, and the All-Star Team. All went well with her MVP ballot as Taylor joined the overwhelming majority of voters picking Giannis Antetokounmpo ahead of LeBron James. She filled out the remainder of her ballot with James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Luka Doncic – all easily defensible picks.

Where it went wrong was when it came time to pick the All-Star Team. Of the 101 media members, Taylor was the only voter to not make Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers one of her 15 selections. That became public knowledge when the league released the balloting breakdown, as has been its policy recently to assure the integrity of the process.

Doug Gottlieb calls out ESPN’s Maria Taylor

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Upon seeing what she had done and fielding some inquiries regarding whey she left Anthony Davis off her ballot, ESPN reporter and studio host Maria Taylor went onto Twitter and owned up to her error. She acknowledged she made a mistake and cited “a long week,” an obvious reference to a tweeted attack on her by a Chicago radio host while she worked the Monday Night Football opener.

In the grand scheme of things, Taylor’s error didn’t matter because Davis easily made the first team when the results were tallied. However, there could be implications for that sort of mistake.

First, some NBA players have contract incentives tied to postseason awards. In addition, it’s possible for certain NBA players to add 5% to their salary when signing a “designated veteran extension” contract if they’ve won certain postseason awards.

Those bonuses are rare, but they are possible to attain. A careless voter or one with a grudge could potentially cost an NBA player millions of dollars on a max contract by leaving them off a ballot.

That’s where Fox Sports radio host Doug Gottlieb chimed in.

“Why does Maria Taylor have a vote?” he wrote on Twitter. “Real question. She is a studio host/sideline reporter in her first year covering the NBA. She works a ton, not just on the league. No reason for her to have a vote.”

Doug Gottlieb is at least somewhat correct

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If Doug Gottlieb had stopped after his original tweet, he might have weathered the criticism that came his way. Taylor had fired back that she has played the game (she went to the University of Georgia on an athletic scholarship) and covers the league.

“And I DESERVE everything I’ve worked hard for,” she added on Twitter.

Gottlieb doubled down with another tweet that attracted even more negative feedback. This time, he said studio hosts don’t give opinions and shouldn’t have votes, which is a lame take by almost anyone’s estimation.

Here’s the thing, though: If Gottlieb has stuck with the first sentence of the first tweet – “Why does Maria Taylor have a vote?” – his question would be defensible, and where’s why:

Back in 2017, the NBA cut back on the number of voters for postseason awards by eliminating announcers who worked for NBA teams. That acknowledged an obvious conflict of interest. However, ESPN has a conflict of its own — a multi-million-dollar broadcast contract with the league.

A look at the roster of awards voters shows 24 of the 101 media members are affiliated with ESPN. Turner Sports, the NBA’s other major broadcast partner, has just 11 employees who vote.

ESPN’s roster includes talk-show hosts Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon, national broadcasters like Mike Breen, and a variety of reporters who work on a local or regional basis. Still, they all draw a paycheck from the same company in a major partnership with the league.

With so many ESPN employees on the list of voters, did the NBA really need to add one more? That’s where Gottlieb should have focused.