Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen will call all the shots during the NBA Finals for ABC.
Plenty of TV viewers tend to avoid reruns, but not Mike Breen. “I can watch old episodes of ‘The Odd Couple’ and ‘The Honeymooners’ over and over and over,” he insists.
So it’s no surprise that the veteran play-by-play commentator relishes the thought of seeing the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers hook up in the NBA Finals for the third straight year beginning Thursday (6 p.m., ABC) in Oakland.
In this case, familiarity can breed an entertaining brand of contempt.
Draymond Green, LeBron James
“Even though I grew up a Knicks fan, I always wanted to see the Celtics and Lakers go at it,” Breen says. “Great teams like the Warriors and Cavaliers have a built-in a history against one another. And they make for compelling viewing, partly because they’ve developed an intense mutual hatred. I don’t mean a wanting-to-fight kind of hatred, but a healthy competitive disdain for one another.”
Breen — along with his partners in the booth, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy — have another reason to be giddy over the NBA’s first championship trilogy: If history is any indication, it will be ratings gold.
The 2015 and 2016 Finals were the most-watched ever on ABC with average audiences of 19.94 million and 20.28 million, respectively. The overall numbers for last year’s series were greatly enhanced by an electrifying Game 7, which drew an average of 31.02 million viewers on its own (peaking at close to 45 million in the last 10 minutes of the game).
This will be the 15th consecutive year the Finals have been on ABC.
Of course, in addition to ABC’s exclusive in-game coverage of the Finals, there will be massive amounts of air time devoted to dissecting and analyzing the series, predominantly by ESPN, NBA TV and the local team, NBC Sports Bay Area.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights:
ABC’s cable sibling is taking its two signature pro hoops shows — “NBA Countdown” and “The Jump” — on the road for on-site programming throughout the series.
“NBA Countdown” host Michelle Beadle, working her first NBA Finals, will be joined by regular analysts Jalen Rose and Chauncey Billups, along with guest analyst Paul Pierce. “NBA Countdown” will start one hour before most games, with the first 30 minutes airing on ESPN before finishing on ABC.
“The Jump,” hosted by Rachel Nichols, will broadcast from Lake Chalet, a waterside restaurant in Oakland, when the games are in the Bay Area (Noon PT on weekdays). Nichols will be joined by Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, Scottie Pippen, Brian Windhorst, Amin Elhassan and others.
Additionally, “SportsCenter” and “First Take” will also be on-site for the Finals.
As you would expect, the cable network for hoops junkies will provide full-court coverage, including 90-minute “Live At The Finals” pregame shows. Yes, 90 minutes.
Charles Barkley Scott Halleran/Getty Images
On-site studio programming will feature an all-star lineup of analysts while integrating commentators from TNT’s “Inside the NBA” show — Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal. Other contributors include Kevin McHale, Isiah Thomas, Chris Webber, Grant Hill, Steve Smith, Dennis Scott and Brent Barry.
NBA TV’s amusingly offbeat talk show, “The Starters,” will also have a limited on-site presence with Trey Kerby hitting the road for Games 1, 2 and 6 and Leigh Ellis assigned to Games 3, 4, 5 and 7.
In addition, for fans interested in a deep dive, there’s “NBA Finals Film Room.” Airing for two hours on the day after each Finals game (6 p.m. PT), it has former coaches and players breaking down the X’s and O’s in real time as they re-watch every game.
The regional cable network will deploy 13 on-air (and online) contributors to provide the kind of extensive coverage local fans have come to expect the past few years.
The game plan includes hourlong pre- and post-game shows (“Warriors Playoff Central”) anchored by Greg Papa, Garry St. Jean and Kelenna Azubuike — and contributions from Monte Poole and Ros Gold-Onwude.
Other familiar programs include “Warriors Outsiders,” “The Happy Hour,” and “Warriors With You.” The latter is a relatively new offering. It’s a live, multi-platform interactive program during which Gold-Onwude and Poole take questions from viewers.
NBA Sports Bay Area’s coverage all starts in earnest at 6 p.m. tonight with an NBA Finals preview show airing not from Oracle Arena, but from the Chase Center site in San Francisco. Guests include Warriors executives Bob Myers and Rick Welts.
Contact Chuck Barney at email@example.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/chuckbarney and Facebook.com/bayareanewsgroup.chuckbarney.