ESPN Extends Mike Breen’s Contract, Breaks Up NBA Finals Team
Longtime NBA Finals team undergoes major changes as ESPN fires Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson
In a surprising move this offseason, ESPN has decided to break up its longtime NBA Finals team by firing both Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. However, the network’s lead play-by-player, Mike Breen, will remain in his position, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Breen, 62, has agreed to a lucrative four-year contract extension with ESPN, in addition to the final two seasons remaining on his current deal. The multi-million-dollar extension solidifies Breen’s role as the network’s lead play-by-player for the foreseeable future.
The decision to part ways with Van Gundy and Jackson came during ESPN’s summer layoffs, leaving Breen to form a new partnership with Doc Rivers and Doris Burke on the lead NBA team this season. Breen and Rivers, who are close friends and have even vacationed together, are expected to bring a fresh dynamic to the broadcast.
Meanwhile, Burke is set to make history in June as the first woman analyst on the NBA Finals, adding another layer of excitement to the upcoming season. The trio made their debut last week, aiming to build the same chemistry that Breen, Van Gundy, and Jackson had developed over the years, making them one of the most revered broadcast trios in sports.
The extension of Breen’s contract is contingent upon ESPN/ABC retaining the rights to the NBA. The current national deals with Disney/ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery/TNT are set to expire after the upcoming season. While ESPN is considered a favorite to retain its package, including the Finals, there may be a reduction in regular-season games. Competitors such as Amazon, Apple, and NBC are also expected to vie for the rights alongside ESPN and TNT.
If ESPN manages to secure the Finals every season through 2026-27, Breen will have the honor of being the voice of the league’s top event for an impressive 22 years.
In addition to his role at ESPN, Breen will continue to serve as the voice of the Knicks on MSG, calling their full schedule of games.
ESPN already has a succession plan in place for after Breen’s tenure, as revealed by Dave Roberts, the head of NBA production. In August, Roberts announced that Ryan Ruocco, JJ Redick, and Richard Jefferson would form the No. 2 team and could potentially be promoted to the No. 1 spot in the future. Ruocco, who is already ESPN’s lead voice for WNBA and women’s college basketball, is seen as a strong contender for the top position.
While no specific timeline has been provided for the transition, Breen’s four-year contract extension ensures his presence as the lead play-by-player for ESPN, including the current season.