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What Is Magic Johnson’s Problem With Bill Simmons?


I am an NBA addict. I will watch any and all NBA content at just about any time. If it wasn’t for my job and my fiancee and the rest of life, I would be watching it every waking hour.

I enjoy Bill Simmons. I know the popular thing with Simmons, as it is with many things that get popular is to talk about how much it/he sucks. He’s part of the reason I like writing about sports and he’s pretty much living every blogger’s dream. I think he knows basketball, and I think his book is proof of that.

When Simmons was added to the NBA pre-game show on ESPN, I wasn’t all that thrilled. Simmons is best, whether it be on a podcast or in writing, when he has the space to spread out. Thousands of words in each column, at least 60 minutes in each podcast. He’s verbose, and that’s what he’s good at. Television, like he’s doing now, is pretty much the oppposite of that. Get your point out in 20 seconds, and it better be a different/opposite point of someone else on the panel. You can see Simmons struggling with it, as he tries to explain one of his three thousand word theories in 15 seconds. I’m not saying this is a positive or a negative of television, it just is. Simmons has gotten better, but I still don’t think it’s what he’s best at.

The show itself I think needs work. There’s no host; Wilbon, Rose, Simmons and Magic all sort of share that duty and I’m not sure it works. Wilbon often times doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and Rose and Magic, for guys who actually played in the NBA, seem to have a less than stellar knowledge of how the NBA works. At the very least they’re not great at expressing it.

All of that said, the most uncomfortable thing about the show is how Magic Johnson treats Bill Simmons. I’m not imagining this. I mentioned it on Twitter Tuesday night and several agreed with me. Magic disagrees with every single thing Simmons says. Sometimes, even if he agrees, he agrees in a fashion that makes it seem as if he’s disagreeing. Simmons mentioned Tuesday night that he thinks the Grizzlies must be kicking themselves for not winning the game. Johnson literally said he disagreed, and then went on to make the same point. Johnson is often times condescending, as if there’s no way Simmons’ point could be valid.

It’s uncomfortable to watch, especially knowing that Simmons is probably ecstatic that he gets to sit there and talk basketball with Magic Johnson on television. Simmons has mentioned as much, maybe not in those words, but certainly alluded to it in podcasts.

My inclination is that Johnson isn’t respectful of Simmons’ opinion because he didn’t play in the NBA. But Magic doesn’t do the same thing to Wilbon, who neither played in the NBA nor seems to make too many valid points about it during the show.

Maybe he’s not doing it on purpose, and maybe he means no ill will, but it’s sort of hard to watch, and I wish they’d change it. I end up feeling bad for Simmons because I know it must be a bummer to be talked to that way, especially when you’ve written a very coherent, very impressive 700 page book about the history of basketball, including several pages on Johnson.

If I was Deadspin or something I would put together a video megamix of this happening, but I’m not Deadspin.

Am I crazy?

  • Brian Dolan

    I agree with all your points. Magic sucks and Rose and Simmons are at their best when they are on their own doing a podcast together.

  • James_Fayleez

    “I mentioned it on Twitter Tuesday night and several agreed with me.”


  • McMeatface

    Simmons should be just as condescending because nothing he has done was even as remotely bad as the Magic Hour.

  • MT

    Maybe it’s on account of Simmons’ incessant anti-Lakers bias. /not a Lakers’ fan

    • Spike Eskin

      If that’s true (maybe but I don’t think so), it would seem like a pretty trivial reason to do that, yeah?

  • MenInBlkFan

    What program are you all watching!? Bill Simmons is the Worst commentator on sports t.v., and brings that show down. He has no energy, no chemistry with Wilborn, Rose, and Magic; and looks like a deer in headlights at times. He is definitely not ready for network t.v. At times, he fumbles with what he wants to say in his usual monotone weasel voice. I’d rather see Bruce Bowen on the panel, or get me a seasoned ESPN t.v. reporter, or another former N.B.A. player/analyst to co-host. Just get him off of there! Let him stick to writing.

  • Ram

    Agreed. Happened again tonight during the pregame. I’d venture to guess its because Bill is an avid Celts fan and magic despises him for it, albeit subconsciously.

  • Matt

    Hit the nail on the head. It’s very uncomfortable for me to watch and it’s very disrespectful for Magic to do.

  • luvlifter

    You guys have to be grandmas posing as male sports fans. Go and powder Bills nose and straighten his tie during commercial breaks. Bill is HORRIBLE, which most of these arrogant writers who’s mommys wouldn’t let them outside with other kids, much less play sports are. Just because you do research and put out a book on basketball DOES NOT make you an expert, nor qualify you to host a halftime show. He obviously got hooked up, or is sleeping with some producer, just like half of the boyish looking dudes in entertainment.

  • iBanonymous

    Simmons has written some critical articles on Johnson’s HIV contraction in the past. I agree that Magic doesn’t respect Bill’s opinion because he never played the game, however, I think the disrespect derives from the feelings Magic has about bill’s choice of words in the past. This show has become awkward and uncomfortable to watch lol love Simmons, but espn needs to cut him loose like YESTERDAY

  • BigBub

    Simmons clearly is out of his league as an on-air TV commentator. He should stick to writing Grantland, and ESPN/ABC should go back to having a real host for the show and get Simmons off that panel immediately. He’s lousy.

  • RBro

    This article relies on the very flawed premise that there are no legitimate reasons for disliking Simmons other than its the popular thing to do. That premise is simply not correct.

    I think Magic has picked up on what a lot of other people have picked up on with Simmons: he’s a fanboy, not a true analyst. Simmons is unable to separate his emotions and feelings about specific teams, coaches, and players from his analysis. Actually, he takes it to alarming levels. Whether its starting fights with Doc Rivers for leaving Boston, or this season, ranking the Patriots #1 in the NFL preseason while ranking Wes Welker’s Broncos #8. Simmons can’t be taken seriously or given any credit as an analyst, because his analysis is literally always extremely biased. He may know basketball, but he doesn’t know logic or the rules of journalism.

    • spikeeskin


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