Rumors continue to swirl about Adrian Wojnarowski bolting from Yahoo to ESPN. Will Wojnarowski leave for ESPN? While Woj has not commented publicly on the rumors, reports have linked him with ESPN after the NBA draft is over. The reporter is well-known for tweeting #WojBombs on breaking NBA news via his Twitter account.
Deadspin’s Kevin Draper reported in February 2017 Wojnarowski was headed to ESPN, but did not have a timetable:
NBA scoopmaster Adrian Wojnarowski is close to an agreement to leave Yahoo and join ESPN, according to multiple sources, a huge shakeup in the basketball reporting world that will have wider-reaching effects beyond where you get your news. And according to one source, Wojnarowski isn’t the only Yahoo basketball journalist that will move to ESPN.
In May 2017, Recode’s Peter Kafka reported Wojnarowski will head to ESPN after the draft, and will likely bring some of the talent from The Vertical with him. Kafka reported the following:
Sources familiar with ESPN’s plan say Wojnarowski will begin working for ESPN after the June 22 NBA draft. (Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Wojnarowski and some of this team would begin working for ESPN in time to cover the draft). I’m told the network also intends to bring aboard some of the staff of The Vertical, the NBA site Wojnarowski launched for Yahoo 2016.
An ESPN rep declined to comment; I’ve asked Wojnarowski for comment but haven’t heard back.
If Woj does head to ESPN, it is interesting to see the report scooped by other people on a reporter who has made his living on being the best in sports business on breaking news.
If ESPN signs Wojnarowski, the network appears poised to pay up. According to The New York Post, Wojnarowski is on a four-year contract worth upwards of $8 million. ESPN laid off a number of reporters including Marc Stein and Chad Ford, who were two of ESPN’s top NBA reporters. In basketball terms, it could have been a move to create “cap space” to sign Wojnarowski given his hefty price tag.
Wojnarowski started The Vertical on Yahoo, and it will be interesting to see if he is able to bring the site/format to ESPN. Wojnarowski has been a fierce competitor of ESPN. For the second straight year, he offered an NBA draft show that had picks and trades well before ESPN’s television broadcast. It is ironic that ESPN’s biggest competitor was born in Bristol, Connecticut.
In a 2014 piece, New Republic’s Kevin Draper described Wojnarowski’s contentious relationship with ESPN.
Despite Wojnarowski’s past at ESPN—or perhaps because of it—his relationship with the network borders upon hatred as closely as anything in the sports media world. ‘I’ve had agents and executives tell me Woj has a jihad against ESPN,’ said Bleacher Report’s (and formerly ESPN’s) Ric Bucher. ‘He has a mission to take ESPN down.’ Bucher wasn’t the only person to use the word ‘jihad’ to describe how Wojnarowski approaches competition with ESPN. Wojnarowski seizes every opportunity to take shots at ESPN, often referring to it as ‘that cheerleading network’ or ‘a sports cable network’ in his columns…
Everybody I talked to used a different colorful metaphor to describe Wojnarowski and ESPN’s relationship. They were like Nike and Adidas, or the Hatfields and McCoys, or David and Goliath. Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch characterized it as an underdog complex: I think Woj’s pathology is that ESPN has 25 guys, ‘I’m just one guy at Yahoo, I’m going to figure out a way to beat them.’
It would be a notable move for Wojnarowski to join the network after years of being its nemesis. As the clock hits zero on the draft, we will find out if Woj is indeed heading to ESPN. With free agency starting at the beginning of July, it is worth watching where Wojnarowski will be breaking the news on all the big NBA free agent signings.