Dick Ebersol has resigned as the president of NBC Sports, reports Richard Sandomir of the New York Times. Ebersol has been NBC Sports' top boss since 1989. One of his first major moves as president was to acquire the rights to NBA broadcasts in 1989. NBC carried the NBA from 1990 through 2002.
Ebersol agreed to pay $600 million for four years of the NBA, betting huge that the league could carry the momentum from the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird era forward. Needless to say, they did: Michael Jordan's prominence helped lead the NBA to record ratings throughout the 1990s.
But after Jordan's retirement, NBC lost faith in the league; the network claimed to have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the post-MJ years, and let ABC, ESPN and TNT outbid it for NBA rights. The ABC family took over for the 2002-03 season, and retains those rights today.
As the league's ratings declined further in the 2003-2007 span dominated on the court by the Spurs and Pistons, Ebersol's decision seemed on point. But now that the NBA is challenging many of those '90s-era record ratings with a new golden age, NBC may regret the decision to jettison pro basketball. (NBC has since picked up limited NFL rights and recently signed a major deal with the NHL.)