When ESPN SportsCenter was first created all the way back in the pre-internet, pre-cable news networks, technologically dark year of – ready for this? – 1979, sports fans around the world rejoiced. No longer would they have to wait for the morning paper to check out the box scores and get the rundown of how their team did. No longer. With the advent of ESPN, the world absolutely changed for sports fans forever.
When SportsCenter originally debuted, it was aired just once daily. But now as the world has evolved, sports leagues have grown larger than anyone could have possibly been envisioned way back then, and the demand for constant information 24 hours a day, ESPN has grown and evolved right along with it. Now, SportsCenter airs up to a dozen times every day, airing all of the day's scores, highlights, injury reports, and whatever nuggets of information they deem interesting or relevant enough to pass along.
Thanks to the explosion of sports and the demand for information, ESPN has grown into a behemoth. And with all of the airings of SportsCenter per day, the network has to hire more and more talent to fill all the time slots. Some of the SportsCenter anchors over the years have been absolutely brilliant. They've combined personality with a depth of knowledge that has made them a pleasure to watch. They've left an indelible mark upon the landscape of sports reporting. Others – well – have been somewhat less than brilliant and haven't left much of a mark anywhere.
There will undoubtedly be debate about who the best SportsCenter anchors of all time are. How could there not be? With such a pool of talent to draw from, combined with differing tastes and opinions from all corners of the internet, surely some will have a much different list than can be found here. Which is great, so please feel free to disagree in the comments section and tell us who you think the best anchors of all time are.
Until then though, here are the 10 best anchors in SportsCenter history...
10 Sage Steele (2007-Present)
Sage Steele was a graduate of Indiana University back in the day, and got her start in sports broadcasting for a local CBS affiliate in South Bend, Indiana – WSBT. After a couple of stops that took her to Indianapolis, and then in Tampa, Florida, working for WFTS, Steele found herself hitting the big time – working for ESPN and SportsCenter as on-air talent.
Some might see her and think she's just another one of those pretty faces ESPN likes to throw on every now and again. But while she may be a pretty face, Steele knows her stuff. She hosts NBA Countdown and is way sharper than some of the other on-air talent ESPN wheels through. She's got an ease about her, as well as a charm on camera that others surely don't. Given her knowledge, passion for the game, and sheer intelligence, Steele has carved out a terrific spot for herself on the biggest stage.
9 Craig Kilborn (1993-1996)
Most people will likely only remember Craig Kilborn as the talk show guy who hosted CBS' Late, Late Show. But back in the day, Kilborn was a SportsCenter anchor for three years – primarily on the late night broadcasts. What made Kilborn great as an anchor was that he came across as an everyman. He made sports nuts around the world sit up and think, “hey, if this guy can do it, I can totally host SportsCenter.” Kilborn had a sort of schmoozy fratboy charm about him. If he wasn't rattling off some strange, goofy, and weird catchphrase during the highlights segment, he was just plain being strange, goofy and weird himself. He was lively and fun as an anchor, and certainly left a mark in his brief stint.
8 Chris Berman (1979-Present)
It's hard to believe that Berman has been with SportsCenter since the beginning. But then you hear him speak and think, “yeah, it's not that hard to believe.” He's getting a little Madden-esque as he ages – meaning that he's rambling and sometimes incoherent. But there has been none other quite like Chris Berman. In fact, it can be argued that SportsCenter might not be what it is today without him. Though he might not have known it at the time, he helped set the table for what the program would become. Berman is more than goofy nicknames and humor, he's also a serious journalist who does good, solid, factual work. Berman has left a huge footprint on SportsCenter, and on ESPN as a whole.
7 Stuart Scott (1993-2015)
Stuart Scott truly was “as cool as the other side of the pillow.” After bouncing around local network affiliate stations doing sports reporting, Scott found his way to ESPN and into SportsCenter immortality. Though Scott takes a lot of grief from a lot of people for his reporting style, many find him to be funny, intelligent, witty, and wise. He blended his mellow, upbeat persona with a hard working mentality. It's difficult to understand why some folks out there just didn't like Stuart Scott.
Scott left a big hole at ESPN after losing his battle with cancer, and he will be sorely missed by many.
6 Linda Cohn (1992-Present)
Perhaps the biggest knock on Linda Cohn for some of us, is that she's a diehard and unabashed Rangers fan. But it's most definitely not possible to knock her body of work. After becoming the first woman to be hired as the full time sports anchor on national radio back when ABC hired her in 1987, Cohn has put in tremendous and terrific work. By 1992, ESPN was knocking on her door and she soon found herself on the SportsCenter set – and outshining some of her male counterparts. Cohn is incredibly intelligent, is a diehard sports fan (though her team allegiances are suspect), is a hard journalist who isn't afraid to chase a story, but is an entertaining on-air personality as well. ESPN struck gold when they hired her and she is building quite a legacy for herself.
5 Kenny Mayne (1994-Present)
Before landing his gig at ESPN, Mayne's biggest lifetime achievement was being the backup quarterback to Randall Cunningham at UNLV. But that all changed in 1994 when, after doing the local network affiliates shuffle, Mayne was hired on at ESPN – a post he hasn't given up since. Much like Keith Olbermann, opinions of Mayne tend to fall into two categories – people either love him or hate him. Because much like Olbermann, Maybe has a Sahara desert dry wit and sense of humor. Not to mention the fact that he has a sense of sarcasm sharper than a razor blade. As a result, folks who tend to like lower-brow humor are instantly turned off by Mayne. But many of us think Mayne is absolutely hilarious.
4 Suzy Kolber (1993-1996, 1999-Present)
Suzy Kolber has put a lot of years into her craft. As a result, she's become one of the most widely recognized female sports broadcasters in the world. She's done terrific work, and not only that, has proven herself to be well versed in a wide range of sports, and entirely versatile, covering everything from the NHL to NASCAR. But she's probably most famous for her NFL coverage. Kolber is smart, funny, charming, and witty in her own way. She's not acerbic or biting like Olbermann or Mayne, but she is subtle and will drill you before you ever knew what hit you. Kolber is a terrific reporter who does terrific work.
3 Rich Eisen (1996-2003)
Rich Eisen forgets more about the NFL and its players every day than most people will ever know in their lifetimes. He has a very deep, perhaps bottomless, well of knowledge to draw from, and has sources anywhere and everywhere. If Eisen says a story is breaking, you can pretty well take it to the bank. Despite that though, Eisen remains humble, and a very likeable personality. He's congenial to a fault, and is pretty funny to boot. He was terrific on SportsCenter until the NFL Network had to stick their big beaks into the middle of things and lure him away to be the face of their new Network. We can't blame him for going, but he's about the only reason to ever bother turning on the NFL Network.
2 Keith Olbermann (1992-1997)
Long before Keith Olbermann became the political commentator he's known to be today, he was a sports broadcaster. In fact, he spent more than two decades doing sports broadcasting work. He did sports broadcasting work for local network affiliates in Boston, Los Angeles, and New York, before coming on board with ESPN in 1992. He's a bit of a polarizing figure, as some love him and some hate him. If you're a fan of bone dry wit and humor, Olbermann is your guy. If you're not, you likely think he sounds arrogant and pretentious. His biting sarcasm and dry delivery made him a pleasure to watch for many. And there is no doubting the mark he made on ESPN in his five years.
1 Dan Patrick (1989-2006)
Dan Patrick was the ultimate straight man for the sometimes manical Keith Olbermann, and later for Rich Eisen. Patrick worked for a few local radio stations and worked hard. He got his big break in 1983 when CNN hired him to be a sports reporter for the network. In 1989, ESPN brought Patrick on board and he stayed with the “Mothership” for nearly twenty years. Patrick is intelligent, has a dry sense of humor, and a biting sense of sarcasm. But he also comes across as a fun, pretty likeable guy – traits you can see and hear come through loud and clear on his nationally syndicated morning sports talk radio show. Though his time at ESPN didn't necessarily end on a good note, the time he spent there, with Olbermann in particular, was groundbreaking for the network. Together, the two of them really helped reshape modern sports reporting and sports journalism. He and Olbermann were great to watch together and it's a shame they've both moved on to other things.