Maria Taylor planned to make a quick pitstop back home in Georgia before returning to New York City to host the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Selection Show on March 16.
The ESPN host and analyst was flying in from Los Angeles after covering the Lakers’ 112-103 victory over the Clippers on March 8 at the Staples Center. More than a month later, though, Taylor is still at home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s nothing like what we’ve seen in the past,” Taylor said. “Sometimes it’s hard to be still when you work in this industry because your whole understanding of being good involves being on a plane and being where the action is, and now there is no action. You have to stay healthy and keep other people around you healthy, so I have to be at home.”
The NCAA announced on March 12 the cancellation of both the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments as well as the remaining winter and spring championships. The announcement came a day after the NBA suspended its 2019-20 season until further notice. The league was the first professional sports league in North America to suspend play due to the coronavirus pandemic with MLB, NHL and MLS all shortly following suit.
Taylor, who has hosted NBA Countdown since 2019, commends commissioner Adam Silver and the rest of the NBA for taking action so quickly after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.
“I think the NBA set the tone almost for a nation,” Taylor said. “I’m not sure everyone was taking it seriously at the point when the NBA decided we cannot have games anymore. … They were the first to say this is so dangerous we’d rather protect the people around us than being able to play the game, so you know how serious this is.
“… That’s something we’re going to go back, remember and be thankful for the commissioner and the league being bold. It was together and it was one step forward and nobody looked back. You have to envy a league for being the first to know you might deal with a little bit of pushback knowing the nation has to catch up to you.”
As a sports journalist without active sports to report on, Taylor has had to pivot her coverage amid the pandemic. The usual in-studio or on-location NBA Countdown has gone virtual as NBA Countdown Stay Home Edition with Paul Pierce, Jalen Rose, Jay Williams and Taylor video chatting from their respective homes twice per week.
Taylor has remained active on social media as well, conducting interviews through ESPN, NBA and College Game Day Instagram accounts with Trae Young, Nick Saban, Chase Young, Devin Booker and Isaiah Simmons. Taylor and Holly Rowe have been recounting classic college football games, like the 2006 Rose Bowl between USC and Texas, remotely as well as part of ESPN’s College Football Classics Throwback Thursday. Taylor and other ESPN personalities have even been honing their skills by reacting to viral amateur videos online. She will also be part of the ABC broadcast team that will present the 2020 NFL Draft—being conducted virtually—from April 23-25.
“We’re all sitting at home now finding different ways to do our jobs,” said Taylor, who joined ESPN in 2014. “No one is getting away from this anytime soon. … There’s no doubt in my mind we haven’t seen the darkest time of it but we have to continue to band together knowing there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“We’re going to be together again enjoying games, but we’re in the tunnel right now.”