The Simmons Empire

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By: Connor Lenahan

The future of Bill Simmons post-ESPN was going to be one of the most intriguing stories of the year in sports no matter how it played out. To this day the announcement that Simmons was going to HBO for a new TV show remains one of the more shocking moments of the year. Additionally, it was one of my favorites. But that announcement brought a peculiar question.

Simmons made his name on writing. That’s what allowed him to rise to the top of ESPN. That’s what got him his personal site to run, Grantland. However, it was how outspoken he was in general that got him fired. With that in mind, it was seemingly a slam dunk that Simmons would find somewhere new to get back to talking. HBO was the answer, at least for two thirds of his career. HBO would host his new TV show. He would return to his podcasting ways with The Bill Simmons Podcast.

But where would he write? This remained up in the air. That is, potentially, until now.

James Andrew Miller is the utmost authority on all things going on behind the scenes at ESPN. Miller, quite literally, wrote the book on the World Wide Leader, Those Guys Have All The Fun. So when news came down on Friday – which I completely missed due to travel until just tonight – that 4 high profile Grantlanders were jumping ship for Simmons, it was the genuine article.

Here’s where this gets interesting. Why would writers leave a great gig at Grantland unless they had something lined up? This is the biggest indicator of Simmons’ return to writing outside of his recent quote in Vanity Fair. “I still have to figure out where I’m going to write and how much I’m going to write.” The columnist Simmons isn’t going away.

But Grantland is built around big personalities. Losing Simmons was already big enough, he was not only the coach but the star player. Wesley Morris was arguably/probably/likely the best writer on the site regularly, and he’s now employed by the New York Times. Who are the big four that are bouncing? That we don’t know.

It’s easy to guess who might be jumping ship. My personal bets are Rembert Browne (almost a lock), Bill Barnwell, Zach Lowe, and Katie Baker. I could be, and likely am, completely wrong about this. But regardless of the answer, stealing away four top level writers is a great way to start. Look at the last time Simmons went recruiting, Grantland became amazing.

From here on out, this story will be the most interesting thing with a bullet. Simmons is coming, and we have no idea what’s coming next. This is going to get fun.