How ‘the Starters’ Rebounded With a Hit NBA Podcast After TV Show Loss

  • “No Dunks” is an NBA podcast from the creators of “The Basketball Jones” and “The Starters.”
  • In 2019, after their NBA TV present contract ended, the creators signed a take care of The Athletic.
  • They now have considered one of The Athletic’s prime podcasts, persistently hitting 1 million downloads a month.

The creators of “The Starters” went within the 2010s from recording a basketball podcast of their producer’s Toronto storage to a day by day tv present on NBA TV.

But their TV fame was fickle. In 2019, NBA TV selected to not renew the present’s contract, co-host Trey Kerby instructed Insider. And copyright points prevented the creators from utilizing the ‘The Starters'” identify that had made them a mainstay in NBA media.

Fast ahead to 2022 and the group, which now hosts the podcast “No Dunks,” is correct again the place they began almost twenty years in the past: recording from Jason Doyle’s storage. Doyle produces the present for its 4 hosts: Tas Melas and JE Skeets, who have been the unique voices of the podcast when it was often called “The Basketball Jones”; Kerby, who joined the group in 2010, and Leigh Ellis, who joined in 2011.

The quintet is a far cry from the 20-man group and TV studio that Turner Sports’ NBA TV offered throughout their six-year run with the community. But “No Dunks” has continued to thrive — steered by a loyal fan base that is adopted them from one storage to a different — and is now a mannequin podcast in The Athletic’s audio division.

How ‘The Starters’ turned ‘The Free Agents’

“The Starters” acquired off in 2013 to a tough begin on NBA TV as they struggled to translate their hour-long podcast to TV.

The group discovered their stride in season two, by shortening this system and embracing the quirkiness and relatability that got here with being NBA followers themselves.

“We’re not making an attempt to make that stuffy ‘boring’ kind of sports activities reactionary present,” Skeets stated. “We simply needed to keep the course of being ‘bizarre’ or not less than snug in our personal pores and skin, and it took a little bit to get there.”

The Starters dressed as Las Vegas show girls

“The Starters” gown in Las Vegas showgirl outfits throughout a present.

No Dunks


The present’s authentic 2013 NBA TV deal was for 2 years, with an possibility to increase for one yr. Turner renewed the present for that further yr, after which signed the group to a different three-year deal that might preserve them on NBA TV till the summer time of 2019.

But in 2018, AT&T purchased Turner Sports’ mother or father firm Time Warner Inc. Melas believes the AT&T deal was the catalyst for the present’s cancellation.

“AT&T got here in and made a buy and the cash needed to be minimize someplace,” Melas stated. “I’ll at all times suppose that it was due to a monetary resolution and never due to what we did.”

Turner Sports declined Insider’s request for remark.

The Starters pose with Vince Carter

“The Starters” pose with NBA legend Vince Carter, who reveals off their merchandise.

The hosts of “The Starters” pose with NBA legend Vince Carter


While the group wished to stick with Turner, they knew the truth of the media enterprise. Ellis stated he had additionally witnessed prime expertise go out and in of the highlight throughout the group’s time with the Canadian sports-media model theScore previous to NBA TV.

“It’s a fickle trade,” Ellis stated.

Later in 2019, the group began podcasting beneath the identify ‘The Free Agents.” That moniker lasted simply seven episodes earlier than they discovered a new house as one of many pioneers of The Athletic’s burgeoning podcast division.

How ‘No Dunks’ has thrived in its new house

“The Free Agents” podcast had a number of suitors when it hit the market in June 2019, in line with Matt Olson, the creators’ agent. Bidders included DAZN, Cadence13, SiriusXM, and Westwood One, however the group finally signed that fall with The Athletic.

“The Athletic valued them correctly, they have been going to make them their flagship NBA podcast, and the quantity of NBA protection The Athletic already had made it the most effective match,” Olson wrote in an e mail to Insider.

The Athletic had established itself as a prime sports-media outlet since its founding in 2016. But it was within the early phases of constructing an audio division and jumped on the alternative to signal an skilled group to pioneer the NBA aspect of its podcasting arm.

“It was actually making an attempt to optimize throughout producing reveals that have been each informative for a sports activities fan and in addition entertaining,” stated Andrew Wasserman, The Athletic’s head of audio. “It’s very tough to seek out a higher instance of a group of fellows who nailed that stability than ‘No Dunks.'”

The Athletic signed the creators to a two-year take care of a one-year extension, like Turner.

While the podcasters aren’t attending NBA occasions as often as they did at Turner, they’re incomes greater than they have been earlier than. Olson stated that The Athletic is paying the podcasters greater base salaries for “No Dunks” than they have been getting from “The Starters” at Turner.

In return, “No Dunks” persistently tops the podcast charts. Wasserman stated the present is The Athletic’s greatest NBA podcast and considered one of its highest-rated out of 77 podcasts. He stated “No Dunks” persistently breaks a million downloads each month.

According to Chartable, “No Dunks” ranks among the many Top 20 Basketball podcasts within the US, and is firmly within the Top 5 in international locations together with Canada, Australia, and the Philippines.

The present’s success has afforded its creators some autonomy at The Athletic. They’ve branched out with podcasts together with the Formula One present “No Brakes,” baseball podcast “No Bunts,” and “No Buffs,” which is in regards to the actuality present, “Survivor.”

These are low-cost, low-energy experiments that would hit, and in addition enable the “No Dunks” group some reprieve from speaking purely in regards to the NBA.

“Providing them with different inventive shops truly makes their NBA content material even higher and retains it extra contemporary and interesting and enjoyable as a result of they themselves are having extra enjoyable doing it,” Wasserman stated.

The Athletic’s authentic deal for “No Dunks” licensed solely the present’s audio. But “No Dunks” can also be on different platforms together with YouTube, the place it has greater than 50,000 subscribers. The Athletic licensed the video portion of the present when it signed a second contract with the creators final yr, Doyle stated.

“No Dunks” is now signed with The Athletic till 2025, a stretch that might equal the group’s time with Turner.

As a part of the deal, San Francisco-headquartered The Athletic helped finance a new studio for “No Dunks” in producer Doyle’s storage in Atlanta, the place the 5 creators have labored since their Turner days.

No Dunks' studio called

“No Dunks” has a new studio in Doyle’s storage known as “The Classic Factory.”

No Dunks


They selected to file in Doyle’s storage, hearkening again to the place it began, because the hosts reside close by.

While the creators’ cheerful personalities cultivated a loyal fan base over 16 years — hardcore followers have even gotten tattoos of the group, Wasserman stated — it is this practicality and work ethic that introduced “No Dunks” again to Doyle’s storage extra established and safe than ever earlier than

“We use the washroom in his home,” Skeets joked. “It’s our washroom,” Doyle stated.

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