Host Michele Beadle (L) counts on NBA Countdown producer Lisa James. (PHOTO CREDIT TO COME)
Host Michele Beadle (L) counts on NBA Countdown producer Lisa James. (Lisa James/ESPN)
Starting this gig made me nervous, but that was quickly squashed once everyone welcomed me in and Lisa was a big part of that. Countdown’s Michelle Beadle on Lisa James

Today, Front Row unveils a new series called “Team Player” where ESPN commentators honor some of the company’s terrific behind-the-scenes employees who make invaluable contributions to ESPN’s success each and every day.

We’ll ask various commentators to each highlight someone behind the scenes who is vital to their on-air success and is a true “team player.”

We start with Michelle Beadle, host of NBA Countdown and co-host of SportsNation (and a huge San Antonio Spurs fan). Michelle’s first season at the helm of NBA Countdown has been met with positive reviews, plenty of fun and great collaboration.

Michelle’s choice for “Team Player” is NBA Countdown producer Lisa James (a huge Lakers fan).

Lisa James, NBA Countdown producer, on working with Michelle Beadle:

“Many have said that Phil Jackson just rolled the ball out because he had Michael [Jordan], Scottie [Pippen], Kobe [Bryant] and Shaq [O’Neal]. Well, that is pretty much the approach I take with Michelle. I just try to give her all the tools she needs and just go along for the ride. She makes basketball fun for not only me, but everybody she works with. ‘Beads’ keeps me laughing from the beginning to the end of every day. I always enjoyed watching her on SportsNation but I didn’t really appreciate the greatness of her instincts and timing until I got to work with her every day. She is a fan of basketball and really gives the fan a voice in her questions to the analysts. Magic [Johnson] called her a great point guard. . . Doesn’t get much better than that. Hard to believe that a Spurs fan and Lakers fan can work so well together, well as long as we don’t talk about Timmy [Duncan] versus Kobe.”

What makes Lisa successful in her role?
Lisa is great at her job because she truly loves the game. And, she is a diehard Lakers fan, which I’ve been able to overlook for the most part. If anything, I need to give her a hug every once in a while for her pain. She’s a naturally inquisitive person and seems happiest when sitting around with the guys, picking their brains.

How does Lisa help you do your job to the best of your ability?
Starting this gig made me nervous, but that was quickly squashed once everyone welcomed me in and Lisa was a big part of that. We all have a different way of doing things, and as with anything new, there’s got to be room for a few growing pains and a learning curve. She’s made the entire process easy and fun and allowed everyone on the staff to be themselves, which always makes for better television.

Could you describe a specific instance when Lisa went above and beyond to help you?
We had an episode last month that I was forced to miss with kidney stones and the last thing you want to do is miss a day when you’re the new kid. But, Lisa made it very clear that everything was cool. She was understanding and made a bad situation much better. Oh, and she’s also responsible for as many different ways of lovingly mocking [Countdown analysts] Chauncey [Billups] and Jalen [Rose] as possible. She rocks.