Sal Masekela Named ABC/ESPN’s Newest NBA Sideline Reporter.

It was the evening of Friday, December 13, 1996 in the Vail Cascade Ballroom when Sal Masekela stood up at the seventh annual snowboarding industry conference and told John Shea, VP of marketing for MTV Networks, that Shea should kick that kook Bill Bellamy off the air and hire someone — namely him — who knew what was up.

The audience of about 400 attendees tittered for a moment and then Sal sat down.

Who knew?

Six years later Masekela (who got his start in the industry as a receptionist at TransWorld Media) is a fixture on cable television. Masekela has worked on every X Games and Winter X Games since Winter X Games III in January 1999, serving as host of both events starting with X Games VII in Philadelphia in August 2001. He also has hosted other action sports programming on ESPN and ESPN2. Masekela has also worked for Fox Sports as host of Board Wild.

And yes, a few years after that bold proclamation in Vail, Masekela was host of the MTV Sports and Music Festival and Board Blast.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that Masekela has recently been tapped to become ABC and ESPN’s newest sideline reporter when the two networks launch their extensive NBA coverage this month.

[IMAGE 1]Masekela will be working alongside longtime NBC commentator Ahmad Rashad and ESPN veterans David Aldridge and Michele Tafoya.

Rashad will provide features for both networks, appearing on location at game sites for ABC Sports’ pregame show. Aldridge will work ESPN’s Wednesday night game and the ABC Sunday afternoon telecast with Brad Nessler and Bill Walton. Tafoya will be teamed on ESPN’s early Friday evening game with John Saunders and Sean Elliott while Masekela will appear on the later Friday contest with Mike Tirico and Tom Tolbert.

“In these four commentators we have solid basketball knowledge combined with screen presence that will distinguish our first year of NBA coverage,” said Jed Drake, ESPN senior vice president and executive producer, remote production. “They will be an integral component of our pregame and game telecasts, supplementing the traditional commentary with insights, updates, and personality.”

Who knows what’s next for Masekela, but if you hear him make a prediction, don’t rule anything out.