Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony both cited hometown pride in making their long-awaited free-agency decisions, and there is no reason not to believe that was a motivation.

But business is business, and James and Anthony took care of that part, too, not only in their own best interests but also for the bottom line of the NBA and its media partners.

Anthony took slightly less than the maximum allowable money to stay in New York, while at the same time saving the NBA, ESPN and TNT from the prospect of a lost 2014-15 season for the Knicks.

James reportedly signed only a two-year contract with the Cavaliers in anticipation of a rise in NBA revenues when it lands new TV contracts to replace the ones that expire after 2015-16.

The NBA is the biggest sports rights prize not currently locked up into the 2020s, so its cost will be astronomical. James' homecoming hype only can help with that.

In the shorter term, James' return to Ohio figures to have a smidgen of an effect on the national TV schedule for the NBA.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Last regular season, the Heat appeared on ESPN, ABC or TNT a total of 25 times.

The Cavaliers? Once on ESPN and once on TNT, against the Knicks Jan. 30. The Knicks won by 31 points hours after an writer reported Cavs guard Kyrie Irving privately had been telling people he wants out of Cleveland.

"There's just so much negative attention," Irving said after that game.

LOL. Not anymore.


Andrews gets promotion

Erin Andrews will replace Pam Oliver as Fox's first-team sideline reporter this season, first reported Monday.

Oliver's status had been uncertain because her contract was up, but the news came as a surprise to most in the TV business, as well as to Oliver, 53, who is highly regarded in an often thankless job.

She told SI that she asked for and was given one more season, her 20th, but she will work with the No. 2 team of Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch rather than with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.

(Burkhardt is expected to leave SNY after his contract expires following the Mets' season and join Fox full time.)

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Oliver will remain with Fox Sports in other roles after her final year on NFL sidelines. A network news release said she had been "elevated to senior correspondent."

"Disappointment is not really a word I would use right now because I've had some weeks to process it," she told SI. "I think my emotions during the season will be sadness, because I had been around that group for a decade."'


World Cup scores for ESPN

ESPN executives promised before the World Cup the network's enthusiasm would not be diminished by the fact Fox will take over for 2018 and '22. They delivered.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The Worldwide Leader did an excellent job with the worldwide spectacle, and blessed with a favorable time zone, exciting games and an intriguing American team, the ratings were strong.

Sunday's Germany-Argentina final attracted an average of 17.3 million viewers on ABC and 9.2 million on Univision for a total of 26.5 million, surpassing the 24.7 million for the 2010 final.


Drake a fickle fan?

The rapper Drake, who will host the ESPYS Wednesday night, has a reputation for, um, fluid fan affiliation -- one to which he took exception Friday on a conference call with reporters.

Asked whether Cleveland might be his new favorite sports city, he said, "First of all, I'd like to say that despite what everyone on the Internet thinks, I do not team-jump. In the past, I've always supported the player and not the institution unless it's the Kentucky Wildcats or the Toronto Raptors.

"Those are two teams that I will never stray from. But what people have to understand, whether it comes to soccer, whether it comes to football or obviously basketball, I have a lot of friends that play for a lot of different teams."

Some now are in Cleveland -- fellow Canadian Andrew Wiggins; LeBron James, whom Drake said "has been a brother to me for years," and Johnny Manziel, whom Drake said "is part of our family and like a brother.

"So I definitely have to look into some real estate in Cleveland and maybe make some trips this year,"' Drake said. "I might have to go spend a month out of the year there and watch my guys do what they do best."


ESPN lost in translation

Stop the first 1,000 American golf fans you see on the street and ask what they call the tournament in Great Britain this week and I'd bet 999 of them would say it's the British Open.

The other one works in Bristol, Connecticut, where it is always and only "The Open Championship."

Yes, I realize that is the official name, and the one commonly used in the U.K. But it is annoying that ESPN insists on using that name on this side of the Atlantic -- presumably in part to keep its rights partner happy, in part to sound cool.

It reminds me of then-NBC Sports boss Dick Ebersol's audacious 2006 decision to rename Turin, Italy (the way we always have said it here) as Torino (the way they always have said it there) for the Winter Olympics.

Why? Pretty much because he thought it sounded better.

To this day NBC announcers -- and sometimes those from other networks -- call it that, yet for some reason they do not translate Rome to Roma, Venice to Venezia, Florence to Firenze or Naples to Napoli.

Oh, well. Buona fortuna, Tigre!