Maria Taylor joins NBC for Olympics days after ESPN departure

What has long been rumored is now official.

Just days after covering Game 6 of the NBA Finals for ESPN, Maria Taylor made her NBC debut on Friday ahead of the network's primetime replay of the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics.

Anchor Mike Tirico, who also joined NBC after making his name at ESPN, introduced the veteran reporter and host at the top of the network's broadcast.

An 'Olympic dream come true'

"Thank you so much, Mike," Taylor said after being introduced. "It's an honor to be a part of this team and the Olympic legacy."

Taylor then got straight to work introducing a report on the USA women's gymnastics team. She tweeted video of her introduction, calling it an "Olympic dream come true."

Fresh start for Taylor following ESPN saga

Taylor joined NBC after a tumultuous end to her ESPN career that coincided with a leak of colleague Rachel Nichols suggesting that she was awarded her job as "NBA Countdown" host during the Finals because of a diversity effort rather than her merits.

The year-old audio went public in a New York Times report prior to the start of the Finals, putting Taylor's status at the network in the spotlight with her contract set to expire. According to the Times, Taylor refused to work directly with Nichols after she heard the audio. ESPN removed Nichols, who is white, from her sideline reporting duties during the Finals.

Maria Taylor before the Rose Bowl game of Stanford versus Iowa at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena , CA. (Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire) (Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Maria Taylor has officialy joined NBC. (Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Taylor hosted "NBA Countdown" through the conclusion of the NBA Finals on Tuesday amid reports that she was leaving ESPN to join NBC. Taylor reportedly had an offer of a $3 million salary from ESPN prior to her departure. Her contract expired Tuesday, and ESPN announced on Wednesday that she would not be returning. Terms of Taylor's deal with NBC have not been reported.

Taylor, 34, had worked at ESPN in various roles since 2014. In addition to her NBA hosting duties, the former Georgia volleyball and basketball player was a central figure in the network's college football coverage, where she reported for “College GameDay” and ABC's “Saturday Night Football” in addition to her sideline reporting roles.

What Taylor will do at NBC

NBC announced that Taylor will work as a correspondent during the Tokyo Games and join Tirico to host "Prime Plus," the network's late-night Olympics show. After the Olympics, she'll work as a host and contributor for NBC's Sunday NFL pregame show "Football Night in America" and the network's Super Bowl coverage in the years it airs on NBC.

“Literally, hosting the Olympics, "Football Night in America," and the Super Bowl is what I dreamed of when I started in television – and this would not be possible without standing on the shoulders of all of those who came before me and made this path possible," Taylor said in a statement. "And I plan to pay it forward.”

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