Michael Wilbon

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Michael Wilbon
Michael Wilbon 2011 (cropped).jpg
Wilbon in 2011
EducationNorthwestern University
OccupationSports journalist, TV personality
Years active1979–present
Cheryl Johnson
(m. 1997)
RelativesCarole Simpson (cousin)

Michael Wilbon (/ˈwɪlbɒn/) is an American commentator for ESPN and former sportswriter and columnist for The Washington Post. He is an analyst for ESPN and has co-hosted Pardon the Interruption on ESPN since 2001.



Wilbon began working for The Washington Post in 1980 after summer internships at the newspaper in 1979 and 1980.[1][2] He covered college sports, Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association before being promoted to full-time columnist in 1990.[1][2] His column in the Post, which dealt as much with the culture of sports as the action on the court or field, appeared up to four times a week until he left to work full-time for ESPN on December 7, 2010.[3]

In his career, Wilbon covered ten Summer and Winter Olympic Games for The Washington Post, every Super Bowl since 1987, nearly every Final Four since 1982 and each year's NBA Finals since 1987. Notably, he was also the only reporter based outside of Hawaii to cover the historic basketball upset of top-ranked Virginia by then-NAIA member Chaminade in 1982 (he was in Honolulu to cover a college football bowl game).[4]

During his time at the Post, Wilbon earned the reputation as one of "the best deadline writer[s] in American newspapers."[5] In 2001, Wilbon was named the top sports columnist by the Society of Professional Journalists.[6]

In recent years, Wilbon has become more known as an ESPN personality than as a reporter. On December 7, 2010, he wrote his last column for the Washington Post and officially dedicated full-time to work for ESPN and ABC.[3]


After contributing to ESPN's The Sports Reporters and other shows on the cable network, Wilbon began co-hosting ESPN's daily opinion forum Pardon the Interruption (PTI) with Tony Kornheiser on October 22, 2001.[7] Wilbon was also a member of ABC's NBA Countdown (which he hosted with Jalen Rose, Bill Simmons and Magic Johnson), which was the pre-game show for the network's NBA telecasts.

In addition to his work at The Washington Post, PTI and ESPN, Wilbon appeared weekly on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. with WRC Sports Director George Michael, and Pro Football Hall of Famers John Riggins and Sonny Jurgensen on Redskins Report during the football season. He also appeared with Michael, USA Today basketball writer David Dupree and Tony Kornheiser on Full Court Press during the basketball season. Both of these shows were canceled in December 2008 due to budget cuts.[8] Wilbon also forged a close friendship with former Marshall and former NFL quarterback Byron Leftwich while the young passer was a standout player for HD Woodson in Washington, D.C.

In late 2006, Wilbon agreed to a multi-year contract extension with ESPN. After accepting the contract, Wilbon offered to resign from the Post, but the newspaper's chairman Don Graham and executive editor Len Downie both asked him to stay on.[9] The network gained priority therein with regards to conflicts with his newspaper assignments.[10][11] The first major conflict occurred on February 4, 2007, when Wilbon covered a Detroit PistonsCleveland Cavaliers game instead of Super Bowl XLI.

Personal life[edit]

Wilbon grew up on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois,[citation needed] as the son of a route salesman and a public school teacher.[1][failed verification] He graduated from St. Ignatius College Preparatory School in 1976 and received his journalism degree in 1980 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.[1] While in college, Wilbon wrote for The Daily Northwestern.[7]

Wilbon currently lives in Bethesda, Maryland, and also has a home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Wilbon and his wife Cheryl Johnson Wilbon had their first child, Matthew Raymond Wilbon, via surrogate on March 26, 2008.[12][13] Kornheiser often refers to Matthew affectionately as "Lilbon."[7]

Wilbon has a cousin, Travon Bellamy, who played for the University of Illinois football team.[14] Former ABC News reporter Carole Simpson is Wilbon's cousin.[15]

Wilbon is good friends with former NBA star Charles Barkley, and has edited and written the introduction for his most recent books, I May Be Wrong But I Doubt It and Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?, both of which were New York Times best sellers.

Wilbon suffered a heart attack on January 27, 2008.[16][17] After complaining of chest pains, he was taken to a Scottsdale hospital where doctors performed an angioplasty.[18][19] Wilbon is also a type-2 diabetic.[20]

On August 10, 2008, during a Cubs–Cardinals game at Wrigley Field, Wilbon threw out the ceremonial first pitch and then sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" as part of the seventh-inning stretch. Footage of Wilbon wearing a tucked-in Cubs jersey and bouncing the pitch is frequently shown on Pardon The Interruption as a friendly teasing by Kornheiser.[21]

In May 2009, Wilbon competed in a made-for-TV "King of Bowling" show against pro bowling star Wes Malott. Wilbon beat Malott by a score of 256–248, but Wilbon received a 57-pin handicap and Malott had to use a plastic ball.

Wilbon has served as a trustee of Northwestern University.

White House visit[edit]

Tony Kornheiser, Michael Wilbon and Tony Reali meeting President Barack Obama

On July 12, 2013, Wilbon, Kornheiser and Tony Reali (PTI statistician and de facto co-host) were guests at the White House. After lunch the trio met in the Oval Office with President Barack Obama.


  1. ^ a b c d Elfin, David (September–October 2014). "Michael Wilbon: sports writer turned TV star". Bethesda Magazine. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Pardon the Interruption with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon". ESPN.com. Retrieved October 16, 2007.
  3. ^ a b Wilbon, Michael (December 7, 2010). "For Michael Wilbon, a fond farewell to The Post". Washington Post.
  4. ^ Bolch, Ben (November 19, 2011). "Improbable basketball victory by small college in Hawaii still resonates". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 17, 2013.
  5. ^ Mansfield, Stephanie (August 5, 2002). "Revenge of the Words: The yak attacks of Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on ESPN's 'Pardon the Interruption' prove that friends make the best arguments". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  6. ^ "Pardon the Interruption!: A Talk with Michael Wilbon". Archived from the original on September 1, 2006. Retrieved October 16, 2007.
  7. ^ a b c Otis, Allison (April 29, 2014). "ESPN's Michael Wilbon on childhood, sports and 'Pardon the Interruption'". Peninsula Press. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  8. ^ Shapiro, Leonard (December 29, 2008). "Leonard Shapiro: Loss of Michael Is a Truly Deep Cut". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  9. ^ Jaffe, Harry (January 25, 2007). "Will Wilbon's $8-Million TV Deal Make Him a Stranger at the Post?". Washingtonian. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  10. ^ Michael McCarthy (December 27, 2006). "Wilbon now more of an ESPN guy". USA Today.
  11. ^ Harry Jaffe (January 25, 2007). "Will Wilbon's $8-Million TV deal make him a stranger at the Post?". Washingtonian.
  12. ^ As mentioned on PTI, March 26, 2008. This was during the PTI Rundown as announced by Tony Kornheiser.
  13. ^ Mitchell, Fred (March 26, 2008). "Word on the Street". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 29, 2008.
  14. ^ As mentioned on PTI, Feb. 7, 2007. This was during a discussion of questionable recruiting by head coach Ron Zook.
  15. ^ Kornheiser, Tony; Wilbon, Michael (October 21, 2002). "The Chat House". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 23, 2002. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  16. ^ Brinson, Will (January 29, 2008). "Wilbon Reportedly Suffers Heart Attack". AOL Sports. Retrieved January 29, 2008. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ Martin, Michael (June 29, 2009). "Sports Writer Turns Attention to Heart Disease". NPR. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  18. ^ Sports Media Watch: ESPN's Wilbon has heart attack
  19. ^ Wilbon, Michael (February 1, 2008). "A life-changing turn of events". The Washington Post.
  20. ^ Wilbon, Michael (March 5, 2010). "Hoyas star Austin Freeman is far from alone in living with diabetes". The Washington Post.
  21. ^ Sullivan, Paul (August 11, 2008). "EXTRA INNINGS". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 11, 2008.

External links[edit]