The flagship program of the sports network Creator/{{ESPN}}, '''''[=SportsCenter=]''''' has been a staple of the American sports landscape since 1979.

''[=SportsCenter=]'', which [[LongRunners celebrated its 50,000th episode in 2012]], is a sports highlight and analysis show that can be seen at almost all hours of the day on ESPN. Someone who wakes up at 7 a.m. can flip on the TV and watch ''[=SportsCenter=]'' until they leave for work at 8:30. When they come home at 5 p.m., they can watch the primetime version of ''[=SportsCenter=]''. When they go to bed at 11 p.m., they can watch the late-night version, and then the edition from UsefulNotes/LosAngeles updated to catch the West Coast scores at 2 a.m. And since 2008, they have been able to watch it when they are home sick on a weekday all the way to 2 p.m. And since 2010, when it took over most of the ESPNEWS schedule, ''all day long''.

What started as a simple, low-budget highlight show has, like its parent network, metastasized into a kind of pop culture leviathan that both dominates and frequently influences the sports world it covers.

''[=SportsCenter=]'' truly rocketed to national prominence in the early 1990s, when the 11 p.m. broadcast was anchored by Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann (yes, ''[[HeAlsoDid that]]'' [[CountdownWithKeithOlbermann Keith Olbermann]]). The two were smart, witty and cultured and they introduced a brand of cutting humor to the broadcast that made it must-see TV. Some of the scenes in ''SportsNight'' are references to this--including the "left off the letter 's' in 'bulging disk'" bit. Of course, on ''SportsCenter'', nobody caught it before airing...

Unfortunately, Olbermann, by his own admirable admission, was a bit of a prick and left the network in the late 1990s, though he and Patrick remained friends. Patrick expanded his role into other areas of the network, leaving ''[=SportsCenter=]'' in the hands of Patrick's post-Olbermann partner, Kenny Mayne, as well as [[SpotlightStealingSquad the alternate duo]] of Rich Eisen and [[{{CatchPhrase}} catchphrase]] machine Stuart Scott. When Eisen left in 2003 to become the on-air lead of the newly minted NFL Network, ''[=SportsCenter=]'' was left to be anchored by a collection of new talent who sought to emulate Scott's painfully hip catch phrasing (with varying degrees of success) rather than the [=Olbermann/Patrick/Eisen=] urbane snarkiness.

For all the complaining about the show, ''[=SportsCenter=]'' is more popular than ever. There are no serious national challengers to its dominance; [[Creator/{{CNN}} CNNSI]] was launched in 1996 as a 24-hour sports news network, but failed and shut down in May 2002; it didn't help that ESPNEWS, which served essentially the same function, was launched shortly before CNNSI. Also, CNN's long-running nightly sportscast ''Sports Tonight'', which had existed since CNN was founded in 1980, was removed from CNN's schedule shortly after 9/11, moving to CNNSI and was canceled for good with that network's demise. Fox Sports Net has also failed in its attempts to combat ''[=SportsCenter=]''. When that network debuted in 1996, it had a news show called ''Fox Sports News'', renamed ''National Sports Report'' in 1998. They managed to get Olbermann in 1999, but he left in 2001 and the show was canceled in 2002.

In 2006, FSN debuted a news show called ''The Final Score'' which used a basic format of highlights-only and scores to draw viewers in, but it was cancelled in 2011. In 2012, the newly-minted NBC Sports Network will have a go at SC with a new morning recap show called "The 'Lights" (short for "highlights"). In 2013, Fox Sports launched a new channel, Fox Sports 1, which features several programs aping ESPN's formats, including ''Fox Sports Live'', their highlights program (notably hosted by Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole, formerly of the Canadian ''SportsCentre''.)

An increasing trend for the network is to have shows that originate from Los Angeles instead of the network headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. The late ''SportsCenter'' (10pm Pacific) moved there in 2011 (hosted by Stan Verette and Neil Everett), and ''SportsNation'' moved in 2013 (with Marcellus Wiley replacing Colin Cowherd).

Outside of sports, the show is also famous for its incredibly funny ''This is [=SportsCenter=]'' commercial series, featuring athletes and celebrities in odd situations (such as Danica Patrick's race car getting towed from ''Dan'' Patrick's parking space, David Ortiz offending his mascot [[NotWhatItLooksLike by wearing a Yankee hat]], or the Manning brothers getting into a fight while taking a tour of the studio).
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!!This series contains examples of:
* {{Catch Phrase}}s as stated above, although over time this seems to have disappeared.
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* ClosingCreditsList: Notable because of their rarity. [[OnceASeason Once a year,]] at the end of the first [=SportsCenter=] LA of [[UsefulNotes/ChristmasInAmerica Christmas Eve]] (so early Christmas morning on the East Coast), ESPN runs a whole list of all of the directors and staff who would otherwise go unnoted due to their work occurring completely off-camera in order to give them their recognition, a compilation of their "This Is [=SportsCenter=]" commercials running on one side of the screen to keep it from being completely dead.
* DemotedToExtra: Ever since ESPN and the NHL parted ways, hockey highlights have now become few and far between. According to Deadspin's weekly "Bristolmetrics" article, which breaks down the show's coverage of sports and athletes in terms of time spent on a subject, the NHL averages only 15-20 minutes of highlights ''per week'' during its season. The hardest hit were Gary Thorne, the chief hockey announcer during that time, and Barry Melrose, who left Bristol for a small time to become head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning...that didn't last long.
* GenderIsNoObject: ''[=SportsCenter=]'' has had its fair share of female anchors over the years, who are utilized for their excellent anchoring skills rather than simple eye candy (although some are rather easy on the eyes). They also have a pretty sizable roster of female anchors instead of one or two tokens; for the first time in 2010, one pair of female anchors (Hannah Storm and Linda Cohn) ended their block of [=SportsCenter=] and turned the next block over to another female pairing (Sage Steele and Chris [=McKendry=]).
* IncrediblyLamePun: Chris Berman is the gold standard for the network, but the anchors have mostly ditched catchphrases for these, although some are actually pretty clever. Robert Flores has a GettingCrapPastTheRadar knack concerning these ("[[JayZ 99 problems but a pitch ain't one]]" and "[[Series/ChappellesShow Is Wayne Brady gonna have to Djokovic?]]")
* LongRunner: And how.
* MultiNationalShows: Versions air in Canada (''[[MarketBasedTitle SportsCentre]]'', which thankfully treats hockey fairly), Australia, Brazil, and Asia.
* TheNicknamer: Berman's {{incredibly lame pun}} nicknames for players. One lowlight: Joseph "Live and Let" Addai.
* SaltAndPepper: The Los Angeles anchor duo of Neil Everett and Stan Verett.
** The late 1990s duo of Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen was another example.
* ShowWithinAShow: A non-fictional example. The 6 p.m. edition features a ''Series/PardonTheInterruption'' segment, that was treated at one point as the final segment of the main show.
* TomboyishName: Anchor Chris McKendry believe it or not is a woman.
* TotallyRadical: Almost everything said by Stuart Scott.
* ViewersAreGoldfish: Very frequently, the first highlight shown on the program will be a recap of the sporting event that the network just televised.
** Or, even worse, highlights from the big event on another network that just ended, with a greeting of those switching to ''[=SportsCenter=]'' from the game...
*** If there was a big event that a huge chunk of people, including the vast majority of the show's audience, were watching earlier that day or night, ''[=SportsCenter=]'' ''will'' lead the show with it. In fact, it might devote close to half the show to it, with a parade of analysts showing up and talking about it.
* WittyBanter
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