With Kevin Eubanks Leaving Jay Leno’s ‘Tonight Show,’ Which Athletes Can Replace Him?

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With Kevin Eubanks Leaving Jay Leno's 'Tonight Show,' Which Athletes Can Replace Him? Kevin Eubanks announced on Monday night’s The Tonight Show that after 18 years of leading the band and laughing at Jay Leno‘s bad jokes, he’s ready to move on to bigger and better things.

“I thought about this, and it wasn’t that difficult,” Eubanks said on the show. “After 18 years of playing America into commercials, I?m gonna go somewhere where I can finish a song.”

That’s great for Eubanks, but not so much for Leno, who is now in search of a replacement. Eubanks will be leaving the show at the end of May, so the comedian has time to find his right-hand man. He can look in a lot of places, and if he’s looking at comedy clubs or concert halls, he won’t get much good advice in this space … but if he’s interested in hiring an athlete, well, this is the place for him.

So in the interest of helping out an Andover, Mass., native, let’s run through three athletes who should not get the job and three athletes who should get some consideration.

Don’t Hire These Guys

3. Chan Ho Park
Look, Chan Ho Park seems like a pretty cool guy — especially when he has that awesome spy look going on after growing out his beard. He’d probably make for a good sidekick … until he had to talk. Clearly, Park isn’t afraid to be honest, and while that’s usually a good quality in a person, it can create some awkwardness.

2. LaDainian Tomlinson
Sure, when things are going great, you’d love to have LT by your side. Even if he was cracking everybody up with his unbelievable, once-in-a-generation type of talent, he’d be sure to share the credit with you. But when it comes to sweeps season, he’s a risk to just throw on the sunglasses and stand there moping away. He’s just not the guy you can trust in crunch time.

1. Bronson Arroyo
We know the former Red Sox pitcher (currently with the Reds) can cover all of your favorite songs, and we know his takes music very, very seriously. Yet we know that with Bronson, you’d be dealing with a few problems. For one, he’d jump at the opportunity to sell out to any corporation that asked him to be in a commercial. Second, he’d let all your secrets out into the public. Lastly and most importantly, he’d try to steal the show. As you’re about to deliver your punchline, you know he’d come in with a cover of Pearl Jam’s “Black” or just break into the intro of the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong.”

Arroyo might add something to the program, but he’s liable to forget who the real star is.

Top Candidates

3. Doug Flutie
We all saw what kind of energy the former quarterback can bring to the stage when he backboned the Doug Flutie Band playing at Scott Brown’s celebration back in January. Who’s to say he can’t bring it on a nightly basis? Plus, everyone loves a little guy. That’s just a fact.

2. Manny Pacquiao
It’s already a given that Pacquiao is the best fighter on the planet, so he’s pretty much earned the opportunity to prove that he’s also the best late-night sidekick on the planet.

He comes with experience, too, as he very nearly brought the house down with his stirring rendition of “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You” on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

It’s also very clear that Pacquiao has aspirations outside the ring, as he’s flirted with running for elected office in his native Phillipines. The possibilities with this guy are endless.

1. Bernie Williams
Bernie’s the clear-cut favorite for a number of reasons. For one, he’s a fantastic guitarist. Second, nobody can possibly dislike Bernie — not even Red Sox fans. He’s infinitely likable. Finally, he spent 16 seasons in a Yankee uniform. With the Yankees, not only was facial hair outlawed, but so was humor. Chances are you could get this guy cackling away with some of your weaker stuff.

More important than anything, though, would be Bernie’s reliability. Leno said on Monday night that he always looked to Eubanks “when those jokes die.” Williams never had a problem coming through in the clutch, and he rarely missed large chunks of time.

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