As the niece of a high school football coach, being present at a sporting event was quite ordinary for Alexa Landestoy. Originally from Valencia, CA, she played competitive soccer in the Elite Clubs National League until she tore both ACLs in a span of 10 months and transitioned to finding a career off the field.
One day while attending a high school football game, one of the coaches recommended to Landestoy’s uncle to let her interview the team’s star quarterback Malik Henry. With one of her parents serving as a cameraperson on an iPad, Landestoy jumped at the opportunity, using that initial interview as a springboard to conduct others at the high school level on Friday nights.
She subsequently disseminated her work on YouTube and across other social media platforms, displaying her precocious talents in broadcasting to viewers worldwide. After a short time had passed, Landestoy discovered that her interviews were being reposted by Sports Recruits on YouTube and was receiving emails from media executives inquiring about her work.
While she was still a student at Valencia High School, Landestoy worked with CollegeAthletes.com on its #D1 Bound digital series where she interviewed athletes at several sporting events, some of which included the Elite 11 Finals, Pac-5 Baseball Championship and Army All-American Bowl.
Aside from interviewing, Landestoy also learned how to edit her own clips and assisted with their distribution on social media. Gaining that industry experience early afforded her the chance to hone her craft prior to college and hasten her professional development.
“It’s getting those reps, you watch the tape, everyone learns [and] you get better,” Landestoy said. “I think having that experience at a young age and being able to build off of that kind of gave me a jump start.”
Once she graduated from high school, Landestoy began attending Texas Christian University in Fort Worth where she majored in sports broadcasting and minored in journalism. From day one, she immediately prioritized finding chances to continue building the foundation necessary to succeed in sports media.
As a freshman in college, Landestoy contacted the athletic department to try to work with the nationally-ranked TCU Horned Frogs football team and got in touch with head coach Gary Patterson. Some of her ideas were declined early because of deficiencies in resources to execute them, but she took advantage of the chance to interview high school recruits who were on-campus, potentially the next stars of the university.
As she continued to matriculate at the university, Landestoy sought opportunities to continue to broaden her skill set, one of which was by serving as the football team’s in-stadium host. During home games, she would appear on the jumbotron and also host the Big 12 Look-In, taking fans around the rest of the conference to catch up on the day’s action.
In Landestoy’s sophomore year, one of her professors posted media internships for students to review. While the common practice was for juniors and seniors to apply and work as interns, Landestoy wasted no time and applied to Fox Sports Southwest.
Before she applied though, she had co-hosted Horned Frogs Nation, a program on which she would deliver the sports report segment that aired on the network. Following the interview process, she was selected as one of three interns, but was underwhelmed when her tasks centered around logging Texas Rangers baseball games, sometimes working until 2:00 AM.
“I remember my mom just telling me: ‘Alexa, they give you an assignment. Be the best logger you can be; be the best person; go meet as many people as you can,’” Landestoy recalled. “Looking back then, we had interns on their phones or not focused and because my logs were up to date and the editors appreciated that, people started to take notice.”
Making the most of the situation, Landestoy kept in touch with executives and producers at Fox Sports Southwest, occasionally sharing work she was doing on the side. When the network decided to experiment with a new system centered around the use of a cellular device to transmit a feed back to the studio, she received a call asking if she could contribute high school football reports. As a college junior, Landestoy was working as a sideline reporter for the regional sports network, continuing her professional development and exposure in the industry.
“It turned out I was working the entire football season,” Landestoy said. “They were flying me across the state of Texas doing full reports and the Friday football coverage. Not saying no to any opportunity is just kind of how it all started and then [took] off for more and more.”
Although she had never followed the WNBA, Landestoy made a commitment to management at the Dallas Wings that she would take the time to learn about the team and the league, helping land her the job as the courtside reporter. Remaining in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the summer, she continued to work her way upwards and eventually was given the opportunity to report at both the Cheez-It Bowl and the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
She affirms that she never felt intimidated starting at a young age and knew that embracing feeling uncomfortable and cultivating professional relationships was fundamental to experiencing sustained success and progression.
“I think I was blessed to have the best people around me who were so supportive and wanted the best in me,” Landestoy said. “I always say, ‘I want the job because I’m the hardest worker and I will do the best,’ but I will say people took a chance on me too. I think they saw the potential; they loved the go-getter spirit; the age that I was; the initiative; and seeing that high school tape that I made.”
In part because of her previous experience producing content for digital platforms, Landestoy recognized the need for the TCU football program to promote itself in places where millennials were consuming multimedia content. Through persistence and motivation, she worked to create two social media-based shows – called Rookie Roll Call and The 817, respectively – in which she essentially acted as her own production team to broadcast them en masse.
“I just kind of would run through [ideas] in my dorm room [and] write down pitches for ideas of shows and also where it could be targeted, [along with] who would watch this type of content,” Landestoy said. “….You fast-forward a year or two later and [in] every athletic department now, social media is the biggest deal and the biggest way to recruit guys.”
Working freelance gigs in Texas, Landestoy figured she would remain in the area for the time being; that is, until she saw a job opening at NBC Sports Washington. Traveling to “The Nation’s Capital” for her first professional audition, Landestoy endured what she called a “grueling” two days filled with networking and on-camera work.
In the end, she was offered the job and relocated to Washington, D.C. as the host of the nightly sports talk show DC Sports Live, along with analysts Wes Hall and Nick Ashooh. Covering all of the sports teams in the city, including the Washington Nationals during the organization’s championship season, allowed her to become familiar with the passion of the fanbase and the multiplatform sports coverage they expected.
“This is a fanbase that loves winning [and] loves supporting their teams, but it also is a very transplant type of city,” Landestoy described. “People are from everywhere; [there are] a lot of government workers; a lot of diplomats [and] different people coming from different places. You just want to have a variety of content.”
Once the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world, sports took a pause and innovation lent itself to shifts in consumption habits, coercing networks to reevaluate their content strategies. Upon the resumption of hockey outside of a bubble format, Landestoy was named the new host of Washington Capitals pregame and postgame coverage on NBC Sports Washington.
She came into the role with previous hockey knowledge from growing up as a fan of the Los Angeles Kings and says the role is “the best thing” for her. The show prioritizes producing and airing content that can be easily consumed on both linear television and digital platforms, and figures to have more access with the recent purchase of the regional sports network by Monumental Sports and Entertainment.
“It’s important to engage the casual fan but also the diehard fan – especially with our panelists,” Landestoy said. “They’re diving in the film room, trying to bring the fans in and understand the game more in a way that they would and make them feel super knowledgeable.”
Working as a host, Landestoy knows that a primary aspect of her job is to set up the analysts so they can proffer their esoteric knowledge of the game and translate it in a vernacular easily discernible to all types of fans. She is able to express her opinion throughout the show as well and conducts interviews with players and executives to further enhance the broadcast – all centered around the trait of authenticity – just as she learned from her mentors in the industry.
“I always pride myself on being the same person on- and off-camera,” Landestoy said. “If you see me on the street, I’m acting the same way I am on camera. I always want to be inviting and I also always want to be the voice of the fan. Anything they’re thinking, I’m the one who’s facilitating that conversation to make sure my answers are heard.”
The typical preparation for a Capitals live game broadcast entails having a production meeting the day before to share ideas for segments and what to discuss on the show, but of course this can change with the dynamic sports news cycle.
On game days, she accesses the show rundown and adds her thoughts and ideas of what she may say, writing down what she intends to deliver on camera. Something Landestoy possesses over other studio hosts is a photographic memory, a reason why she is able to effectively host without the use of a teleprompter.
“I pride myself on covering this team for the three years that I have,” she said. “I’m coming in with this knowledge and I can take it or follow my analysts wherever they’re going. I have that photographic memory and know where maybe I want to go with my ideas, but I’m always open and you’ve got to think on your feet to wherever the conversation is going to and don’t try to force the story if it’s not there.”
Landestoy and the Capitals’ studio analysts, including Alan May, Al Koken and Bruce Boudreau, aim to prepare viewers for each game and analyze it upon its conclusion. Having a local connection to Capitals fans gives NBC Sports Washington the insight it needs to focus its content on areas that will impact the experience of the live game broadcast.
For example, Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin recently scored his 787th career goal, marking the most goals scored with one franchise in league history.
“I’ve really loved being a host and being able to have more to say and have my opinion be heard but also to use my skills to weave the conversation in and out to wherever they’re going,” Landestoy said. “I definitely think there’s a joy and also the fans really appreciate that, ‘Hey, we are your Capitals crew. We have you covered for the ins and outs of what this team is doing. We’re your home for Capitals hockey,’ and we really try to encompass that.”
Staying informed about everything going on not just with the Capitals, but in the world of sports at large requires Landestoy to be aware of the sports news cycle. When the Capitals are not on the ice, Landestoy contributes in other areas at NBC Sports Washington and sometimes works in other hosting jobs both inside and outside of the network.
One of those hosting jobs involved working out of NBC Sports’ headquarters in Stamford, Conn. as the digital desk host for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, compiling the day’s events in concise segments distributed to multiple outlets. The role required Landestoy to work late at night; therefore, she adjusted her routine to sleep during the day to ensure she would be energized and ready to work throughout the 19-day stretch.
“These videos would get millions and millions of viewers because people would want to get a snapshot of the two minutes of what happened that night in the Olympics,” Landestoy said. “It was just a cool experience that, looking back, is definitely a career achievement that I’m definitely very proud of.”
Although she would be content with working as a studio host on Washington Capitals live game broadcasts for the remainder of her career, she recognizes the importance of continuing to improve and working to be the best media personality possible. Having that mindset could premise potential future movement to a national platform but for now, she is thrilled with working at NBC Sports Washington.
“I’ve learned that I love doing a variety of roles,” Landestoy said. “It’s not just sideline reporting, but I love hosting. I love the Good Morning Football-type vibes or NFL Live where you can show personality and bring the sports content. That’s where I think I can shine in those areas so probably a role like that is something that I would love to do.”
Alexa Landestoy had a precipitous rise in sports media because of her work ethic and drive to create opportunities and succeed. She grew up around high school football and the professional teams in southern California, using her knowledge and desire to tell stories to find new opportunities to refine her skills and cultivate new ones as necessary. The key is in getting started and seeing the value in every and any chance to immerse oneself in sports media.
“Just go for it if you have a passion for this,” Landestoy emphasized. “I got my start with my parents filming me on an iPad out on a high school field. It turned out all those high school players are now in college or in the NFL. Yeah, maybe it’s high school, but you’ll grow together.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
What Tom Brady Needs To Know Before His First Fox Broadcast
“Our panel includes a fellow player-turned-analyst, a legendary play-by-play man, and a broadcasting coach.”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Tom Brady announced he is retiring from the NFL today. It happened literally a year to the day since the last time he retired.
The last retirement lasted just 40 days. Before the end of March of last year, Tom Brady had decided he was done pretending to be happy about embracing life off of the field and announced he was returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a third season.
I guess we cannot rule out that that will happen again. The difference this time around, at least for Tom Brady’s professional life, is that he has a plan for his future. Now that his playing days are over, it is time for him to start his ten-year deal with FOX to be the analyst in the network’s top NFL booth.
Audiences do not know what to expect. No one can deny that Brady brings star power. He is the GOAT after all, but we cannot say for sure if he will be any good.
The pressure is tremendous too. Not only is Tom Brady embarking on a new career, but football fans seem to have taken a liking to the guy he is about to unseat. Whether Greg Olsen gets kicked back down to the number two booth or he is forced to share the spotlight in a three-man booth, plenty of people will look at Brady as the reason we hear less from the guy regarded by many as the best analyst on TV right now.
Brady does not have much room for error here. Since that is the case, I thought I would get some perspectives from people that can help him out. I asked three people to give me their best advice for Tom Brady.
Our panel includes a fellow player-turned-analyst, a legendary play-by-play man, and a broadcasting coach.
THE PLAYER TURNED ANALYST: ANTHONY BECHT
In 2000, the New York Jets used the 27th pick of the NFL Draft to select Anthony Becht. He played for five different teams during his twelve NFL seasons.
His broadcasting career began in 2013. Becht worked on ESPN for eight years as an analyst on the network’s college football games. He has since abandoned the booth to return to the sidelines. He will be the head coach of the St. Louis Battlehawks when the XFL starts its third first season this month.
I texted and asked him to look back on his broadcasting career. What does he wish he knew before he started? Here are the three pieces of advice that he had for Tom Brady.
1. Less is more. Folks want to watch the game and just know the “why”. Providing tangible information in a five or six second window is key.
2. Fans want to know about your personal experiences as a player – information and stories they can’t get or wouldn’t even know about because they never did it at the level we did. Share those when the time comes in a game.
3. Have a strong opinion about what you agree or disagree with, but be able to voice it without being demeaning towards players and coaches. It’s an art form and takes time to articulate that in a way that’s done right. I never bash any player or coach because a lot of work goes into be a professional athlete and coach. That needs to be respected but critiqued appropriately.Anthony Becht via text message
THE PLAY-BY-PLAY LEGEND: TIM BRANDO
Tim Brando has worked with a lot of people. That happens when you have been calling football and basketball action on TV for as long as he has. When I called him on Wednesday to discuss what is ahead for Tom Brady, he drew on his experience with another Brady.
Brando was working with Jole Klatt in his early days at FOX, but he and Klatt were not going to be an exclusive team. He remembers Brady Quinn coming in to their booth shortly after his NFL career had eneded. Quinn was about to make his debut for FOX. Before they were ready to turn him loose, the network wanted the former quarterback to get a feel for the pace and atmosphere of a broadcast booth.
I do think it’s important that you have a new talent understand what that workplace is like in the booth – the choreography that takes place, because there is choreography. If the ball is deflected, your spotter’s hands are coming together like a bad clap. If there’s a hit, who caused the hit? Who stripped it? So there’s a hand signal for stripping the ball and then recovering the ball with the arms closing together. So who got the recovery? Who caused the fumble? Those things are always helpful.
There are things that are going on frantically in the booth, but you as a broadcaster have to remain calm, understand it, and sound succinct and confident. That just takes time and it takes reps.
That’s one of the great things I think that Greg (Olsen) probably had an advantage in, as do a lot of analysts that get better over time. They do games of lesser importance that maybe the whole world is not watching.Tim Brando via Telephone
Tom Brady won’t have the luxury of time or of reps under the radar. He may get to do a few practice games, but the first time he will be calling a game on live television, it will be one of the biggest of the week.
Brando says in that case, it is really important that Brady use his instincts to his advantage in the booth the way he did on the field.
I don’t know Tom well, but I know him well enough to know that he prides himself on preparation. I don’t doubt for one minute that he will be prepared. He’s obviously an incredible competitor. You know, this is a this is a business of competition too.
If you’re a great player, just like a coach, you love the ecstasy of victory. You don’t want to admit it, but you love the agony of the defeat as well. That feeling of defeat is something we feed on to motivate you for your next performance. In television and sports television, you don’t get that in terms of winning and losing, but you do get it if you look at it as a great performance,
I believe that all great broadcasters are performers at heart. It takes a certain level of of a theater. It’s live. It’s not scripted.
I think some players that get in the booth that are looking to have that same, you know, euphoria that they have after playing and winning a game. Some of them get that and understand that in broadcasting and get out of that the same thing and others don’t.Tim Brando via Telephone
THE BROADCASTING COACH: GUS RAMSEY
Plenty of broadcasters turn to Gus Ramsey for critiques and advice. The Program Director for the Dan Patrick School of Sportscasting at Full Sail University is also a broadcasting coach working with clients at all levels of the business. They trust his opinion because of his professional experience.
In a prior life, Ramsey was the producer of SportsCenter on ESPN. He has worked with a number of incredibly talented people and been tasked with taking newbies to new heights, so I asked him what he would be thinking if it were his job to get Tom Brady ready for his first FOX broadcast.
Sometimes great athletes forget that most humans don’t know what the athletes know. Things that are basic or simple or even mundane to the athlete are incredible pieces of wisdom or insight to the average fan.
When I was at ESPN we had Tony Gwynn in for an episode of Baseball Tonight. In our show meeting, Tony was explaining why a hitter was slumping because we was cupping his wrist. He went on explaining it for 30 seconds or so. The room was in total silence, eating up every word. The greatest hitter of our generation was doing a deep-dive on hitting. It was amazing.
Tony suddenly got a little self-conscious, stopped explaining and apologized for “going on too long” and we were all like “No!! Keep going!” Tony thought is was boring. It was just the opposite.
Athletes can think things they’ve learned and repeated their whole lives are common knowledge so sometimes they don’t share that info because they think “everyone knows this.”
I want to walk away from a broadcast feeling like I learned something. Sometimes the ex-athlete doesn’t realize how much educating they can do in a broadcast.
The other thing I always encourage former athletes or coaches to do is to take the viewer where they’ve never been; on the field, in the locker room, in a contract negotiation, etc. If you can get that viewer to fully appreciate the feelings and emotions of what goes on in those places, you enhance the experience for us.
Terrell Davis was an analyst on NFL Network for a bit after his career. He once described Champ Bailey running back an interception 100 yards by saying as Bailey got to the 50 yard line “right here it feels like someone put sandbags on your ankles.” I’ve never run 100 yards in a football uniform in Denver’s altitude, but Terrell’s line helped me better understand what it feels like.Gus ramsey via text message
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Mark Packer Loves Reading Your Memories & Tributes to Billy Packer
“I’ve heard from all kinds of coaches. I’ve been blown away. It’s just another reminder of the impact Billy had on so many different people, not just the world of sports.”
It still stands today as one of the most iconic moments in the storied history of Arizona basketball. Three simple words said it all as the Wildcats celebrated an overtime win over Duke to win the 1997 national championship. “Simon says championship.” Those were the words of legendary broadcaster Billy Packer as Miles Simon fell to the floor with the ball in his hands. It’s one of many lines his son, Mark Packer, has been reminded of recently.
It was the perfect three words after the country just watched Simon carry Arizona to college basketball glory. Packer captured the moment perfectly, just like he did during every Final Four for 34 years.
Packer passed away last Thursday at the age of 82 but his legacy and impact in sports broadcasting will never perish. He was heard during every NCAA Tournament from 1975 to 2008 and was on the call for some of college basketball’s most iconic moments, including Michael Jordan’s shot to win the 1982 National Championship, Bird vs Magic in 1979, and even Kansas completing an improbable comeback to win the 2008 championship in his last broadcast. And the best part of it all was that Packer did it his own way, with his own unique style.
“It has really been remarkable,” said Mark Packer. “When Billy passed Thursday night we put it out on Twitter and it took off but I didn’t really know what to expect on Friday and Saturday as far as reaction. But the tributes have been fantastic and our family has loved it.
“I have heard from just about everybody and their brother. Folks I never thought I’d hear from, I’ve heard from them, such as commissioners, whether it be the NBA, whether it be other Power 5 leagues, I’ve heard from all kinds of coaches. I’ve been blown away. It’s just another reminder of the impact Billy had on so many different people, not just the world of sports. To me, that’s been comforting to all of us. It just reinforced all the stuff we knew he was about and brings back special memories.”
Packer’s style of broadcasting has been well-documented over the years. He was honest about what he saw and always spoke his mind. Granted, that didn’t always sit well with college basketball fans, but Packer wasn’t concerned about that. He was honest because he cared.
“He wanted the game of college basketball to be the best it possibly could be,” said Mark. “When he saw things he did not like, the one thing he always did was speak his mind. He ruffled feathers and he didn’t care. His intent was to make the game the No. 1 priority. You realize now he didn’t have it out for your team, he was just speaking his mind.”
That style meant fans would often yell at games, ‘You hate Duke! You hate North Carolina!’ Packer’s honesty was often taken by fans as he hated their favorite team. He used to laugh at that, just as Mark does know when he thinks about those moments. That’s because Mark can remember feeling the same way as other fanbases as a kid growing up rooting for NC State.
“When he was calling an NC State game I thought he was always out to get my team,” laughed Mark. “He’d be doing a game in Raleigh — we grew up in Winston-Salem — and the next morning after the game I would be eating breakfast before school and I would say ‘Man, Billy, you really got on so-and-so last night, what’s your problem with NC State?’
“He used to just laugh, because I thought he had an agenda against my team. Of course the funny thing is, we’d go on trips with him to other games and you’d hear fans say, ‘Billy Packer hates my team!’ It almost became a laughing joke, even amongst the family members, that Billy Packer was out to ruin your team’s day when he does a ballgame.”
Mark has always referred to his dad the same his television partners did. That goes for his two other siblings, as well. “Dad” was rarely, if ever, said in the Packer household. Instead, the legendary broadcaster was called by his first name.
“The fact they called him Billy on television, we never called him dad,” said Mark. “We just called him Billy.”
As you can imagine, ‘Billy’ had a lot of stories. That’s normally the case when you’re around the game’s greatest players and broadcast the legendary games we still talk about today. Packer was always quick to share those stories with his family, which made for an entertaining childhood.
Out of the hundreds of messages Mark has received since his dad’s passing, he says he hasn’t heard any stories he’s never heard before. But that doesn’t mean people haven’t been telling him stories about his father.
“We’ve heard them all, quite frankly,” laughed Mark. “Maybe the thing that was so funny about it was that it reinforced some that we thought were total BS when we heard them the first time.”
Packer will always be synonymous with college basketball and the NCAA Tournament. He was the voice of the sport during its golden era and helped bring the magic to TV sets across the world. If Mark had to guess what his dad is most proud of regarding his broadcasting career, he says it would be just that.
“From a broadcasting standpoint, probably the Final Fours,” said Mark. “When you, I think the number was 34 I heard, and he did so many of them, for us, we kind of took it for granted. It was just something he did. It was March and Billy is about to go do March Madness. It was just fabric for not only him personally, but also the family. He just loved the sport and wanted it to be good.”
Mark has carved out an incredible broadcasting career of his own. He’s hosted both radio and TV shows with outlets such as the ACC Network, WFNZ in Charlotte, and ESPNU. Having a front row seat to one of the most iconic careers in broadcasting, undoubtedly helped shape his career. Mark is very forthcoming as to what lesson he took from his dad the most.
“Oh, that’s easy,” Mark said. “That’s prep. He always studied. He was always coming up with notes and angles and facts. I have always done that with the radio and TV shows, that you constantly prep, you constantly read and make notes. You may not use but 10 percent of whatever you’ve been studying, but somewhere down the road you’ll use it again.
“When we were cleaning out his closet I ran into an entire box of old notes that he had from games from yesteryear. I kept every one of them and I can’t wait to look at them and relive those games and see his prep work and point of detail for all those games.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.
Anatomy of an Analyst: Doris Burke
“Doris Burke has an ease about her. A quiet confidence if you will.”
Basketball and Doris Burke have been synonymous for many years. At the age of 7, she started to play the game that would eventually get her to the top of her profession. Along the way she’s recorded many firsts for women in this field which I’ll detail later. Burke has also become an inspiration to other women already in broadcasting and those thinking about a career in media. Pretty impressive.
Burke was raised in Manasquan, New Jersey. She was the youngest of eight children, and started playing basketball in the second grade. She starred at Providence, where she was the team’s point guard all four of her years there and made an impact immediately.
During her freshman year, Doris Burke led the Big East in assists. She was a second-team All-Big East player once and twice made the all-tourney team of the Big East Women’s basketball tournament. Burke held seven records upon graduation, including finishing her career as the school and conference’s all-time assists leader, a record that has since been broken. She served as an assistant coach for her alma mater for two years from 1988-90.
From there it was time to embark on a Hall of Fame career.
ROAD TO ESPN/ABC
Burke began her broadcasting career in 1990 as an analyst for women’s games for Providence on radio. That same year, she began working in the same role on Big East Women’s games on television, and in 1996 she began working Big East men’s games.
Doris Burke has been working for ESPN covering basketball in different roles since 1991. It has also allowed her to do other things along the way that were unchartered for women in the business. In 2000, Burke became the first woman to be a commentator for a New York Knicks game on radio and on television; she is also the first woman to be a commentator for a Big East men’s game, and the first woman to be the primary commentator on a men’s college basketball conference package. In 2017, Burke became a regular NBA game analyst for ESPN, becoming the first woman at the national level to be assigned a full regular-season role.
If that wasn’t enough, from 2009 to 2019 she served as the sideline reporter for the NBA Finals on ABC. I mentioned it was a Hall of Fame career and it was officially deemed as such in 2018. Burke was selected to enter the Basketball Hall of Fame as the Curt Gowdy Media Award winner.
AS AN ANALYST
“Doris Burke has an ease about her. A quiet confidence if you will.” Relying on her past experiences in the game as a player and coach, the information she brings her audience is relatable. Some analysts struggle to bring home a point in a way that a casual fan will understand. Burke has no trouble with this. Her ability to spell it out, concisely and conversationally sets her apart from most analysts, male or female.
Burke attacks her job, knowing that some will question her authority when it comes to commentary on the NBA. She doesn’t mind steering into the skid.
“I am mindful of the fact that I have not played or coached in the NBA,” Burke said to Sportscasting.com last year. “It doesn’t mean that I can’t do a very competent job. I think I try to do that every single night, and I’m never afraid to ask questions.”
It’s all about the information to Burke, and has nothing to do with the fact she’s a woman covering the NBA.
“If you enhance a viewer’s experience, it doesn’t matter what your gender is,” she said. “As long as you are competent and put in the work … you’re going to be accepted.”
Doris Burke learned the ropes so to speak from several women that came before her. In an NBA.com piece from January of last year, she outlined how much she enjoyed watching former ESPN SportsCenter anchor Gayle Gardner. Early on in her career at ESPN, Burke got to work with Robin Roberts on WNBA and women’s college basketball broadcasts along with Ann Meyers Drysdale and Nancy Lieberman. Roberts was Burke’s inspiration as she started her career path. She admired the professionalism that each displayed.
“Working alongside Robin Roberts … the one thing I would tell you is the most powerful means to change or impact somebody is by your actions,” Burke said. “She was the epitome of professionalism and competency and garnered the respect of the people around her because of the work habits she had. Watching Robin early on let me know that the basis for everything is the work you put into something.”
While Roberts may have been influential to Burke, Burke has been a beacon for other woman that are getting opportunities in broadcasting. When asked about their role model, YES Network analyst Sarah Kustok, 76ers play-by-play broadcaster Kate Scott and former WNBA player and current Miami Heat studio analyst Ruth Riley Hunter all mentioned Burke by name.
“Burke is the best example for anyone — male or female,” Hunter told NBA.com. “I love the way she describes the game. She adds so much to every broadcast, and when I was playing in the WNBA I was always really inspired by her work.”
Burke is popular amongst her colleagues at ESPN/ABC, thanks to a tireless work ethic an ability to adapt to whichever sport she may be calling that day. Count Jeff Van Gundy among her biggest fans.
“She’s the best, most-versatile analyst and commentator at ESPN,” Van Gundy said of Doris Burke in 2017 via Deadspin. “She does it all—great interviewer, commentator, studio analyst—everything. And she is an expert at it all—women’s and men’s college basketball, the NBA and the WNBA. She’s the LeBron James of sportscasters. There’s no better broadcaster out there right now.”
Burke is equally a big fan of Van Gundy and the top broadcast crew for ESPN/ABC’s NBA coverage. That includes Mike Breen and Mark Jackson as well.
“We are talking about three of the best to ever do it. Mark, Jeff and Mike have held down the NBA Finals for over a decade with commentary that is the best of the best. Hubie Brown is a living legend. All of those men have been nothing but gracious and supportive of me,” Burke told the Athletic.
Doris Burke is considered one of the best NBA analysts around. Her bosses at ESPN made sure to re-sign her to a multi-year deal and promised she will be involved in “high profile” NBA games in both the regular season and playoffs. Burke will also call finals games on ESPN Radio and appear on the NBA Sunday Showcase program on ABC.
Good for her and good for fans of the NBA on ESPN/ABC.
DID YOU KNOW?
In 2010, she was featured as the new sideline reporter for 2K Sports ‘NBA 2K11’ video game. She has appeared in every version since, including the latest ‘NBA 2K23’.
As a senior at Providence in 1987 she was the school’s Co-Female Athlete of the Year.
Her basketball idols growing up were Kyle Macy, Kelly Tripucka and Tom Heinsohn.
Andy Masur is a columnist for BSM and works for WGN Radio as an anchor and play-by-play announcer. He also teaches broadcasting at the Illinois Media School. During his career he has called games for the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox. He can be found on Twitter @Andy_Masur1 or you can reach him by email at Andy@Andy-Masur.com.