Where are you from and has it influenced your career choices and view on the game of basketball. Did you ever see yourself doing what you do now?
A lot of people that want to be sports reporters, play-by-play announcers and personalities in sports and entertainment sort of know from a really young age. I did not. This is something I found through a winding road.
I was a competitive gymnast growing up in Houston. Looking back that’s definitely where I got my work ethic, my love for sports, and competition. But I definitely didn’t know as a kid that this is what I wanted to do.
They say in Texas there are only three sports: high school football, college football and the NFL. That’s what I grew up around.
Fast forward a little bit, I ended up at Duke for my undergrad, and that’s where I fell in love with basketball; I was a varsity cheerleader and worked in the athletic department. I know it sounds corny, but to be able to spend four years as a cheerleader sitting on the baseline at Cameron Indoor Stadium, I just fell in love with the game, the rhythm, with the entire aura of high-level basketball. I figured I wanted to stay close to it when I graduated, and turn it into a career.
That experience at Duke, coupled with an opportunity to be a production runner for ESPN - which is a fancy way of saying that I got coffee for talent, drove them around, filled the snack table and refrigerator, low-level stuff - exposed me to high-level production in sports.
Those two experiences - being up close with basketball and then working with ESPN - made a light bulb turn on for me. I thought, “Ok, This is what I want to do. I want to be part of the large machine that brings this game to the people that love it.”
From there, I was going to figure out how to do it. Being on-camera talent is something that a lot of people want to do and I was very late to the party. Most of these people are kids who grew up watching games, calling them in their living room and idolizing these key broadcasters. I found those broadcasters later in life, riding in the passenger seat of a black Suburban I was driving. I fell in love with it all that way.
So I went to grad school at Northwestern to learn the craft, and working part-time for the Chicago Bulls eventually led to working full-time with the Sixers. In Philly, I worked my way from a Content Intern role into my current Team Reporter role over the last four years.
I’m really happy with how it has worked out, but like I said, it has been a winding road. I didn’t know that this is where we were headed, but I’m glad that this is where we ended up.
You aren’t just a court side reporter, you are involved in digital media as well. What are some of the differences between positions or do they entail a lot of the same things?
Every team is different. Some teams use their team reporter as their court side reporter, some teams have a team reporter and a court side reporter, some teams just have one, which is how the last couple of seasons has been.
This year I’m a Team Reporter which means that I’ll continue to appear on-camera and continue with all my interviews, but my content is all published in the digital space - which is still a relatively new, constantly evolving space. I am really excited to be part of it. The Sixers have a reach of around 13 million people across all of our platforms. So when I interview a player post game, it gets pumped out to millions of people worldwide, as opposed to the primarily local broadcast audience. That's not to say that I’m not super passionate about furthering my broadcasting career and moving into that space, but the way that the industry is moving, the digital space is so exciting. I love engaging directly with our fans digitally, bringing them as close to their favorite players as I can.
People my age are more prone to digital in the first place, so it's cool to be a part of the wave of people who cover the game outside of the more traditional space. I will say though - traditional broadcast is where I found my love for this game, and I really think live sports are what will keep both digital and traditional broadcasting in business. I love my position because I get to be close to the broadcast space but also engage with the digital space, where I really understand the audience.
In your line of work you have the opportunity to talk directly with players, coaches, execs and more. How do you keep the conversation genuine and interesting while still giving the media and organization everything they need?
That question is really the holy grail for reporters. How do we keep the conversation genuine, but keep the main thing the main thing: the basketball being played?
What people tend to forget, especially with our players, is that they are people first and basketball players second. For me, when I go into a conversation, I treat it the same way as I would with a family member, friend or co-worker. This is a talk with another human person, who I have the privilege of featuring when they’re center stage. “What’s going on in your life?” is the first question I ask everyone I know. In this case, when the person is walking off the court, the first thing going on in their lives is basketball. But I treat it like every other conversation. “How are you feeling about this big thing happening in your life?”
From there, if I get to feature the subject's personality or help unlock a different part of their life, that's gratifying. Everyone can watch them play basketball, but when I can be a vehicle to help them shed light on more than what’s happening between the lines, that’s when I feel like I’ve done my job at a high level.
What challenges do you face as a woman in the NBA space? What can be done to improve these situations?
I’ll start by saying it has gotten so much better for women in the space, thanks to the pioneers that were making space for me years ago. It’s become rare, even in my 6-7 years in the NBA, for me to be the only woman in a room. That being said, I’m often one of two or three women in a room of 60-plus. It’s getting better, but there’s work left to be done - not just for women, but for anyone with identity markers that differ from the majority of the room. I’ll add that there’s a huge difference between hiring women, or minorities, in more homogeneous spaces, and actually setting them up to succeed in those spaces. That’s something I try to do with the other women in our staff that come in after me. I want them to grow, and I’ll take them under my wing as much as I can. It’s on all of us to make a space that is more welcoming to hard-working people of any background. I hope that’s something people can relate to in other male-dominated industries.
I’ll also say that the Team Reporter or Courtside Reporter role is a role traditionally filled by women. There are roles that are traditionally reserved for men that I’d love to see more women take up space in. That’s something I feel we can do a better job of. Whether that's women becoming scouts, support staff - we have some incredible women working on our basketball operations staff - as executives on the business side, and beyond. I’m in a position people are getting used to seeing a woman hold. It’s even harder for women in other roles, so I have the ultimate respect for those people. I feel if given the opportunity - in any role - women can really surprise organizations with how good they are.
What messages or issues are you passionate about shedding light on?
Something I’ve never talked about publicly is the mental health space. The NBA as a league has done an amazing job - led by our players - to advance the conversation around mental health struggles. You look at how brave John Wall, Kevin Love, or Demar DeRozan, to name a few, have been over the last few years in sharing what it’s like to struggle with something that has been so stigmatized - especially among men and athletes. I’m inspired by their willingness to talk about it. I want to do a better job advocating for mental health, and the idea that everyone is struggling with something you know NOTHING about.
For me, I have a history of mental health issues, specifically disordered anxiety, depression, and OCD. I’m so lucky to say I’ve had amazing therapy in the past few years, and have gotten to a pretty good place due to the heavy work I’ve put in. But I’ve been blessed to have access to the right care - and being able to sponsor my own care was essential. There are so many people who deal with the same disordered anxiety that I dealt with, but don't have access to those resources. That, to me, is one of the biggest tragedies that I struggle to wrap my mind around.
It’s such a tragedy that some people don’t have access to what I had to purchase for myself. So, to me, being able to talk about mental health issues, but then being able to address them, are issues #1 and #2. I am so proud of our players who are talking about it, because they can move the awareness and care access needle way more than I can. You have to talk about it in order to address it, and you need people in our life who are willing to support you even if they don’t understand the issues themselves. In short - I’m so inspired by the players willing to discuss these difficult, and usually private, things.
Any favorite moments and or initiatives you’ve worked on?
We talk a lot with our players and staff about our platform in a productive way. Some of my favorite projects have been when we are allowed to stretch beyond basketball. During the pandemic - and now again this year - we did the “Vote 76” initiative where we talked with our players and alumni like Dr. J about why voting is important.
One of the most memorable moments of my career was when Dr. J confided in me that he never voted before 2020. He had voted for the first time in his whole life the day before our interview. Now, this is someone who has been extremely politically active and engaging in many communities, small and large, for many years. He was willing to share with me because he wanted people who had never voted before to get out and vote. That was a moment when I was able to share a message so much bigger than basketball through an authentic conversation with another person, who just happened to be one of the all-time greats, and royalty in this sport.
I also love any opportunity to highlight someone - player, staff, man, woman - who might not have been able to take the elevator in terms of getting to the successful position they hold. For example, every year in Women's History Month, we feature some of the women of the 76ers, hear how they support the team’s success, and provide visibility for young girls who might not think they could get into this industry. I love any initiative that shows our audience more than what they see on TV. If we can inspire anyone, that’s the ultimate bonus.
Interviews can at times come together with great chemistry and character. Which subjects have you felt you’ve had the most fun with or best chemistry working with?
This will be my 5th season with the 76ers, which means there are quite a few players on the roster who have played a majority or all of their career with me as a reporter. To see the growth of Tyrese Maxey, or Matisse Thybulle - guys that came into the league lesser known by the Philly audience, and to help the city learn how great they are, has been such a cool privilege for me. I’ve gotten to tell their stories from the night they were drafted, to - hopefully - the night they win their first championship. I definitely take extra pride in my work with the guys who started around the time that I did. I watched them play their first games, and go through the pandemic, and now we’re all starting another year together. As I said before, I am passionate about what is happening to you as a person. When you’re a rookie, you’re moving to a new city with new people. I know what it's like, our fans know what that’s like, and they’re interested. That's how I found a good rhythm with the players and fans - I try to highlight them in a personable and authentic way.
What advice do you have for people looking to work in the sports industry or advance in theirs?
There are a lot of people who want to work in sports. Quantitatively, there are way more people that want to do these jobs than actually get to do them. That being said, if you have a dream, and you believe you can get there, I try to remind people that if you work long and hard for something, there are other people giving up along the way. The longer you pursue a dream, the more likely you are to achieve it, simply based on the fact that other people will give up.
That said, I don’t want to oversimplify things either. This is a hard industry to break into. You have to really want it, really love it, and you also have to be a little lucky. And ultimately, don’t give up. People who give up make space for the people who don’t.
I interviewed Malika Andrews a couple years ago on one of the Sixers’ pregame shows, and she said something that totally informed the interview I did with you today. She said, “How can I expect players to be vulnerable with me about what's going on with them, if I don’t talk about what's going on with me?” It sounds so simple, but I was really inspired by that comparison. Like I said, I feel most accomplished when I can help a player tell their story in an authentic way, especially if they are having a hard time doing it. Since I take pride in doing that with them, and I want to do that with myself. Malika inspired me to do so.
I also had a couple really good mentors in Jay Billas and Jay Williams, who I really owe everything to. I worked with them both on “College GameDay.” Jay Bilas is second to none in the space for the way that he covers sports - he validates the same nerdiness I have, but in an articulate and even cool way. I love that about him. Then Jay Williams is someone who mentored me when I first started working in this space. He was the first person that told me he thought that I could make it, and I’ll never forget that. I owe Bilas and Williams the world. Today, we have an amazing broadcast team here at the Sixers and Kate Scott has also been an amazing mentor to me since the day she arrived.
From the Sixers, our content team, PR team, and basketball operations staff are spectacular - as are our players. Tobias Harris and Georges Niang have always gone out of their way to support my career. Georges invited me to start a podcast with him, when he’s more than capable of carrying it alone. Tobias’ leadership extends beyond the team, into the staff, and into the community. Their support of the little guys like me is completely outside of their job description, so it means the absolute world. I can’t mention the younger players without mentioning those two, but it’s been an honor to be in Philadelphia at the same time as the entire group. I believe everyone crosses paths for a reason in this life - and any success I’ve had is totally impossible without the support of the people whose paths have intersected with mine in Philly.