Connect with us
BSM Summit
blank

BSM Writers

Shams Charania Wants to Work With People Who Are As Hungry As He Is

“There’s not really an offseason for the NBA, and I think that’s what makes the league fun…that’s what makes it so exciting and makes you want to get up every day in the morning.”

Derek Futterman

Published

on

blank

The NBA has year-round appeal with its fans craving coverage of the sport regardless if there are games on the calendar. Once the offseason arrives – specifically the free agent signing period – fans often turn on Twitter notifications for the accounts of select NBA insiders so they find out the news as soon as it is reported. Just how to become one of those insiders, like Shams Charania, who possess a rolodex of sources and the ability to break news is difficult though, as it requires mastering a combination of writing, networking and reporting differentiable from others.

Shams Charania was breaking news in the Association from the time he was a college student at Loyola University in Chicago. Oftentimes, he would be glued to his phone, calling sources or tweeting out new information in the midst of classes or shuttle rides. His college life was eccentric, as he sought to build off of his nascent love for basketball and penchant for writing fostered in his sophomore year at New Trier Township High School.

“I wanted to work and be around the game of basketball and be around the NBA for as long as I possibly could because I loved it,” Charania said, “and at one point, I obviously wished I could play but that’s obviously not the calling for everyone.”

At the age of 17, Charania spoke to Jimmy Greenfield, who operated ChicagoNow, a subsidiary of The Chicago Tribune, as he was looking to start a Chicago Bulls blog. Working unpaid, Charania developed his journalism skills and utilized his intrinsic work ethic to become conspicuously known as an adequate, intelligent reporter – accumulating the repetitions necessary in the industry to develop a portfolio and relevant previous experience.

“I was writing multiple times per day [at] multiple thousands of words – literally religiously a day – so that I could be covering a game; I could be covering an analysis story off of a transaction that happened,” Charania said. “It’s as if I was a beat writer for the Bulls when I was writing on that ChicagoNow blog, and at least I was trying to put in the hours and really the time in my writing which allowed me to find my voice.”

While he was in school though, Charania was working as a nursing unit concierge at Skokie Hospital on the same floor as his mother. Charania’s parents both immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in the 1980s, and originally wanted him to work as a doctor or a lawyer instead of reporting on professional basketball. Through his time at the hospital, Charania developed skills related to interacting with people and staying organized while balancing his duties as a reporter.

As a freshman in college, Charania had moved to writing for RealGM where he primarily wrote stories based on one-on-one interviews or was contextualizing game results. While he was in high school, Charania had shared his work with Chris Reina, the executive editor and chief marketing officer of RealGM, along with other basketball-focused websites.

Through persistent communication and maintaining a professional demeanor, Charania stood out from other aspiring reporters and ran with the opportunity he had been afforded.  Additionally, he continued to reach out to decision makers in the basketball world to build contacts and a network to attain information, intensifying his efforts as he observed that people were willing to talk to him.

“It showed me there are a lot of great people in this industry… because when I think back, I was this teenage kid that was reaching out and cold-calling and cold-texting and cold-emailing people,” Charania said. “There really wasn’t much rhyme or reason for people to reach out to me. In some ways, you’re fortunate; you’re lucky and I’m grateful every day I’m able to do something I love.”

Before Charania started at Loyola University Chicago, he interviewed former Miami Heat shooting guard and three-time NBA champion Dwayne Wade at a charity event. A few months later, he attended his first press conference in Milwaukee when the Bucks introduced new draft selections Doron Lamb and John Henson. This helped Charania develop experience being present around the team, and it inspired him to want to start enterprising stories through original reporting. Moreover, he left his job at the hospital, much to the chagrin of his parents, so he could allocate more time to expanding his journalistic skills.

“It definitely was a balancing act,” Charania said of his college career. “There wasn’t really much time for me to spend socially. I was either going to classes or I was writing or I was trying to travel to Indiana or Milwaukee to go cover games…. I tried to put myself in as many experiences as possible when it came to covering regular season games; playoff games; [and] doing as many interviews as I could.”

Although he attended school in Chicago, Charania had to travel to either Milwaukee or Indianapolis to cover NBA games since the Bulls would not give him a media credential because of his age. In spite of the geographic inconvenience, he realized the importance of being present at professional basketball games to foster genuine relationships with players, coaches, executives and other team personnel – hence why he made frequent trips to both locales.

Networking has been an invaluable aspect of Charania’s professional development and the fact that he was comfortable reaching out to people and garnered professionalism in his approach rendered him a rarity compared to most other young reporters.

“A lot of the communication and the dialogue that I have can span hundreds and hundreds of text messages; emails; phone calls,” Charania expressed. “It’s just that constant back-and-forth – that dialogue – [and] really being there at any moment…. I value the relationships that I’ve made in this industry and I’ve been able to have since I started off.”

Charania joined Twitter in August 2010 and worked at fostering professional working relationships with sources in the world of basketball, setting him up to start breaking transactional-related news. In March 2013, Charania reported that forward Shavlik Randolph was returning to the NBA to sign a 10-day contract with the Boston Celtics – indicative of his first news break on the medium.

From there, he broke other contracts, including another 10-day deal for Malcolm Thomas with the Chicago Bulls, along with trades, most notably a blockbuster deal that sent forward Luol Deng from the Bulls to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“That was a rush of excitement and that rush of excitement still exists which lets me know that I still really, really love what I do,” Charania said. “I think it was definitely fun at that point.”

The Deng trade was a scoop many veteran NBA journalists were looking to get first and engendered even more of an augmentation in his credibility and stature in the reporting landscape. It caught the attention of Wojnarowski, who at the time was working for Yahoo Sports, and proceeded to tweet that Charania was “the best young reporter in the business.”

From his formative days as a reporter though, Charania recognized the threat of sources fabricating information to supplement their own agendas or those of their employers, hence why he has always triangulated his external reporting to ensure accuracy and precision.

“It’s something, even now, where you have a strong, strong pit in your stomach,” Charania said. “….I would rather miss a story than put something out and be even 99.9% about it. I always want to be 100% with everything that I put out.”

Charania tries to focus on the parts of his job in which he has oversight, such as his interactions, accountability and communications with sources. While he competes with other writers, he is equally competing with himself to try to expand his potential to be a multi-faceted journalist and trying to attain his goals on a daily basis.

“I’ve always felt like I’ve had tunnel vision and I kind of have blinders on in the sense of I just try to focus [on] what I can control because there’s a lot that’s out of my control,” Charania said. “….I think just like in any field whether it’s the players; whether it’s the executives; whether it’s the training staffs – in any field you go to in life in business or the workforce, there’s going to be some level of competition even when it is within yourself.”

One year after he broke the Deng trade, Charania joined Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports – while he was still a junior earning his undergraduate degree in communications. Charania had the opportunity to work alongside many accomplished reporters in the world of basketball with the launch of the company’s basketball platform The Vertical, including Wojnarowski, Bobby Marks, Chris Mannix, and Michael Lee.

“That group was super, super, super talented,” Charania said. “Just think about the collection of people that were there. You look now – it’s second to none…. It was definitely just a moment that I’ll always remember and cherish and definitely that was my first moment being on camera.”

The platform implemented on-camera appearances by talent, giving Charania the chance to gain exposure to transitioning his reporting skills to being on screen, and as a result bolstered his versatility. It also helped him realize the genuine year-round appeal of the NBA as compared to other sports leagues and his role in helping to facilitate interest in the sport itself.

“There’s not really an offseason for the NBA, and I think that’s what makes the league fun and also my job and my task and my goal on a daily basis to inform and share and shed light to the audience,” Charania said. “That’s what makes it so exciting and makes you want to get up every day in the morning.”

Through his time with Yahoo Sports, Charania broke several stories, including DeMar DeRozan inking a new contract to remain with the Toronto Raptors, Dwight Howard signing with the Atlanta Hawks and Luol Deng joining the Los Angeles Lakers. In the process, he gained a robust social media following and further cemented himself as an adequate sports reporter.

Now as Twitter transitions under new owner Elon Musk, Charania recognizes the role of social media platforms as a whole and their role in expediting the promulgation of news.

“I don’t know if someone at my age when I was first starting off would have been able to get the eyes and ears of the audience without social media,” Charania posited. “Whether that’s Twitter or Instagram, those definitely played roles in that.”

For many years, Adrian Wojnarowski had been the de facto NBA insider with fans declaring his news breaks as “Woj Bombs” due to the impact the announcements garnered. Yet over the last decade, Wojnarowski has had more visible competition on the platform, including with younger journalists such as Charania. Today, many basketball fans keep track of which one of them gets the news first and while there is evidently competition between all insiders, being first is something Charania will always sacrifice in terms of ensuring accuracy.

“It’s 100% more important and most important to be correct,” Charania said. “The goal is, for sure, to be correct and first. It would be great to have both all the time, but more than anything, it’s definitely much, much more important to be accurate.”

Charania left Yahoo Sports in 2018 to join Paul Fichtenbaum at The Athletic, a job that came to him because of a previously-established relationship. Prior to working as the chief content officer at the sports journalism outlet, Fichtenbaum was the editor-in-chief of Sports Illustrated and was cognizant of Charania’s potential not just in journalism, but in sports media as a whole.

After meeting with Fichtenbaum both in-person and over the phone, an agreement was reached – and Charania was officially a senior NBA insider and writer with The Athletic.

At the same time, Charania sought to continue crafting his on-camera skills, specifically those related to interviewing, prompting him to explore an opportunity with Stadium, a digital sports network under the auspices of Sinclair Broadcast Group.

A deal to join the outlet was reached after several meetings with CEO Jason Coyle and current Senior Vice President and General Manager Adam Anshell thanks to a provision that allowed writers with The Athletic to appear on other media platforms.

“I wanted to align myself with people who were equally as hungry [and] as driven to be the best versions of themselves as possible and I saw that from the jump,” Charania said of both media outlets. “I think that natural attraction was there from the beginning.”

While Charania breaks news for both outlets, he is primarily writing with The Athletic and doing on-camera work with Stadium. In both roles, he seeks to be accurate in his reporting rather than being first to a story.

An example of a situation Charania looks to avoid occurred earlier this week at the Baseball Winter Meetings when baseball columnist at The New York Post and insider at MLB Network Jon Heyman publicized that Aaron Judge was close to reaching a deal with the San Francisco Giants. Minutes later, Heyman deleted his gaffe from Twitter, which contained Judge’s name misspelled as “Arson,” and proceeded to apologize for “jumping the gun;” however, he had already drawn the ire of baseball fans for the false report.

“I think I’ve built a level of comfort and I’ve built a foundation of… sources and contacts from the people that I feel very comfortable trying to get to the truth at the end of the day,” Charania said. “I think what we do, especially what I do and what my colleagues do at The Athletic and what we do at Stadium [is] about being accurate and first for sure, but also understanding that we’re here for the audience; we’re here for the fans; we’re here for the people that want to know what’s going on in the league from every vantage point.”

Throughout his time with The Athletic and Stadium, Charania has reported on a countless number of blockbuster transactions, injuries and other league news. Some of his most recent news breaks include forward Zion Williamson’s contract extension with the New Orleans Pelicans; a physical altercation at a practice involving Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green; and the return of Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving from his team suspension.

No reports, however, compared to the moment he broke the news that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2020, leading to the indefinite suspension of the NBA season minutes later.

“I never thought that I would be reporting in a year and a time when we’re not only talking about on-court basketball news, but you’re talking about health in a pandemic; you’re talking about social justice,” Charania reflected. “Everything that happened in 2020; it was such a learning experience [and]… I was fortunate to have the group that I had around me at The Athletic and Stadium.”

Charania, 28, recently signed multi-year contract extensions to remain with both media outlets and also joined FanDuel TV to provide viewers with the latest NBA-related news and information on Run it Back. The show is hosted by former ESPN host Michelle Beadle and former NBA forward Chandler Parsons and brings viewers the latest happenings from around the NBA, along with discussion of sports betting trends.

“I’m in a position where I have a partnership with FanDuel and I think [with] them, similarly to when I first signed with The Athletic and Stadium, there’s a level of passion, hunger and desire; eyes wide openness to FanDuel TV to grow in this industry,” Charania said. “I think that’s what definitely drew me to them and made them appealing for me to partner with.”

Being able to determine the best means of dissemination for news and other content is the challenge for Charania in working with three different media outlets at once. Today, many writers are appearing on broadcast communication outlets, including television, radio and podcasts, requiring them to alter content presentation to appeal to different types of audiences. Through it all, the predilection for basketball is strong and a driving force for interest and consumption.

“There are times when I tweet news out in the moment and we’re able to get a headline up on The Athletic, and on Stadium and FanDuel I’m able to speak on it from a video perspective,” Charania explained. “Those are some of the different avenues and decision-makings that go in on a daily basis to figure out when and where makes the most sense. I think, for the most part, I’ve been able to manage it and handle it well.”

As his career continues to progress, Charania looks to improve his on-air presence and work to sustain his growth in numerous areas of the industry. While he knows nothing will ever be completely perfect, he hopes to attain as close of a level to it as possible and heavily critiques his writing and television work.

“I think everything I just need to do at a higher level,” he said. “I feel like I have a long way to go on everything and that keeps me motivated. Other than that, I just stay day-to-day… and just try to do the best that I can on a daily basis.”

Charania also looks to inspire the next generation of aspiring sports media professionals to discover their interests and subsequently pursue them. His determination and relentless pursuit in building a career has led him to become one of the most eminent and versatile sports reporters in the world at a young age, always staying ready for his next story whatever that may turn out to be. It would never have happened without his infatuation towards the game of basketball and the thousands of words he wrote per day from the time he was in high school.

“I think all those moments [and] those years of repetitions… definitely allowed me to find a voice,” Charania said. “Whether that’s through articles, video, on camera, podcasts, radio; just finding a voice [is essential] because that’s what will help and allow you to really see what it is your passion is.”

BSM Writers

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.”

Demetri Ravanos

Published

on

blank

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.

blank
Courtesy USA Today

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.

blank
Courtesy FOX Sports

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.

blank
Courtesy Full Sail University

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

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

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.”

Tyler McComas

Published

on

blank

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.”

Continue Reading

Anatomy of a Broadcaster

Anatomy of an Analyst: Doris Burke

“Doris Burke has an ease about her. A quiet confidence if you will.”

Avatar photo

Published

on

blank

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.  

Continue Reading
Advertisement

blank

Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2023 Barrett Media.