ESPN's Doris Burke Talks Approach To Full-Time NBA Gig, Preparation For Game Telecasts
After gaining a reputation over the years as a respected basketball mind, ESPN's Doris Burke is breaking new ground in broadcasting this season as the first full-time female NBA game analyst. But Burke prefers not to be labeled as a pioneer. She feels she is “no different than the other women who have been plugging away at this for a long time.” But with more and more women taking NBA TV roles, Burke is excited that attitudes are beginning to change and hopes that passionate and knowledgeable basketball minds continue to get their chance -- regardless of gender. Burke spoke with THE DAILY about focusing solely on the NBA for the first time in her career and what storylines she finds intriguing this season.
Q: What does this new role mean to you? What can it mean to aspiring female TV talent?
Burke: I’ve been an NBA fan since the Johnson-Bird era. I’ve been broadcasting in some way since ’92, so I’m just really jazzed and I’m thrilled that my bosses felt like I had earned the opportunity to step in. I’m watching (NBC Sports Washington’s) Kara Lawson and (YES Network’s) Sarah Kustok, who were named analysts on their respective local packages -- and don’t feel like I had anything to do with that, quite frankly. They are knowledgeable, passionate basketball people. I was also fortunate in that I entered the business at a really good time. When I left coaching in ’92, women’s basketball coverage was exploding. I’m not diminishing the hard work to get where I am, but I’ve been very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.
Q: With a sole focus on the NBA this season, how do you feel you'll be able to better immerse yourself?
Burke: Toward the middle or end of last season, I asked my bosses to replace me on women’s college basketball, just because there were times where it was challenging to keep up with three different sports. To be responsible for men’s college, women’s college and the NBA would sometimes prove challenging. There were times leading into each of those broadcasts where I felt "Gosh, there’s still information for me to consume." This season I have the opportunity to immerse myself even more into the ins and outs of the NBA. I’ll be able to pay attention to the storylines, maybe more than ever, and it will make my coverage a bit easier.
Q: What’s your routine right now as you prepare for games?
Burke: Every morning, I receive an email containing all the articles written across every NBA city. So the first several hours of my day involve going through those. If I have a broadcast coming up, I’ll either watch the live telecast or a replay the next day of the games involving the teams I’ll be covering. I’ll just kind of lock in on those particular teams. Two days out from a broadcast, I’ll get on Synergy Sports, because I want to, for example, look at (Hornets G) Malik Monk’s last 25-30 baskets and get a sense of his tendencies. I’ll find out in pick-and-roll situations whether he likes a one-dribble pull-up, or if he goes left he’s going to drive to the basket. ESPN also has an incredible research staff and they might send me a packet of information. Now that I’m home for a couple of days, I’ll still be listening to (ESPN's) Zach Lowe or Adrian Wojnarowski or an SI podcast to keep up. Once I’m in the respective NBA city, we’ll go to shootarounds, meet with the teams and sit with a particular player. The day of game, within 90 minutes of the start time, we’ll sit with respective head coaches and talk about their teams and matchups and things like that.
Q: What are some of the top storylines you’re following this season?
Burke: One of the prime storylines for me is the chemistry on the Cavaliers. (Coach) Ty Lue announced that Dwyane Wade would start the year at the two-guard. If you read the stories from (The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s) Joe Vardon or (ESPN’s) Dave McMenamin you had the sense that perhaps J.R. Smith might start and Wade might be featured on the second unit. Smith is probably not happy about coming off the bench after being the starter for multiple Finals teams. That requires sacrifice. So how does that play out? I also went to the opening couple days of Celtics’ training camp and was just gobsmacked at how different the roster is this season. I believe fully that the team has closed the gap on the Cavaliers and I’m curious to see the progression of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. In the West, the Rockets and Thunder have certainly closed the gap. Do I still think the Warriors are the favorite? Of course, but there’s a lot to be played out there.