By PAT GRAHAM AP Sports Writer
On the court, it will be the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans. Taking center stage, an all-female ensemble that will produce the broadcast.
It’s the second straight year ESPN has orchestrated an NBA game led by an all-female broadcast crew, with this version being held on International Women’s Day. Beth Mowins and Doris Burke will call the action, with more than 70 women taking part in Wednesday’s pregame and game coverage.
They’ll fill the roles of analyst, commentators, producers, directors, graphic designers, statisticians and social media operators.
Really, though, it feels almost like any other day at the office for Malika Andrews.
“Because I see these women literally every day,” Andrews, host of NBA Today, said in a phone interview on the amount of women contributing to the production. “You can hear and see their collective voices in this unique way. So it’s like, ‘Oh, all of my favorite people get to work on this one project. It’s going to be awesome.'”
In addition to Mowins and Burke calling the game, Cassidy Hubbarth will serve as a sideline reporter. There will be a pregame panel, too, consisting of WNBA standout/commentator Chiney Ogwumike, reporter Ramona Shelburne and WNBA Coach of the Year Becky Hammon, with analyst Monica McNutt joining in as well. Andrews will host NBA Today and NBA Countdown from ESPN’s production center in Los Angeles.
In the second game of the double-header — when the Los Angeles Clippers host the Toronto Raptors — reporter Ros Gold-Onwude will play a key role on the broadcast team.
“As a society, we’re moving forward and listening better and uplifting women in a more meaningful way. But we still have progress to make,” Andrews said. “We still have not had a woman who is a head coach in the NBA. I’m hopeful that those strides are going to happen in my lifetime.
“The women I work around inspire me and what I see in the world, the conversations that we’re having, inspire me.”
Same sentiment for Sara Gaiero, the coordinating producer who will oversee game production.
“Representation matters. If you see it, you can be it,” Gaiero said. “To walk into a production truck, control room, media room and broadcast booth and see women in all of the chairs is a powerful sight. There was a time when you’d be the only woman in these rooms. Now, we have so many talented women making regular contributions to our NBA property and across our productions.”
They follow in the NBA footsteps of pioneering female sports commentators/analysts. Iconic names who covered the league such as Cheryl Miller, the USC star turned analyst. Or Ann Meyers Drysdale, the UCLA standout who is a TV analyst for the Phoenix Suns as well as the Mercury.
They’re all paving the way for the next generation.
“As much as this is a story that I hope makes little girls smile, I hope they also look up and say, ‘They’re there because they’ve earned it to be there. I can earn it to be there, too,’” Andrews said.
Meyers Drysdale doesn’t look at this endeavor as breaking through any sort of glass ceiling. She’s not really a fan of that particular description. It’s too restrictive.
“I grew up in a generation where the sky was the limit,” said Meyers Drysdale, whose broadcast career has also included covering the Summer Olympics. “Certainly there have been obstacles and adversity. But my parents were always like, ‘Hey, you can do anything you want.'”
Meyers Drysdale tries to follow the work of females in broadcasting around the league. Women like Katy Winge, a reporter/host/analyst for the Denver Nuggets’ TV network Altitude Sports. Or Lisa Byington, the play-by-play voice of the Milwaukee Bucks. Or Kayte Christensen, a commentator for the broadcast of the Sacramento Kings. Or Candace Parker, a two-time WNBA MVP who was an analyst at the NBA All-Star Game.
“It’s wonderful to see because they’ve got a voice and there’s confidence in who they are and the opportunity that they’ve been given,” Meyers Drysdale explained. “I’m just so proud of their presentation and their work ethic and their confidence and ability to do what they’re doing.
“They’re all very impressive.”
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