Doris Burke, pioneer of female journalism in the NBA

There’s no need to wait until March 8 to honor the women who make the NBA. One of them, perhaps the most important, a pioneer of NBA women’s journalism in any case, is called Doris Burke. A talented former basketball player, Doris put all her knowledge and passion at the service of her profession. And women who follow him.

In the entire small world of the NBA, one voice is perhaps the most recognizable, the most recognizable. Doris Burke, 57, has been commenting and analyzing fights for radio and television since 1990. In 2003, she received the title of “Best New Face on Television” – which can be translated as “Best Hope” – from the part of USA Today. In 2018, he won the Curt Gowdy Award, given annually by the Basketball Hall of Fame to the most important basketball journalist. She was the first woman to have this honor. Doris Burke has left her mark on the League for over 20 years, and sorry for those who don’t like her (who are you?) but it’s not over becausethis year he signed a new contract with ESPN. So we’ll see him on the mic for big regular season and Playoff games, and on ESPN radio for the NBA finals. And this for some time at least. A contract was also signed on March 8, proof if ever that Doris Burke and women’s rights were truly linked.

A long career that has its origins very far back in Doris Burke’s life. To stay in business for a long time, you have to love basketball, and the least we can say is that the game is more than a passion for him. Although he was born into it a little by chance.

“When I was little, we moved from New York to New Jersey. There is a park near our house. I was seven years old, the youngest of eight siblings. My parents begged me to find something to do. So I took a ball and I would never put it. – Doris Burke via Duncan Robinson Podcast

And that’s how a girl from New Jersey became a very good basketball player. Since a microphone was new, it was the ball he held in his hand when he walked the floor. And he handled it well. A senior at Manasquan High School, he was coveted by several universities, and chose Providence College in Rhode Island. Doris Sable, as she was still called, cheered on the Providence Friars for four years. And to describe his game, better than himself, sure of his strengths and aware of his weaknesses?

“I can go where I want on the floor with the dribble. My ball handling is great. I don’t have a problem with having a lot of defenders around me. I liked the two-man take because I found the right pass, I wasn’t that pressure bothered me. But I couldn’t get a shot even if my life depended on it. – Doris Burke, via Duncan Robinson Podcast

Despite a shoot not better than Ben Simmons, with whom she also shares a big problem of confidence in this area, Doris Burke still entered the history of her team. For its first year, it dominated the number of contributors in the Big East Conference, a competition organized by a group of universities. He made the All-Big East first team twice. For her fourth and final season, she was elected female athlete of the year at her university, and took first place in the ranking all-time the number of assists. In 1999, twelve years later, Doris Burke entered the Hall of Fame at Providence College. Come, present, some small highlights of his high school career, which obviously starts with a shoot when he told us he couldn’t do it. Please note, this is not in 4K.

A very successful sports career as you can understand, which now gives him a lot of legitimacy within the NBA. An excess that unfortunately required women journalists at the time and we dare to hope that it is not so much the case today. And if this is less the case, it is largely thanks to Doris Burke. A pioneer of the discipline, she became the first woman to… many things in fact, so let’s mention them. In 2000, he was the first to have his voice heard at a Knicks game, radio and television combined. Nor had any women before him commented on men’s games in the Big East. In 2017, she became the first woman to land a full-season role on American television. At the end of 2020, Doris Burke was the first woman to commentate on the NBA Finals. An arm’s-length list of firsts that could rock more than one but not Doris Burke, according to Kristen Ledlow, reporter for TNT and NBA TV.

“One woman in this industry who continues to inspire me is Doris Burke. She was a pioneer. If she hadn’t opened all those doors, there would be very few women here today. […] He didn’t enjoy being first or being alone. That’s one of the things that makes him special: he turns to those of us walking behind him, so we don’t feel like we’re walking beside him. –Kristen Ledlow

So Doris Burke is not content to embody an environment with a strong male predominance, she makes it more mixed and more egalitarian, by helping people who want to find a place there. And this despite this slight impostor syndrome, which many of these women talk about. This is the case of Doris Burke, therefore, but also of Malika Andrews or Cassidy Hubbarth. It’s a problem they’re trying to eliminate, or not address, that we hope will disappear with the arrival of more women in important roles in NBA media. With a role model, an educator like Doris Burke, it should be easier. Nevertheless, the pioneer looks forward with happiness to the arrival of the future generation of female journalists.

“One day, we won’t talk about it anymore. There are so many talented women covering the NBA. I am in awe of the new generation and what they have accomplished, starting with Candace Parker. I remember seeing him go on TNT, and I was impressed with the confidence he showed. Candace and so many other women of her generation seem well-prepared, and really successful. I am very happy about it. – Doris Burke, via Sports Illustrated

Doris Burke was a pioneer who inspired and helped the next generation. Today, there are many women present in the audiovisual landscape of the NBA, and it might not happen without her. Plus…she’s crazy, so what’s not to like?

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