All of the women covering NBA teams for SB Nation’s team brands fell in love with the game somewhere along the way. You can meet all of the women we’re featuring in this series in the first post, which you can find here. In this second installment of our series celebrating these women, here are their stories of falling in love with the sport and what led them to covering the NBA for SB Nation sites.
Bailey: My love for basketball developed slowly over the years. I became a Mavericks fan as a kid, in the early 2000s, but I was a casual fan until the 2006 Finals run. Basketball was sort of a crushing disappointment for Mavs fans the next few years, but ironically, that’s when my love of basketball truly formed. I played in the basketball band for two years in college at Texas A&M, and I absolutely fell in love with our women’s basketball team. I’ve loved the sport ever since. Writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed, but never something I had the heart to pursue outside of academic work. I fell in love with Mavs Moneyball and was given the opportunity to write there on a trial basis, and things took off from there.
Sarah: Sports was a way for me to bond with my father. I’m the son my father asked for, though I’m a girl. The first NBA team my dad introduced me to was the 1991 Chicago Bulls. I grew up in Oklahoma, so we had WGN, which broadcast all the Chicago teams (at least the best ones!) Seeing how I could talk to my dad about sports for hours led me to turning it into a career, which I’ve been now doing for 12 years.
Courtney: I have loved basketball since I was a little girl. My sisters and I looked up to our father and uncles very much. (Literally, they are all 6’7 and taller.) My dad and his brothers played what we thought of as “serious business basketball” growing up, and even though my dad had four daughters … we all played basketball, too! I have been tall all my life (currently 5’10”) and grew up in a small town in northern Minnesota. My dad was my team’s coach for a while, so you know what that means … I learned how to hustle (ran a lot of laps). In fact I distinctly recall my father making me run laps with my arms over my head at the end of every practice screaming “We’re number one!” I THINK we ran one lap for every missed free throw for the entire team. (I got very good at free throws).
I love the game for its constant movement. Basketball has an almost endless hustle that just isn’t the same in most other sports. I was a professional ballerina and competitive pro ballroom dancer in my teens and early twenties. Movement is a way of life for me. Basketball balanced the idea of what it means to be a “team” in a way that I sorely lacked from my experience as a dancer. I’m very proud of my father for teaching me what it means to be a reliable teammate so my teammates — my FRIENDS — could depend on me. He reinforced the idea that you can’t win the game without relying on your team, and that practicing what it means to work together makes the feeling of winning so much better. I remember those days when we ran drill after drill practicing how to pass. There were nights that we had to pass a certain number of times before anyone was allowed to shoot. It forced us to pay attention to our team, and remember that having a team is what makes us strong. That support makes people feel valued and the benefit is shared and increases exponentially with the level of effort put in.
Ashley: I grew up watching basketball with my dad, and I really enjoyed the time I had with him where he taught me about the game. He has always been a die-hard Boston Celtics fan, and back when Larry Bird was in his prime, the Celtics games were a staple in our household. Later, the high school I attended always made it to the Colorado state championship games, and my friends and I would make the hour-and-a-half drive from Colorado Springs, where I live, to Denver to see them play in those games. I have the best memories of listening to music on the way up, and getting to take a small road trip out of town for a few hours once we were old enough to drive on our own.
In my current profession, the company I work for purchased season tickets for the Nuggets games, and I was charged with taking our clients out for the games each time the Nuggets played at the Pepsi Center. The first year we had our tickets was the 2012-2013 season, and it seemed like the Nuggets just couldn’t lose at home. The arena was always electrified, and something about being in that atmosphere re-ignited my love for the game. After my company stopped buying season tickets, I got my own and began to really study the Nuggets as a team. One thing led to another, as they say, and I began to delve deeper into the industry and develop my opinions. I got the opportunity to meet some great folks in the industry at a Nuggets charity event, and found myself connected with the Denver Stiffs in short order. I’ve been writing for them for over a year now.
Kayla: To this day, I’m not sure why or how I fell in love with basketball the way that I did. As a kid, I think I was probably searching for something to make me different than my identical twin sister. I seemed to gravitate towards sports more than anything else. I remember my parents allowing my sister and I to pick a couple of different lessons and classes that we could participate in and, being the tomboy that I was at that age, I picked baseball, soccer and basketball. I don’t remember if that was the first time I played basketball but I do know that I fell in love with playing the sport way before I fell in love with watching it.
Soon after I decided to watch the Denver Nuggets for the first time, however, the team quickly became my No. 1 passion. My love for the Nuggets is definitely the one thing about me that I think stands out to family members and those that know me the best — and I absolutely love that, especially because I know it’s much more uncommon to find a female that is obsessed with an NBA team than it is to find a male. As far as why I started writing about basketball, I think it goes back to being in high school and being on the newspaper. I was on the newspaper all four years and I chose to write for the sports section (obviously). That was my first taste of combining my love for sports and my love for writing. When I was approached back in 2015 about joining the Denver Stiffs, it was a no-brainer.
Grace: I actually grew up playing basketball, both for fun and competitively. From the age of 6, I had a basketball in my hand. Around the age of twelve, I started playing basketball competitively in Memphis for an organization called the FCA Memphis Nighthawks. I played for them for a few years, but I was never super-serious about playing basketball as a career of any sort. I ended up quitting my sophomore year of high school. Some people in my family encouraged me to combine my love for writing and basketball and write a few game recaps for NBA games, just for fun. I did that a few times, but I wasn’t too serious about it. That summer, an ad popped up for SB Nation’s Grizzly Bear Blues, and I figured I had nothing to lose, so I applied. The rest is history.
Jannelle: I fell in love with basketball when my grandmother bought my first ball at 4 years old. I’d spend all of my spare time playing with the boys in my neighborhood and watching the NBA. Writing about basketball is something that developed organically because I was a journalism major in college. Sportswriting allows me to combine my passion for basketball and my passion for words.
Marilyn: I played some basketball when I was young, but soccer was my real sport. What really made me fall in love with basketball was the Spurs themselves. While I really didn’t start watching them religiously until the beginning of the Tim Duncan era (which happened to coincide with me starting 7th grade my parents feeling I was old and responsible enough to watch TV that late), I always loved David Robinson as a kid and everything good he and the Spurs as a whole represented about San Antonio. I wouldn’t say anything in particular motivated me to start writing; more like the offer came along and I gave it a try.
Renee: I’m the oldest child in my family and my father taught me about sports early on because it was a long time before he had a son. I fell in love with basketball in the ‘80s, my early teen years, while spending the summers rooting for the Celtics in their Finals battles versus the Lakers. I always seemed to see the Lakers as the villains in those battles and I saw Larry Bird, Kevin McKale, Robert Parrish, Dennis Johnson, and Danny Ainge as the heroes.
I remained a Celtics fan until 1990, when David Robinson joined the Spurs. His service in the Navy prior to joining the team really caught my attention. I became a die-hard Spurs fan with the addition of Tim Duncan. Watching he and Robinson together was pure delight for me. I had discovered Pounding the Rock in 2010 when I moved away from Texas and was looking for anything to connect me and give me news of my favorite team. Spurs games are not televised often in Montana.
I didn’t get involved with the writing/editing aspect until the 2017-18 season when I saw a call for writers on Facebook for Pounding the Rock. I originally contacted the editor about helping out with editing (I’m a history professor by trade, but a freelance editor on the side). He offered me the opportunity to help edit and proofread some of the other writers. Then one day he contacted me with a special request — he needed a feature piece and none of his other writers were available. So I wrote my first piece. It was on Duncan’s quest to help the Virgin Islands after the hurricane. After that, my editor began to ask for more and more and now he has me writing previews, final score recaps, and other pieces on a regular basis.
Michelle: I’ve loved basketball since a very young age. I don’t remember exactly how or when I started playing, only that I always played. I was pretty good too, and was offered a number of athletic scholarships coming out of high school. For me, the intelligence and grace necessary to be a successful basketball player is what piqued my interest in the game. The feeling that you get when you perfectly execute a play or defensive strategy against an opponent is a real high. I also enjoy the team dynamics in basketball. If there is no trust or communication, the team fails. In this way, basketball teaches players a lot about life.
The last couple decades I’ve been coaching and training youth to play at the middle and high school levels. The nature of the game has changed over the years, and has remained exciting and interesting to me; I feel like I am constantly developing my IQ. My interest in the intricacies of the game — things like rotations, time management, offensive and defensive adjustments — and my strong opinions regarding the same are what primarily drove me to seek out writing opportunities. I’m also a civil rights lawyer, and in an industry dominated by men, with players that are predominantly persons of color, there is a lot from a civil and human rights perspective to analyze in the NBA.
Tara: I really fell in love with basketball when I was in college because my boyfriend at the time (now my husband) was into it and it seemed like fun. The first game that really stuck with me was a 1990 playoff game, Blazers vs. the Pistons. It was the first game that Bill Laimbeer came back after fracturing his nose and he wore a plastic face mask and looked terrifying. When he entered the court with this strange contraption on his face, basketball wasn’t just a game anymore, basketball became a source of great stories.
I frequently go down rabbit holes to learn as much as possible about the players and their stories. Who had a brother playing in the NBA? Whose fathers had professional careers? Which players went head-to-head during March Madness? I’d track down articles from their high school days, dig into their college careers, and learn everything I could about who they were, where they came from, and how they got to where they were. It seemed like a shame not to share these stories with more people, so that’s how I started writing for Blazers Edge. Not long after I was writing I was asked if I’d like to podcast. I was a big fan of podcasts but I’d never even thought about making one myself. The managing editor on our site, Dave Deckard, thought it would be fun to provide a change of pace from the usual weekly podcast and connected me with another woman who was also a huge fan. She and I podcasted together for two seasons before she left to travel the world and pursue other opportunities. At that time Dave offered me the driver’s seat of the weekly podcast which I stepped into this summer.
Marissa: I grew up in the height of the Jail Blazers era so I was not into basketball at all until college. My parents decided to get season tickets for the Blazers one month before the team won the draft lottery and ultimately drafted Greg Oden. Blazermania was back in Portland and it was such a fun (and ultimately depressing) time to be a Blazer fan. I had been reading Blazers Edge for years when our editors put out a call for new moderators. I owe the majority of my basketball knowledge to Blazers Edge, so I thought it would be a fun way to give back to the greater community.
Caitlin: I’ve made this comparison before, but I would liken my younger self to Hayden Panettiere’s character in Remember the Titans. My dad coached high school boys’ basketball for over a decade, and for those twelve years I probably couldn’t have been more like Bill Yoast’s daughter. Not only did I go to his team’s games as well as my own, I ran the clock at summer league round-robin tournaments, took stats meticulously, rode along for scouting trips, watched film, assembled playbooks, attended open gyms at 5:00 a.m., and when I was really lucky ... (wait for it) ... listened in on discussions on strategy. I couldn’t get enough of cross-comparing how coaches from neighboring counties had game planned for IU’s next top recruit (punt offensive rebounds to build a wall in transition) or the state’s leading scorer (box-and-1).
Suffice it to say, I probably wasn’t your normal teenage girl. Not because I ate, slept, and breathed the nerdy side of basketball. There were probably others like me in that regard — although at that point in my life I wasn’t fortunate enough to have met any. Rather, what I felt made me special was that I had a dad who welcomed his daughter’s opinion equal to that of a son’s, which is saying something, because at that age I’m sure I had some real doozies.
All of the while when I was making every effort to fully immerse myself in the culture of Hoosiers Hysteria by traveling to remote towns to take copious notes on the next Jimmy Chitwood, I was also blessed to have several teachers in my life who were regularly encouraging me to continue to develop my talent (their words, not mine) for writing. Now that I’m fortunate enough to put all of that together as a contributing writer at Indy Cornrows, it’s my hope that my passion for explaining and sharing what little I’ve come to know of the game while growing up in its heartland will keep readers coming back for more.
China: I did not grow up a basketball fan (baseball), but spent high school adjacent to many basketball obsessives. But this was back in the day, and Michael Jordan and all that, back when NBA was becoming the cultural juggernaut that it is now, so I followed along some. Then a college roommate had Knicks season tickets, and then the Knicks made the Finals and then a boyfriend had Knicks season tickets and then I graduated and got a job and then blew most of my money on seasons (but only for a year — those were the days), and the die was cast. So in a sense I fell in love with basketball but in another sense I love only the Knicks, which is a fate I wish on no one.
I never planned to write about any of this, but Posting & Toasting was such an incredibly welcoming site (shoutout Seth Rosenthal) that I began posting more and more. Eventually I started doing periodic social media roundups as a fan post on my own. Then a few years ago I did a random spot on a friend-of-a-friend’s sports podcast, which landed me a spot doing Pod Strickland, the (now defunct) Posting & Toasting podcast. A bit later, when Joe took over at Posting & Toasting he asked me to come on as a regular writer. Thanks, Joe!
Kelsea: I think the moment I fell in love with basketball was about six years ago. I was in a wing and rib joint and they were showing old Larry Bird, Hakeem, Kareem, Stockton, MJ highlights and I was enamored by the difference in the game then as opposed to the game today. The bigger strides, the rougher play. I think seeing how much the game has evolved is what made me fall in love with it. With other sports, it seems like you aren’t able to see that because they are covered head to toe in equipment (hockey, football, etc) and also because they just aren’t as exciting.
When I applied to write for Raptors HQ, I honestly didn’t even think I would receive a response. I sent a cheeky email to Dan Reynolds (whom I had only communicated with once on Twitter) and he responded two days later with “Obviously you’re in. What do you want to write about?” I told him that I can’t give him advanced stats or analytics, and he said he was looking for something different anyway. Dan wanted to give our site something you can’t get elsewhere, and here we are. Writing about moms and Nike Monarchs and Raptors fans and Demi Lovato, and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Romy: Here’s a little something I wrote about just that years ago. I essentially cycled through every sport; I first loved the dynasty 80s Edmonton Oilers, then the Jim Harbaugh Colts, Ken Griffey Jr.’s Mariners. Naturally, when I landed on the early ‘90s Celtics, all the other leagues receded into memory.
In terms of why do something more with it, I really believe in the power of serendipitous collisions and conversations. Mostly people were sick of hearing me talk about basketball, so I got a lot of “Why don’t you just write about this stuff?” Why not, I thought. I did some writing over at an obscure blog with one of my girlfriends, decided to set up a coffee with Beckley Mason, who was running the awesome Hoopspeak site at the time, and ended up guest blogging a ridiculous story about the time I hung out with half the Celtics team after a big win in Boston. That led me to eventually meet Brian Robb, Zach Lowe, Henry Abbott, Alex Bresler, Howard Beck … it’s a small world and you can really make inroads if you’re not afraid of reaching out to people.
Shirley: I went to a small rural high school. They didn’t have soccer or basketball or baseball but they did have a gym and a basketball team and everyone went to the basketball games and I fell in love with the game. Back on those days, they didn’t have league pass so I wasn’t able to watch a lot of pro ball but they did have a weekly game on CBS and I would watch those. They had the Celtics on quite a bit. In 1969, I fell in love with the Celtics and the heart and grit that they played with. I saw a lot of the comments about them being too old and too injured and that they wouldn’t win that season. They just kept winning and ignoring the doubters and I was hooked. I’ve been a Celtics fan ever since.
In 2005 I discovered the online Celtics community. I was posting on a small forum called Celtics Green and was asked if I wanted to write for their blog. I’m a math teacher and very left brained and never thought of writing for a blog or for anything else. I told them I’d try but didn’t promise anything. I found that I really enjoyed writing about the Celtics and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Rachael: I grew up during Michael Jordan’s Bulls era, in a house about an hour north of Chicago. My family, especially my dad, has always been huge basketball fans. I fell in love with the game shooting baskets with my dad in our driveway. I played as a guard growing up, but it was during my time in college that my love for the NBA truly developed. Every night, I’d have four games on my laptop, two on my tablet, and one on my TV. Since I didn’t have friends to talk to in person about the NBA, I created a Twitter account where I would tweet about my (rather strong) opinions, dumb jokes, and videos of random and funny stuff happening in each game across the league. It became an obsession and consumed all of my free time, and time I should have spent studying.
I never thought I would gain more than a hundred followers, much less thousands. The thought of landing a job due to a social media account that I created out of loneliness and boredom never really crossed my mind. When Mitchell (my now manager) of Brew Hoop reached out to me for general feedback on the site, I sheepishly mentioned that they should have at least one woman on the team — and the rest is history.