All of the women covering NBA teams for SB Nation’s team brands have specific women in the NBA landscape they look up to and respect. You can meet all of the women we’re featuring in this series in the first post, which you can find here. Learn about how they fell in love with the game in our second post, and read about the challenges they’ve faced in this field in the third post.
In this fourth installment of our series celebrating these women, they discuss the other women they look up to in this industry and why.
Bailey: I think Doris Burke and Becky Hammon are remarkable and inspiring trendsetters in broadcasting and coaching, respectfully. However, I most look up to Elena Delle Donne and Diana Taurasi. Both have been incredibly outspoken about the challenges and joys of being out lesbians in a major sports league. Delle Donne is so involved in looking after her family, including her disabled sister, and Taurasi is the GOAT, rewriting the history books with brash play and brasher attitude.
Sarah: I am in awe of Doris Burke. She is the classiest and the coolest basketball reporter I know. She is amazing at what she does and she knows everything there is to know about basketball. She has made my profession fun! She is the epitome of elegance.
Courtney: I do not have any particular woman who I look up to, but I do strongly agree with women pursuing interests in sports. The athleticism, support, teamwork and perspective that comes out of the experience I had playing basketball is so full of value, I would recommend it to any woman with an interest.
Ashley: I have always admired Becky Hammon, who now works with the San Antonio Spurs organization. She carries herself as such a professional, and she’s blazed her own trail with one of the top organizations in the league. Best of all, she doesn’t act like it’s any major deal, and I believe that’s probably part of the reason she’s so successful. Her attitude seems as though she says to herself, “Why not me?” That inspires me not only in the sports industry, but in other aspects of my life as well. I believe she will be the first female head coach in the industry.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is intent on having a female coach in the league “sooner rather than later”. He went on to say, “... But on the other hand when it comes to coaching, when there is absolutely no physical requirement, when it is not a function of how high you can jump or how strong you are, there is no physical litmus test to being a head coach in the league, there is absolutely no reason why a woman will not ascend to be a head coach in this league. We are very focused in on it.”
Kayla: I can’t say there’s one woman in particular that I look up to in the basketball community, but I definitely take note of any woman that I see that is covering basketball (particularly the NBA and especially the Nuggets since that’s the area that I’m most familiar with). The Denver Post has a new beat writer for the Nuggets this year named Gina Mizell, and I think it’s the coolest thing that the Nuggets community has a female that is not only writing about the team but is covering the team from all angles. I would have to imagine that any female that has made it as far as she has in the community has experienced her fair share of challenges, so the fact that she has obviously overcome it is definitely admirable.
Grace: My biggest role model in the industry is Kristen Ledlow. Although she’s not really a writer, she inspires me tremendously by the way she carries herself and her basketball knowledge. She projects a confident yet feminine image, and she isn’t afraid to be herself. She can talk basketball just as much as any male broadcaster. In her personal image, she stands up for her faith. I love her sense of style and how she is involved in various organizations and causes. In this male-dominated industry, I feel like women are sometimes encouraged to shy away from their feminist appearances and manners. Kristen embraces and uses them to her advantage in a classy way.
Jannelle: Ros Gold Onwunde, Kerith Burke and Sharon Brown are three women who inspire me. Ros inspires me because of her knowledge of hoop and how she builds great rapport with everyone she interviews. Kerith inspires me because of how she overcame some adversity before landing her gig with NBCS-Bay Area. And Sharon inspires me because she created her own lane with her work with the Grizzlies. She’s the founding editor of a NBA site ran by women and all female writers. Not only that, she is also a champion of women of color in sports. She is all about support and making sure we get it.
Marilyn: Obviously Becky Hammon is a huge inspiration to women in basketball, not just in San Antonio, but worldwide. However, if I truly had to pick someone who is an inspiration to me in any industry, it would be my late twin sister, Alice. She passed away almost ten years ago, and we loved playing and watching sports together, especially the Spurs. After losing her, sports were my main escape from grief, and it was probably what led me to trying my hand at writing for the first time back on Bleacher Report. Knowing she would want me to keep going without her is what kept me from sinking too low then, and it’s what drives me today.
Renee: I never really considered sports writing or commentating as something I looked at for mentoring or a role model. Lately I have been listening to Sarah Spain on ESPN. I like her confidence in her sports knowledge and the fact that she isn’t afraid to look at issues from the standpoint of women’s rights.
Michelle: I’m a Stanford University graduate, so it should not be any surprise that the woman in the basketball community that I most look up to is Tara VanDerveer, head women’s basketball coach at Stanford. Tara transformed the program at Stanford, and her longevity, accomplishments and ability to develop players are unparalleled. I view her as a quiet Yoda-type mentor and teacher, with incredible basketball IQ. Her success as a coach has been really remarkable.
Tara: Rachel Nichols is my hero. The way she runs the table on The Jump is my gold standard for how I would love to run a show.
Marissa: I am constantly inspired by Ramona Shelbourne and Rachel Nichols of ESPN. They are so knowledgeable and aren’t afraid to show what they know.
Caitlin: It’s always a pleasure anytime I’m presented with the opportunity to work with Whitney Medworth, the assistant editor of SB Nation NBA. Not only does she cape for the Pacers (salute), her writing style is so uniquely hers in her weekly “B-Sides” column that she makes you love whatever she loves about the NBA. Developing that sort of unique voice is a gift that I envy.
I’m also cognizant of the lack of female voices on many NBA podcasts. So, I think it’s special anytime that Mike Prada and Ben Epstein have invited both of us on the Limited Upside Podcast as guests. Haley O’Shaughnessy, an editorial assistant at The Ringer, is basically life goals. Her work is always thoughtful and smart, no matter the subject. She nailed how the Pacers could unlock Victor Oladipo when no one else did, and she wrote a feature on the inside world of NBA barbers that you won’t know you need until you read it. Not to mention that she went out on a limb and randomly shouted out my work on NBA Group Chat when she definitely didn’t have to (thanks, Haley!).
China: Damn, I’m afraid not. It’s always been just me, which is why it’s really exciting to learn that it isn’t just me! I love Swin Cash though, and I’m ecstatic to discover that the editor of Mavs Moneyball is female. Oh and Rebecca Haarlow gets a bad rap.
Kelsea: I have yet to meet many women in the SB Nation community, but I am hoping this piece will let me do just that! I feel like I admire all the women in and around the NBA. From Becky Hammon, to every mom who worked three jobs to make sure her son could hoop. I don’t think the wives of basketball players get enough credit. When I talked to some of the Raptors’ wives, I found that a lot of them had given up their dreams and careers to help their husbands achieve theirs, and they really don’t get enough credit for that.
Romy: Jackie MacMullan is legendary. I once stalked her at the MIT Sloan Conference, but every time I went to extend a hello, someone equally legendary would lean in and grab her arm. She’s pretty much unanimously revered (listen to her episode on the Lowe Podcast), and for good reason. Her integrity and talent (even with notoriously difficult characters like Red Auerbach and Kevin Garnett) put her in a class of her own, and even though she only puts out a few pieces a year nowadays, you know that a Jackie Mac byline warrants clearing out an hour of your time to savor what’s sure to be a uniquely insightful and enjoyable piece.
Shirley: Jackie MacMullan has has been an inspiration for me. Red Auerbach was old school and didn’t want cheerleaders or woman around the team and told Jackie she didn’t belong in the locker room. But as he got to know her and read her very knowledgeable articles, he grew to respect her and was one of the Boston reporters that he truly trusted. She is one of the best and I always look forward to reading anything she writes.
Rachael: Kristen Ledlow is my biggest inspiration; not only career wise, but how she carries herself and treats others. She is so humble and loving, and has been kind enough to offer me advice and friendship throughout my journey. I absolutely adore her. I’ve also been a fan of Whitney Medworth for many years and love her sense of humor and style of work. More recently, I’ve been inspired by Caroline Darney, who is the College League Manager at SBN, as well as a contributor to Streaking the Lawn. I can’t forget to mention the OG working women of the NBA, Becky Hammon and Nancy Lieberman.