Alan Williams was the first to brave the anchor desk, except that the spotlight shone on Williams in a black suit and blue-striped tie, tucked away on a pitch-black University of Southern California cold set. was a person of Almost unconsciously, he raised his hand from the glossy surface of his desk and nervously scratched his face.
Former NBA player Williams read from a teleprompter, his deep voice echoing like a robot in a nearby control room. There, students at the University of Southern California monitored his volume and made sure the cameras were level. He bobbed his head up and down like an alien inhabiting a human body in the 1990s movie Men in Black.
“Hey guys!” he said, staring at the camera. “Welcome to Sports Extra.” I’m Alan Williams. The Miami Heat tied the series with the Denver Nuggets. Coach Eric Spoelstra really guides the Miami Heat’s tough mentality. And their identity is a testament to the very heat culture. good bye. “
The cameras stopped rolling, and Mr. Williams relaxed his shoulders.
“Oh, was I in too much of a hurry?” Williams muttered. He looked around the set. Five other current and former professional basketball players quietly remained in the corner. When a woman beside him reassured Mr. Williams that he was fine, he reassuringly replied: silence? “
This provoked laughter from the set and applause from players who, like Williams, were wearing stylish, crisp, pressed suits. Williams did another, smoother take, causing one of the guys in the suit to yell, “That girl was good!”
Williams, 30, and the men were attending journalism school at USC this month for a two-day camp for the NBA Players Association, called Broadcaster U, which is in its 15th year. They’ve learned how to host studio shows and podcasts, do color commentary, and quickly deliver hot takes on sports debates in front of the cameras. Former NBA players such as Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Shaquille O’Neal have also taken the program.
Superstars typically stay in the game for 10 years or more, but the average NBA player only lives a few years. Dozens of players will enter the NBA Draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday, but most of them will eventually have to find new ways to make a living. Entry into film and television has proven to be a viable and often lucrative alternative, even for players who weren’t big stars.
With new TV deals on the horizon for the NBA and streaming services and social media changing the way fans engage with the game, there will be even more revenue opportunities for players.
Williams played for the Nets and Phoenix Suns from 2015-2019. While he was playing in Australia last year, he was an occasional color commentator in the country’s National Basketball League.
“I know my time is coming to an end soon,” Williams said. “I want to be as ready as possible for the next step.”
Former NBA point guard Blevin Knight, who took the program in its first year in 2008, is currently a color commentator for the Memphis Grizzlies.
“When you’re done playing, you’ll want to take some time to take a deep breath,” Knight said. “But I tell you, the habit of extravagance continues, so there must always be something coming in.”
Some campers have already begun pursuits beyond the courts. Norense Odiaz, 27, plays in the NBA’s G League and has a self-help podcast called “Mind Bully.” Will Burton, 32, has been with the NBA since 2012. some albums for a career as a singer under the name Thrill. Craig Smith, 39, has spent six seasons in the NBA, wrote a children’s book.
Smith was next to Williams at the anchor desk, but he bounced in his seat. The letters displayed on his teleprompter were all caps, but they were not read with great enthusiasm. Someone must have forgotten to tell him.
“Hey guys!” Smith nearly screamed. “Welcome to SPORTS EXTRA!” I’m Craig Smith! Less than 24 hours until Game 3 of the NBA Finals! ”
I even stamped my feet a few times.
Smith said he was inspired by many of the players who started the podcast, especially LeBron James and Stephen Curry, who used their fame to start production companies.
“It has a big impact on me. Because we feel like we have a real voice and because we’re not just ‘shut up and dribble’ players, we feel there’s a power that goes with that,” Smith said. “We have meaning and people want to hear us out.”
Hours later, Rob Parker, a Fox Sports host and adjunct professor at the University of Southern California, gathered players for an event called Hot Take O’Clock and taught them how to throw word bombs. He shared instructions such as “Don’t stay in the middle of the road” and “Make something you can pull off – something that is ‘memetic’.”
“It’s okay to be wrong,” Parker said, adding that if they were always right, “we could make money in Las Vegas.”
Parker frequently debates with host Chris Broussard on Fox Sports’ radio show The Odd Couple. Williams asked Parker if he ever disagreed with Broussard’s opinion just for the sake of argument. Parker said no, stating that he and Broussard had discussed the topic before the show. They use what they disagree with.
“If we all agreed that LeBron was the greatest player of all time, what kind of conversation would we have?” Parker said. “You see? Nothing is happening here and no one is going to see it.”
Parker led the players through mock debates as if he were on ESPN’s “First Take” or Fox Sports’ “Undisputed.”they are in it Popular programs Made the host famous on their network.
Odiaz and Smith debated whether Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler needed to win a championship to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Odias said no. Smith replied yes.
“How many undrafted, eighth-seeded teams have taken a team to the NBA Finals?” Odiase said.
“Jimmy or Eric Spoelstra and Pat Riley?” Parker interjected, referring to longtime Miami coach Spoelstra and former president and coach Riley.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Did they win without LeBron before Jimmy arrived?”
“Oh, Shaq and D-Wade,” Smith echoed, referring to O’Neill and Dwyane Wade, who won championships in 2006 with Riley as their coach.
This counter-argument undermines Odias’s argument and causes laughter from the control room. Parker ended the corner, praising Odias and Smith for their lively discussion.
“I don’t believe anything I say,” Odias told Parker afterward. In a subsequent interview, Odiaz said he felt “extremely uncomfortable” discussing points he didn’t stand for, but believed it was “common” in the sports media. .
For current and former players, participating in hot-take culture means having to critique players in ways they might not like if the comments were directed at them.
Burton said it can sometimes be frustrating for analysts to talk about players, “especially if they’ve never played, or don’t really know what they’re going through.””
He continued, “A lot of people try to do it because they’re going viral, or because it’s entertainment, and they’re a bigger asset to whatever company they’re working with. I think it’s to make it feel like that,” he continued.
The players also pretended to be analysts at the NBA Finals game. Jordan Moore, USC Men’s Basketball radio voice, provided commentary. But first, he had some advice.
“The worst broadcast is when you’re like, ‘Oh, what a Jimmy Butler shot!'” ‘,” Moore said.
He added: “You guys played in this league. ”
The most enthusiastic sessions were on podcasting. The players spent 15 minutes talking about their lives, playing on the road, interacting with the fans and growing up.
Shelvin Mack, 33, who played in the NBA from 2011 to 2019, asked G League 24-year-old Robert Baker what it was like to play at Harvard. Baker reflected on the game against Kentucky.
“My nerves were sober,” he said. “Hint, I used to warm up a lot. When I was hitting the shots, they played a song like the intro, and I said, ‘Ah.'”
Mac said, “Are you set?”
“Yes, brother,” said Baker, adding, “It’s a tough day.”
Players receive reels of their best camp moments and send them to the network in hopes of being hired. Williams said she was “comfortable” financially but was attracted by the potential financial rewards of broadcasting. Odiaz said this alternate career is a way to tap into other skills and interests outside of basketball.
“To improve after the game is to learn every aspect of yourself,” he said.