“I put two and two together and thought, ‘If Chris thinks I can do this, maybe I can audition for something,'” Gooden said.
Six years after Gooden retired as Wizard, the last of the 10 NBA teams he played for, he and Miller reunited in the booth in October to call Wizards games for NBC Sports Washington along with Meghan McPeak, who officiates reporter on court.
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The trio form a unique group in the NBA: they are the only all-black local broadcasting team in the league’s 30 franchises.
They are not the NBA’s first all-black crew – according to Miller and the Wizards, they were Charlotte’s Eric Collins, Dell Curry and Stephanie Ready. But they are the only active all-black crew, which is rare in an industry that is still predominantly white and male, especially in its notorious play-by-play role.
Viewers have been able to turn on NBA games and watch various broadcasters for years. Most of the league’s sideline reporters are women; most of the analysts were former black players.
But in the play-by-play role, the quarterback position on the TV crew, progress lags far behind.
Miller joined Collins (Charlotte), Michael Grady (Minnesota), Mark Jones and Kyle Draper who shared the Sacramento role as full-time black play-by-play commentators. Lisa Byington made history as the first full-time post-game announcer for a major professional men’s sports team when she was hired to call the Milwaukee Bucks games early last season – about a week before Kate Scott was hired. the same goes for the Philadelphia 76ers. Adam Amin, son of Pakistani immigrants, announces games for the Chicago Bulls.
In Washington, Miller is the first black person to post-game full-time for the city’s major league hockey, men’s basketball and baseball teams. (NFL teams only control who fills their TV booth during preseason games.)
“Wow. Really?” Miller said, surprised to learn about the treat. “Then I’m taking this coat.” It’s humiliating.”
“But I don’t think that’s the end of everything we do. I never think like, hey, I’m a live black NBA announcer, I just don’t think about it. I think I’ve been in this industry for 26 years. I got a break, my dream job in 16, covering a team that I put all my heart and soul into.
Miller, 48, was a drummer studying music at Indiana State when a friend who heard him talk about sports while the two of them were playing video games encouraged him to take a TV journalism class. Miller caught the bug and broke into the industry as an intern at a TV station in Terre Haute, Indiana, spinning a teleprompter dial for $4.25 an hour while learning how to write, capture highlights, edit and listen to news anchors being delivered.
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His first job out of college was with the CBS affiliate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and his “big break” came, Miller said, when he was hired at the ABC affiliate in Cleveland covering the Cavaliers in 2001. met Gooden.
In 2007, he moved to Washington, D.C. to work at NBC Sports Washington and became a sideline reporter for the Wizards the following year, a position he held until the summer of that year.
Neither Miller, McPeak nor Gooden find it particularly groundbreaking that all three are black broadcasters working together. But they see their positions as proof that opportunities are opening up in the industry.
“We’re not the first [all-Black crew], we’re just next,” Miller said. “Which means hopefully more of us will follow suit.”
Miller knows what it’s like to wait your turn.
The North Carolina native was a finalist to replace beloved Wizards announcer Steve Buckhantz in 2019 when the job went to former Fox Sports broadcaster Justin Kutcher. When Miller heard that he finally got the job during the off-season, he cried. He now says that doing an extra two years on the sidelines made it a lot more enjoyable when he landed his dream job.
It took some time to gain this perspective.
“I thought I put enough work into it for people to know I could do it [in 2019]. But I don’t think people are ready yet,” Miller said. “And now I’m fine with it. I wasn’t then, I was nervous because I put a lot of sweat into my work. … But I just don’t think the authorities at the time were ready for that. I think they’re ready. I look at Kate Scott, I look at Lisa Byington. I won’t say it was a racing thing, I’ll just say I don’t think they were ready for me to do the job because I’ve never done it before.
“My argument for that is who can you find who knows this team better than me? That’s how I felt. But I feel we’re in a better place now. We have two women in NBA proofing games.
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Gooden, 41, predicts that the role of play-by-play will continue to diversify as the industry changes.
“Once you’re behind the mic, these works are grounded for 20, 30, 40 years, some of these works. So when do you actually get a chance? It doesn’t matter who you are,” Gooden said. “Now you’re starting to see guys retiring and other people starting to get a chance. So I don’t think so [White male play-by-play announcers] will be the norm in the future. I think he’ll be the best man for the job, he’ll be up to date, he’ll be based on what people want to hear. And it will be innovative.”
Miller learned how to direct the show’s credits by watching Buckhantz for more than a decade.
He saw the veteran handwrite his telecast opening for every game (Miller prefers to write his own on his iPhone), watched Buckhantz take player notes, and study his presentation as Miller did during his Indiana interning days.
Miller, on the other hand, now advises McPeak, who has taken on side responsibilities with extensive television experience. The Canadian became one of the first women to check play-by-play in 2018 when she called the Wizards pre-season game on the team-owned Monumental Sports Network.
The new trio works to solidify their chemistry just over a month into the season, operating under one edict: to inform and entertain. For McPeak, that means asking yourself after every game if she had a good time.
“It’s basketball. We’re not trying to do science rockets or brain surgery, we want viewers to have fun,” she said. “This is my number 1 goal in every game – did I have fun? Chris and Drew make it easy while I do my best to tell the stories of these players.
Miller and Gooden rely on their long-standing friendship to keep the broadcast harmonious.
Gooden said that between working with his old friend and Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Wizards, taking full ownership of NBC Sports Washington in September, he has never felt more at home behind the mic in four years of broadcasting. “I signed a 10-day contract, I’ve been here 10 years,” Gooden joked.
Meanwhile, Miller beams when asked how he has settled into the new gig – and tries to remind Gooden where their journey to sharing the broadcast booth began.
“Calling games for the Washington Wizards has been a dream job for me since I’ve been here and seen so much stuff. That’s where I wanted to call NBA games,” Miller said. “And tell Drew he owes me four percent of everything he earns from now on.” Findable.”