NBA

A Sudden Absence Saved Doris Burke’s Aspiring Television Broadcasting Career

Social media seems to light up whenever Doris Burke appears on a television screen.

A popular broadcaster at ESPN, Burke has become one of the NBA’s signature voices in recent years. Whether she is calling a Stephen Curry 3-pointer or a college basketball game, Burke is seemingly everywhere during the winter and spring.

If not for another broadcaster’s sudden absence and Burke’s own availability, her TV career may not have reached the level of success that it eventually did.

Doris Burke is ESPN’s popular basketball announcer

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Once a star point guard at Providence College (Conn.), Doris Burke has had a terrific basketball life. 

Burke began calling Providence women’s games on radio in 1990, then took the same for Big East games on TV. After starting by only working women’s games, Burke added men’s matches to her slate in 1996. 

Burke is best known for her role on ESPN’s NBA coverage, both as a sideline reporter and, in recent years, a full-time game analyst. 

Those who play the popular NBA 2K series also know Burke from her work there. Burke has appeared in those games as a sideline reporter since NBA 2K11 was released in 2010.

Burke has been a trendsetting female sports figure

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Doris Burke’s success at ESPN has made her a trailblazer in the sports media industry.

In 2017, Burke became the first woman who became a full-time NBA television analyst on ESPN and ABC. According to Bleacher Report, Burke established a similar precedent in 2020, when she became the first woman to call NBA conference finals and NBA Finals games on the radio.

If ABC ever loses Jeff Van Gundy or Mark Jackson to an NBA head coaching job in the coming years, the network could promote Burke to the No. 1 broadcast team.

Those two, along with Mike Breen, also call the NBA Finals each year.

Burke received the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Media Award in 2018.

Doris Burke’s TV career featured some incredible luck

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A sudden string of random events may have saved Doris Burke’s aspiring TV career.

Let’s go back to the 1990s, when Burke only worked women’s basketball games. According to the Hartford Courant (Conn.), Burke and her then-husband, Greg, rushed to the hospital a few hours before the Providence men’s team hosted Pittsburgh. Matthew, their 2-year-old son, fell off a weight bench and hit his head on the cement floor. 

Although Matthew needed stitches, he came away without any severe injuries.

When the family returned home, Greg learned that Providence needed his wife at the arena. The TV play-by-play announcer didn’t show up that day, and Providence wanted to know if Doris Burke could fill in.

The couple reflected on that day in a 2002 interview with the Courant. Greg recalled the rapid setup to get his wife prepared to work a basketball game unexpectedly.

“She was a wreck. She’s got blood all over her shirt. We call my parents, we’re like, ‘We’ve got to get there now.’ We both shower, we bomb down there, 55 minutes before the game, she hasn’t prepared for either team. She visits the Pitt people for 10 minutes, the PC people for 10 minutes and they drag her out to do the opening.

Doris Burke filled in, which set up her future working men’s games — and performing well when given the opportunity.

What did Greg think of his wife’s performance that day?

“She nailed it,” he said. “She nailed the game. I’m not just saying that because I’m married to her, either.”

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