Wednesday September 27, 2023

Doris Burke Opens Up on Caitlin Clark and NBA Media Rights

  • NBA analyst “blown away” by Women’s Final Four.
  • ‘Pulling like hell’ for ESPN to extend NBA media rights.
Doris Burke of ESPN
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Front Office Sports Today

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Doris Burke typically calls basketball games; she doesn’t attend them. But ESPN’s national NBA analyst was so fascinated by the drama surrounding the Women’s Final Four this year she attended the semifinals as a spectator.

Sharp-shooting Caitlin Clark of Iowa helped women’s college basketball shatter one TV record after another, with Iowa vs. LSU women’s final drawing a record 10 million viewers.  

The atmosphere in the arena in Dallas was absolutely electric, according to Burke.

“It is packed. The bands are playing. The fans are passionate. Billie Jean King is in the building. I didn’t have the guts to go up to her and say hello. I just was blown away,” she recalled. “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t necessarily always have time to watch a ton of women’s basketball, but if I were flipping channels, and Caitlin Clark was on, I’d watch that.” 

In 2020, Burke made sports media history by becoming the first woman to serve as a game analyst for the NBA Finals on ESPN Radio.

Michael McCarthy and Owen Poindexter had a wide-ranging interview with Burke on the Front Office Sports Today podcast

Burke tackled several hot topics, including Iowa vs. LSU, upcoming rights negotiations for the NBA, and looming layoffs at ESPN. 

On Clark: “The most compelling figure in all of basketball…The ratings are telling us right now that people are really interested in Caitlin Clark. You’ve got NBA players, professional athletes, everybody is tuning in to watch this young women play. It just warms my heart to be perfectly honest with you.”

On LSU’s Angel Reese taunting Clark: “Yes, we are talking about race. But nobody’s talking about the gender piece of this. If a guy had done it, would we have even blinked at it? I don’t know the answer to it. But here’s what I think unequivocally. My first thought was I hated that the basketball, that was incredible, seemed to become secondary. Then I thought, you know what, maybe this isn’t a bad thing. Because if it fosters productive conversation around important topics, that’s probably more important than the basketball. Right? 

Will ESPN Retain NBA Media Rights?  “I love what I do on a nightly basis. I’m pulling like hell for ESPN to extend that contract.”

On looming ESPN Layoffs: “I’ve lived through it once. It’s not easy. Business is business. You’re hoping and pulling for us to do the right things to get the contract renewed. But I will say this to you: In light of all the business implications for Disney and us, I’m optimistic we get it. But until we sign that contract, I take nothing for granted. Absolutely nothing.”  

The NBA Play-In Tournament: “It had exactly the desired effect the league had hoped for. Look at how competitively teams are playing. You’re living and dying with the wins and losses on a nightly basis.”

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