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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Doris Burke Set to Make TV History With NBA Finals Call

  • The Hall of Famer is the first woman to call a major U.S. men’s championship on TV.
  • She has called the Finals on ESPN Radio for the last four years.
Oct 22, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; ESPN broadcasters Doris Burke (left) and Ryan Ruocco during the NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN analyst Doris Burke will make history Thursday night when she becomes the first woman to call any major U.S. men’s championship on television.

The Hall of Famer will call Game 1 of the Mavericks-Celtics Finals on ABC from Boston, working alongside Mike Breen and fellow first-time Finals broadcaster JJ Redick, who earlier this season replaced Doc Rivers on ESPN’s top team.

“Nervous as hell,” Burke said earlier this year when asked how she feels about calling the Finals. “If you happen to watch Game 1, I’m going to try and not have my voice quiver.” Burke then credited her many years as a sideline reporter for the Finals, as well as the mastery of Breen, Redick, and the entire production crew, as reasons why she feels more prepared and knows it will go well.

This isn’t Burke’s first time calling the NBA Finals. She was the series’ first female game analyst back in 2020 when she covered it on ESPN Radio, which she has done for every series since. She also spent nine years as the Finals’ lead sideline reporter. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame awarded Burke its Curt Gowdy Media Award in ’18.

Rivers and Burke, who has covered hoops at ESPN since 1991, earned their spots on the top team after the network let go of Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. Van Gundy was one of 20 on-air talents laid off last summer, while Jackson reportedly parted ways with ESPN with two years left on his contract after being offered a demotion to the No. 2 broadcast crew.

Her teammate Redick is linked to the Lakers’ head coaching vacancy, which would mean his departing the network after the Finals, though he is not the only option on the table. Burke, on the other hand, should be calling Finals for years to come, as ESPN is reported to once again receive the NBA’s best media-rights package and keep the championship series on ABC.

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