Burke alongside Mike Breen and Doc Rivers will be a part of the announcing team for the in-season tournament, which has NBA squads facing off for the NBA Cup and a massive cash prize. The inaugural tournament is the one of the highlights of the early NBA on ESPN’s season schedule, which opened with the most-watched opening night in 11 years and second-most watched opening night ever.
ESPN announced in August that Burke will join ESPN and ABC’s top NBA broadcast crew to add to her many accomplishments throughout her hall of fame career. We chatted with Burke about the tournament and what she and ESPN have in store for NBA fans this season.
You’re a hall of famer and have covered the game of basketball on ESPN for more than 30 years. Now, you’re on the new announcing team that will call the NBA Finals. What does that mean for your storied career?
As our team begins this journey, I feel very fortunate to be working alongside Mike Breen and Doc Rivers. Mike is as good as anyone who has ever done it in terms of play-by-play skills, and he brings the best out of a variety of color analysts. Doc, already, has proven to be so engaging and interesting. What it means in the broader context, I don’t know. I think we are all just committed to growing and working to have a great telecast every game.
You’re calling the first ever in season tournament for the NBA, which tips off on ESPN on Friday. Is there anything you can tell us about how you and ESPN are approaching it?
There’s a bit of the unknown as it relates to the tournament. So, for us, I think it’s exciting. What I know for sure is that NBA players, at their core, are competitors. And, as this event unfolds and we get closer to the games in Las Vegas, with both a championship cup and financial remuneration at stake, the intensity will rise.
1991. That’s when you started covering basketball at ESPN. What makes ESPN so special?
What makes ESPN so special: the people. It is a place filled with passionate, hardworking, highly competent individuals who care deeply about the product. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by pros.
How important are sports to our culture?
It feels hard to describe how deeply embedded sports are in our culture. It’s funny, as I plan the mundane aspects of life, for instance, grocery shopping, I take into consideration when the Philadelphia Eagles are playing. I now live in Philadelphia to be near my daughter and grandson and because I was not raised here, I am not an Eagles fan. To avoid the normal crowds at grocery stores, I can go at kickoff knowing I can shop in peace and in less time. Sports still in many ways, seem to be appointment viewing for fans. So, no matter which team you are passionate about, you find a way to watch and cheer. That never changes.
The NBA in-season tournament tips off Friday when the New York Knicks take on the Milwaukee Bucks at 7:30 pm ET.