For 7 years, Atlanta native Elle Duncan has graced the ESPN news desk as one of SportsCenter's anchors. Every evening at 6pm, she gives us the latest stats and hot takes in all facets of sports while showing the world that, yes, women love and know sports, too.
"My whole family loves sports, so I always grew up watching and playing them. I'll admit, I didn't initially know that I wanted to fall into sports journalism, but what I did know was that I just wanted to be myself," shares Duncan. "Broadcasting gave me the perfect avenue to do that. I always looked up to Robin Roberts and Oprah, and so, that's how I narrowed down to broadcasting—specifically sports. I felt like, '[I'm] going to argue with people at the bar for free about these things anyway, so I might as well get paid for it.'"
Like many in journalism, her days can be chaotic. As a wife and mom to two young children, she came to the realization that working in sports isn't your average 9-5, but it's still very fulfilling work for her. The days typically begin at 9am, where she's reading up on the previous day's games and stats that she may have missed. There's a production meeting midday, before she goes into hair and makeup to get ready for her daily 6pm spot. And even after all of that, it's back home to spend time with her family before sitting down to catch any games that evening.
"We have to be a jack of all trades, especially here at ESPN, where we cover a range of sports and topics," shares Duncan. "It's a lot of work; it is. But it's fulfilling work. I have to be very calculated on how I prepare and what I'm focused on, so that I don't get burned out."
Starting out on local and regional stations before reaching her goal of ESPN, Duncan encourages others seeking to break into sports journalism—especially women—to not dismiss themselves from opportunities just because you think you aren't ready.
"My first bit of advice is to quiet that inner voice that says you can't do something. There is such a thing as on the job training. I don't know everything about everything I talk about, but that's why I prepare," explains the celebrated sports journalist. "I make sure my ideas are well-thought-out. No matter the field. Also, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Be indispensable in your own way. Figure out what it is you can bring and own that space. For me, I work to fill as many holes and voids as I can. It's why I do secondary things like podcasts like Around the Horn. Find what can sustain you while being uniquely yourself, and focus on producing great work and being a good person."
She also emphasizes that diverse voices are needed in the sports world and commends ESPN for its push to hire and employ Black women.
"What I would love to see in the future, is not just Black men and women on camera, but more behind the camera. There's not a lot of us in control rooms, directing, producing or even in PR," says Duncan. "The next wave is really cultivating a crop of new talent off-air, so we are represented truly in every single space. That's where the real bosses are."
For true sports fans, the age-old debate of the real G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time) of the NBA is a conversation that can ruffle feathers in any room. For Duncan, she says the convo should be put to rest once and for all. After all, when you try to solidify one person as the G.O.A.T, it discredits the contributions of so many others.
"I get really annoyed with this constant debate of trying to pick who's better. Because if you ask my 73-year-old father-in-law who the greatest is, he'll say Kareem. And for his generation, he was. There is nothing wrong with recognizing that we can have more than one legacy," says Duncan. "When we do this whole G.O.A.T thing, it means that we have to pick one person. But the truth is, they all have contributed in such incredible ways. To say Michael Jordan or LeBron means to nullify everything that Kobe did, or Wilt, or Kareem, or Bill Russell or Larry Bird. But, the truth is, we just don't have to choose."