There are some injustices that go on for so long, you just become numb to their feel, their touch, not knowing what it feels like to not have that persistent pain present.
As Black journalists, the fight for fairness behind the scenes and in front of the camera has felt like a war with no end in sight.
And because of that, there’s no sense of victory on the horizon.
But in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, there was no escaping the significance of yet another hurdle cleared for Blacks.
ESPN’s Van Gundy was out for Game 1 since he had tested positive for COVID-19. And, Mike Breen is still recovering since his positive test.
That left ESPN no choice but to reshuffle its broadcast team and in doing so, set a historical night for broadcasting history in motion.
ESPN turned to veteran Mark Jones to handle Breen’s play-by-play duties while basketball analyst Mark Jackson, already slated to be on the broadcast team for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, would hold down the analyst role solo rather than partner up as previously planned, with Van Gundy.
And the sideline reporter was Lisa Salters, one of the most versatile, super-talented reporters in the business.
Jones, Jackson and Salters are all Black, creating the first-ever all-Black broadcast team for an NBA Finals game.
On the surface, this may not seem like that big a deal when thinking about groundbreaking “firsts” for Black folks.
After all, the times we live in now are more receptive than ever to showcasing a talented, diverse staff that better resembles society as a whole or in this instance, the actual participants (NBA players) on the court.
But for Black journalists, this was yet another one of those “Sam Cooke” moments—yes, it was a long time coming.
Despite major professional sports leagues in North America such as football and basketball having a significantly large contingent of Black athletes, that level of representation is not found when it comes to sports reporters.
In 2021, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) released its first report card since 2018, which detailed race and gender in sports media.
The findings were disappointing but not the least bit surprising.
This is why seeing Jones, Jackson and Salters on the call for the crown jewel event of the NBA season, was so important.
We have seen broadcast teams with one or two of them working together, but never has the broadcast team on a stage of this magnitude been all-Black.
With strides made on all levels when it comes to Black journalists, the limitations that still exist have more to do with opportunity than anything else.
And that is why what we saw and heard in Game 1 from the broadcast booth was so important.
Somewhere out there among the millions who watched the game or listened to the broadcast, there was someone who tuned into their first NBA Finals game and became part of history.
Others tuned in and didn’t think it was that big a deal that all the faces on the broadcast were different hues of brown.
And that is the ultimate goal in all of this, to get to a point where an all-Black broadcast team won’t be that big a deal.
But it is in this moment, one in which this is a first despite the NBA now celebrating its 76th season of existence.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals was a historical moment, the kind that had nothing to do with Stephen Curry scoring 21 points in the first quarter, or Boston’s Al Horford who turned 36 years old on Friday, making more three-pointers in Game 1 than any game he had ever played in.
Those were both significant moments on the court that should be remembered, for sure.
But there was even more significant history made off the court with an all-Black broadcast team, the kind of history that reminds us to stay ready so we won’t have to get ready when an opportunity to do a job at the highest level—and make a little history along the way—presents itself.