On the NBA landscape, Stephanie Ready, host of the the Warm Up on NBA TV and TNT NBA reporter, is a renowned journalist who's covered the league for almost two decades. Throughout her stellar career, she's been a sports analyst, reporter and a broadcaster, earning a reputation as one of the best in the game.
A graduate of Coppin State University, Ready starred in the collegiate ranks in basketball and volleyball. Following her time as a player, she went on to serve as an assistant coach for the men's basketball program at Coppin State, becoming the first female to be named a full-time recruiting assistant on an NCAA Division I men's basketball staff.
In 2001, she made history again as the first woman to coach a men's professional league team with the Greenville Groove of the NBA Developmental League. That same year, EBONY magazine named her one of "The 56 Most Intriguing Blacks.”
For over a decade, Ready worked as a reporter for the Charlotte Hornets, where she became the first full-time female NBA game analyst.
This year, during the NBA All-Star Weekend, she will handle the play-by-play for the HBCU Classic, where Grambling State University will take on Southern University. Ready will be joined by NBA legend Grant Hill, who will give color commentary; ESPN analyst Monica McNutt; sideline reporter Taylor Rooks; and special contributor Siera Jones.
EBONY spoke with the veteran fNBA reporter about the impact of the NBA’s HBCU initiatives and the rise of Black women in sports journalism.
EBONY: When did you first fall in love with sports?
Stephanie Ready: Wow, I don't even know if I can pinpoint it because it was so young. When I was growing up, we just watched sports all the time. Both my parents were avid sports fans. My mom was not an athlete and she would have told you that every chance she got, but she loved sports. With basketball, I remember watching my brother and my dad playing pickup when we'd go to the park as a family or go to cookouts. I would sit on the ball on the baseline wanting to get out there. That’s just ridiculous that an 8 year-old girl would try to play with grown men at the park, but I was. I remember being so upset when they wouldn’t let me play. It was a very early love affair for me with basketball.
You made history as the first woman to coach a men’s pro basketball team when you were an assistant in the NBA Development League. Also, you were the first woman to be named a full-time recruiting assistant on an NCAA Division I men's basketball staff. What if anything do you miss about coaching?
Obviously, it's a very stressful job and I do not miss that part. But what I do miss—and I talk about this often when I talk to coaches and players who ask me this question—the short answer is no. I don't miss coaching. I've got the best job in the world. I get to stay close to the game. I can watch as much film as I want to without having to make sure that a 22-year-old is doing their job to make sure I keep my job. I don't miss that. But what I do miss is the camaraderie and the family that you have when you're a coach with your team. I've worked with the Charlotte Hornets for over a decade and I was very close with everyone in that organization. It was almost like a family, but it's not the same when you’re in the locker room. When you're a player or a coach, that's your locker room and everyone in it are your family members. I miss not having that around all the time. Of course, I am so fortunate to be a part of the NBA family, and at TNT, everyone there is amazing. I consider a lot of those people like family, but it's just different when you're, going to war so to speak. When you're in the rabbit hole with those guys, it's just different. I miss that sometimes.
As you mentioned, you had a long tenure with the Charlotte Hornets. How was it transitioning to TNT covering the NBA on a national level?
It's funny because I freelanced for them for several years when I was with the Hornets. I did some college basketball and I did the NBA Playoffs for TNT. I also did the WNBA playoffs for ESPN. I've done a lot of basketball so when the opportunity came for me to work, and cover the NBA on a national level,—and this is gonna sound so silly—but I felt like a Disney character. I remember it very vividly. I was in the car and I got the phone call. I had to pull over because of my level of excitement. It was fairly early in the day when I got the call so far the rest of the day, I felt like every bird that flew by and chirped was saying to me, “Congratulations, Stephanie." It's been an amazing experience. They let me do everything and I couldn't be happier.
In the world of sports, there are so many Black women working as creatives. How do you feel about the growing list of Black women in sports journalism?
We have come a long way since the days of Jayne Kennedy being the only African-American woman sports broadcaster and one of a few women in general. Pioneers like Cheryl Miller who called NBA games on TBS and worked for decades in the business, and Pam Oliver who is still a staple in our business have paved the way for women like me to continue to carry the torch. Now we are seeing African-American women hosting sports shows on multiple national networks, working as the play-by- play broadcasters for college football and other sports nationally and NBA games regionally. Certainly, there has been great progress in the last 5 years especially. However, I am eager for the day that comes when I go to a pregame presser and look around the room and see a lot more diversity.
As a proud HBCU alum, what was it like when you out found that you were going to be a part of the game and that you were doing play-by-play for the HBCU Classic?
That was amazing! Last year, when they announced they were going to do it, I was just sitting there by myself thinking, Oh, please let them call me for this because you don't know what your assignments are all the time and this was a new event. The NBA had never done an HBCU Game at All-Star Weekend before. I'm just hoping that I would get to be a part of it but I had no idea what was going to happen. So when they called me to host the pre-game show it was with Stephen A. Smith and Isaiah Thomas last year. So we did pre-half and post-game coverage which was amazing. So when I got the call this year to do the play-by-play for the game, I was over the moon. As a player and coach at an HBCU, you don’t get to go on television often and we never got on national television. So this is a huge deal for these athletes and these schools. It's giving them a tremendous platform.
Over the last couple of years, the NBA has been intentional in partnering with HBCUs. How do feel about the impact of the League’s ongoing initiatives with HBCUs?
I think the NBA has been amazing with all of its initiatives for inclusivity, diversity and HBCU initiatives. They put their money where their mouth is with the NBA Foundation and a lot of that came about because of all of the turmoil and adversity that the Black community experienced. When everything happened in 2020 and it went to hell in a handbasket, there were a lot of things that people could have done. I thought the NBA was amazing in the decisions they made and then they followed through. There were a lot of people and companies pledging all this money and then we never heard what the heck happened with the money. The NBA said, "We're going put millions of dollars into this initiative." And from my perspective, the initiative that they wanted to donate to and put effort into was Black culture.
Lastly, what are you most looking forward to at the HBCU classic?
I'm most looking forward to the world seeing what the HBCU experience is about. There are going to be marching bands and representation from the Divine Nine. That's what I'm most excited about. Also, my partners are going to be terrific for this game. I've worked with Grant Hill several times, in lots of different capacities, and he's so funny. Although he didn’t attend an HBCU, he’s quick to tell you that he took some classes at North Carolina Central. If anybody knows Grant Hill, they know he is the salt of the earth. He’s one of the best human beings I've ever been around so to work with him for this game will be a treat. So selfishly, I'm excited for myself.
We all want a great basketball game and both teams want to win, but the point is that you've got all these eyeballs all around the world who may not even know what an HBCU is, who will be tuned in to the game. There are going to be people who are going to be enlightened and educated as to why these institutions exist and their importance. This is going to be an experience; it's not just a basketball game. I'm really, really excited to be a part of it.
The NBA HBCU Classic will take place on Saturday, February 18, 2023 at 4 p.m. ET/2 p.m. MT at the University of Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, and will be simulcast on TNT, ESPN2, and NBA TV.