"We really need to put this whole Kobe versus LeBron debate to rest," NBA and NFL sports journalist Taylor Rooks says without hesitation when asked about a convo she wishes would go away in sports. "Greatness is not always meant to be compared. It's meant to be seen, absorbed and appreciated." And, when it comes to the greats of sports journalism, Rooks is certainly carving out her own lane.
Known for her in-depth storytelling, the Georgia native says that digging deep to learn a person's backstory is always her aim. But, she also admits that although she enjoys rooting for her Atlanta Falcons and Georgia Bulldogs, and comes from a football household—her father and uncle both former players—there's just something about covering basketball that wins her over.
"I've always loved learning about people that were different from me since I was young. In sports specifically, there is often a lack of asking questions to understand a person and sometimes there's too much focus on understanding their game. I think the more interesting stuff is, what makes them tick, what has happened to them to make them the person that we see today. So, I really try to fill that space within sports journalism."
When you see the NBA on TNT Tuesday Night broadcaster, she's always poised, always fly, and of course—always her authentic self. For her, showing up for each and every segment in her full Black girl magic realness is a must.
"I tell myself every day, that I want to take up space. Fitting into a mold has never worked for me. I never want to feel unrelatable to the people I care the most about—women and Black people," Rooks explains. "I don't want to change to fit my surroundings or environment, I want my environment to change to fit me. That's what's propelled me in my career and lends to the success of the work."
While she's been praised by the New York Times as being the journalist that gets the viral interviews, Rooks makes it clear that this hasn't been an easy path. As a woman—specifically a Black woman—in a male-dominated industry, who also happens to cover mostly male sports, her journey often involves her having to prove why she deserves to be in the room. But, no matter what, she always delivers.
"There's this constant battle of making sure people understand you're capable. They have already put you into a box before they even see you work, so there's this constant push to prove that you deserve to be there. And that you'll absolutely excel in the role. I always say, women and Black people don't have that luxury of being mediocre. We always have to be that much better for people to believe that we can do the job and do it well. Sometimes, I wonder if that's a thing that will ever stop fully."
Even if that part of the job doesn't get better, Rooks says she'll always strive to get better at her craft. She now understands that at this point in her career, her focus is on the right voices and people that will help her get stronger.
We asked the Bleacher Report: Taylor Rooks X host and producer to share a few nuggets for young Black boys and girls looking to break into spaces where they may be the minority—or the only.
"There's a lot of power in your Blackness, whatever that looks like to you. It's often said that being Black or being a woman make things harder. But, we come from a people that overcome and are resilient. So while a lot of the challenges are thrown in your face, think about all the beautiful things that come with being Black or being a woman, and harness those things and use them to your advantage. They aren't disadvantages, they're things that make you different and have shaped your life experiences."