As the Golden State Warriors strive to make history, their former coach and current ESPN NBA analyst Mark Jackson has been making history of his own.
Jackson is currently calling his ninth NBA Finals on ABC – the most for an African-American game analyst on television covering a major sports championship.
It’s an incredible distinction for the former NBA All-Star, who joined ESPN in 2007.
Front Row asked Jackson about his legacy in broadcasting and this milestone achievement. As expected, one of the all-time NBA assists leaders, Jackson shares the credit with his teammates and others whom he has long admired.
Who are some of the African-American sports commentators you’ve admired over the years?
I have an appreciation for all of them because I understand their route to get to that position hasn’t always been a smooth one. I’ve learned from each and every one of them and I have a special place in my heart for them. They played a key role in where I am today. There are so many greats, including folks like James Brown, Joe Morgan, Ahmad Rashad, Bryant Gumbel and Snapper Jones, just to name a few. Even folks from the entertainment world like Oprah Winfrey and Steve Harvey that have influenced me, too.
What does it mean to you to hold this distinction of calling more major sports championships on TV than any other African-American commentator?
The crazy thing is, it didn’t hit me until when I was riding in the car with my kids, and I told them. We had a ‘wow’ moment. You think about the all-time greats who have ever done it. I’m a guy of tremendous faith and it shows you what believing in God and working hard can do. My whole life I watched sports – and I didn’t just watch the games – I listened to the announcers. It didn’t matter what color they were.
When you started with ESPN in 2007, what were your broadcasting expectations?
I humbly say anything I do I want to be the best at it. I never had a mentality that I just want to fit in. I take a great deal of pride in my job, so my mindset was always to be the best, and I’ve been extremely fortunate with the people I’ve worked with. From the jump in my broadcasting career, I was with Marv Albert who is as good as there’s ever been. I was with Ian Eagle and to go from there to being in a studio with Dan Patrick and to be able to work with [ESPN NBA play-by-play commentator] Mike Breen, Mike Tirico and all the greats on ESPN, it’s been incredible. Sitting alongside [fellow ESPN NBA analyst] Jeff [Van Gundy] makes it special – I’ve known Jeff for 30 years now. Plus, when you think about [ESPN senior coordinating producer] Tim Corrigan, Frank DiGraci with YES Network and Kenny Wolfe – three guys in particular who really gave me guidance and suggestions. I’ve been extremely blessed.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The 2017 NBA Finals on ABC continues with Game 4, the Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers, on Friday, June 9, at 9 p.m. (coverage starts at 8:30 p.m.). The Warriors will attempt to become the first team in NBA history to go undefeated throughout the NBA Playoffs. The game is also available on ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN App.