Behind The ScenesNBA

Ball is life for Chicago native Hubbarth as she returns for Cavs-Bulls

Cassidy Hubbarth (second from right) with her family at a Chicago Bulls game. (Courtesy Cassidy Hubbarth)
Cassidy Hubbarth (second from right) is pictured with her family at a recent Chicago Bulls game.
(Photo courtesy of Cassidy Hubbarth)
Cassidy’s Windy City Favorites

  • Chicago recording artist: Old Kanye
  • Chicago movie: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”
  • Chicago athlete: [Michael] Jordan. Even though my favorite player on the championship Bulls teams was Ron Harper
  • Chicago sports memory: A tie now between the Cubs’ World Series win and Jordan winning his first NBA Championship after he returned, on Father’s day after his dad’s death.
  • Chicago restaurant: My parents’ house

Everyone likes to work from home once in a while. For Cassidy Hubbarth, she has that chance on Friday.

The multi-talented ESPN commentator returns to her native Chicago tonight as the sideline reporter for ESPN’s Bulls-Cavaliers telecast (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET), along with Mike Breen and analyst Mark Jackson.

We caught up with Northwestern graduate Hubbarth to talk about Chicago’s hoops culture, the challenges and rewards of her gig and some of her Chi-town favorites.

And as Hubbarth explained to Front Row, for her, ball really is life.

What’s it been like returning home to Chicago this season as a part of ESPN’s prime-time game telecasts?
The first Bulls game I worked was on Nov. 4 and it was a HUGE day for the city. The Cubs parade was going on during the day and actually passed right by our hotel. I am a lifelong Cubs fan and couldn’t go to any of the playoff games so being able to feel the electricity in the city on Parade Day was definitely an amazing consolation prize.

Cassidy Hubbarth (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)
Cassidy Hubbarth
(Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

Not only that but, of course, I was there to cover the Knicks-Bulls game which was also a hugely significant event for Chicago fans as it was the return of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, arguably the two most popular Bulls since the Jordan era. However, since the parade was going on during the day there was no one but me and [’s] Nick Friedell at shootaround that morning.

[Bulls head coach] Fred Hoiberg laughed and joked that it was the least amount media he’s ever seen. That night though the energy was high and there were a lot of emotions filling up the United Center with Derrick and Noah back.

I found it unfair that the crowd booed Rose. First of all, he was traded away but he also helped revitalize the franchise and delivered fans an MVP season. I understand there are things fans wish he would’ve handled differently but he deserved a little more appreciation. With that said, it was a pretty cool moment to be able to talk to him postgame about his experience back on that court in front of his hometown fans. It was a significant moment in Bulls history, especially in terms of the recent era and it was a true privilege to be a part of it.

What is the most challenging part of being an in-game reporter and how do you approach it?
I think one of the most challenging aspects of being an in-game reporter is managing the environment. There is always a lot going on around you so it takes a lot more energy to concentrate. An example, at halftime I usually wait outside the locker room to speak with the home coach, really both coaches if possible, but they tend to take most of the half talking strategy in the locker room so it turns out being a mad dash to the court. During that mad dash, I need to try and collect as much information as I can. Also, in-game coaching interviews are tricky because no head coach really likes doing them since you are taking them away from talking to their team. That was made no more apparent than my very first NBA game for ESPN when I had to interview [San Antonio head coachGregg] “Pop” [Popovich] after the first quarter and the Spurs were losing. Let’s just say it was a baptism by fire and I focus on making sure my questions are informed and succinct.

As a native of Chicago, how would you describe basketball culture in the city? How does it affect your on-air work?
How would I describe it? Ball is life. Look, I grew up in the Jordan era. Being a Bulls fan is in my blood. Since birth it feels like it was just natural to my family to scream like crazy people on our couches during games even during the regular season. Now while my love for the Bulls will never die, my passion is now spread across the league. I grew up watching basketball during arguably the greatest era of the game, watching the greatest player to ever play the game, no argument. I watched ball, played ball and now make a living talking about ball. Ball is truly life for me and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world because of it.

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