LaChina Robinson has been an analyst with ESPN for 12 years, but for the 2020 WNBA season, she added studio hosting to her portfolio. Front Row caught up with Robinson about navigating her new role on top of an already unique season.
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What opportunities and what challenges have there been in calling games from outside of “the Wubble?”
Of course, you miss the energy of the game, the face-to-face connection with players and coaches, and the in-arena excitement. That aside, I give all of the credit to our production crews, camera operators, and audio technicians who did a wonderful job of bringing the game to us. There were times when I was so entrenched in the game, drowning in the moment, that I often forgot I wasn’t there. To have those experiences in this unique arrangement, bring the game to the fans, and keep everyone COVID-free was a huge win for us all.
This season you have served as studio host, as well as game analyst. How did that opportunity come about and what have you enjoyed most about it?
I’m grateful to our coordinating producer Sara Gaiero for giving me the opportunity to serve as a host for the first time in my career. I stayed in Connecticut for the season for health and safety reasons, so it was great to be a part of every telecast this summer and stay busy. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of hosting, considering all of my 12 years at ESPN have been in the analyst seat. My hope was to add some X and O’s to the host role while helping to bring out the incredible personalities of our WNBA player analysts. I have to thank our studio producers Michael Disenhof, Stephen Oling, and Chris Riviezzo for their patience and guidance as I navigated this opportunity to grow my versatility.
Is there anything about the hosting role that you didn’t expect?
That is what makes hosting so different from being an analyst, you have to be ready to drive the traffic and adjust on the fly. For example, when we had doubleheaders that started on ESPN and ended on ABC there was a lot of moving and shaking that went into ensuring a smooth transition. I also didn’t consider the news aspect that would come along with hosting this year because of COVID-19, as well as breaking news around the WNBA’s social justice movement.
What is your favorite thing about work on the WNBA?
I am a part of showcasing incredibly talented women. The WNBA is made up of 144 of the best basketball players in the world, and they are also social activists, moms, entrepreneurs, world travelers, and much more. To tell their stories is truly an honor. I don’t think my role has ever felt as important as it did this season in documenting the WNBA’s fight for social justice. These women have led the way as the voice for the voiceless in our country. Another favorite thing about working on the WNBA is that our crew has a lot of fun. [Commentators] Pam Ward, Rebecca Lobo, Holly Rowe, and Ryan Ruocco are the best.
What is your viewpoint on the rise of the WNBA in recent years?
The level of play is better than it’s ever been. The media coverage of the sport has grown significantly. Social media has helped market player personalities, and in Year 24, we are seeing a generation of young boys and girls who have had the WNBA since birth. That means for a percentage of our country, women playing sports and being great at it is the norm.