The pursuit of happiness doesn’t exactly boast the most reliable GPS coordinates. Different paths, different levels of motivation, different opportunities, all combining to make such quest resemble a fingerprint, varying with each person. Dreams produce many a sleepless nights. They galvanize us to awake at the crack of dawn all in search a single goal – turning a passion into a reality.
Next month, NBA Inside Stuff returns to TV. Kristen Ledlow stands as one of the legendary show’s new hosts. The other? Just some guy named Grant Hill, a “halfway decent” swingman in his day. I received the chance to speak with Kristen last week about working with Grant and a bevy of other topics including her admiration for Inside’s storied and original voice, Ahmad Rashad, her deep appreciation for predecessors like Summer Sanders and Robin Roberts, how the league has treated her since being brought into the fold and more.
An aura of genuineness surrounds Ledlow, a host on 92.9 The Game’s The Morning Drive in Atlanta and top five finalist in the 2012 Miss Florida USA pageant. It’s heard in her voice when speaking of the opportunity to host a program she grew up idolizing, when acknowledging the desire to debunk stereotypes of women in sports broadcasting and her love of the game.
And at the end of the day, the love of the game makes anything possible. Follow along.
TSS: Detail the day when you found out you were offered the position. And after you do that, what was the process like to landing a host job on NBA TV? That doesn’t strike me as a position you can find on LinkedIn or Indeed.
Ledlow: (laughs) Yeah, that’s not exactly the kind of job you come across online, right? It’s funny because this summer I was contacted and the agency that represents me told me NBA TV was thinking about bringing Inside Stuff back. I was excited about it because it was a show I watched as a kid. I just told them to throw my name into the hat because you never know what can happen.
About a month later, I was told they were definitely bringing it back and that Grant Hill signed on for it. They told me, “Yes, you’re one of the few females they’re interviewing for the position to be his counterpart.” If this was the only day you get to spend at NBA TV, you want to get a great experience out of it. I went in to do an audition with Grant and I was like a kid in a candy shop because I’m such a big NBA fan. I was like, “Hey, if this is the one time I ever get to sit in these chairs, in this studio, with these people, I’m at least going to have a good time.” It was about a week later I found out they were down to considering a couple of people, and then a few days after that I found out I found out they picked me.
I kid you not, and I know it sounds dorky, this the first time I’ve ever been contacted for something like this and as soon as I found out I got it, I cried. It’s my dream gig. I wanted to be a host NBA TV my entire life and I know the odds of getting to be that as a girl aren’t extremely high because I obviously never played in the NBA. But I’ve been obsessed with the league for so long that it’s all I ever wanted to do. So, yeah, that’s the process, start to finish.
TSS: You just mentioned him, but what were your first impressions of Grant Hill? He’s always come off as one of the nicest people in sports.
Ledlow: Grant Hill is, without a doubt, one of the kindest, classiest and, honestly, one of the most incredible men I’ve had the pleasure to meet in this business. Every positive thing that people think about Grant is true, and I’ve only spent a few days with him. He’s kind to everyone he meets and introduces himself as if he isn’t a future Hall of Famer, which he absolutely is. It’s honestly incredible to watch someone in his position and status treat people the way he does.
I could not be happier being able to co-host with him. He’s as fantastic off the court as everybody got to see on the court the past two decades.
TSS: Growing up, people like Stuart Scott and Robin Roberts were huge inspirations because, to me, they shredded barriers in a field I was interested in. How do the legacies of people like former Inside Stuff host Summer Sanders and Robin Roberts inspire and motivate you?
Ledlow: Totally. Being an African-American in the sports broadcast industry is the same deal as being a female in the sports broadcast industry. You’re a minority. You don’t get to see a lot of people who look like you in these high positions in this business. Summer Sanders is someone I grew up watching not only on Inside Stuff, but Nickelodeon as well. My sister and I used to watch her all the time during the summer (laughs).
But women like her and Robin Roberts are not only examples for women like me, but they’ve opened doors. No longer do you see a woman in sports broadcasting and think, “Oh, so how did she get that job?” You know that the women these days got that job because they’re good at it. There’s finally a chance for young women like me to get a chance to be in these high-level positions on network television next to these Hall of Famers in every single professional sport because women like Robin Roberts and Summer Sanders blazed the trail. Even as of late, I’ve been able to identify with women just a few years older than me like Michelle Beadle and Samantha Ponder who’ve set great examples at not only being a sports reporter, but really a sports personality as well with the sports they cover.
It’s been such a cool thing to watch women be promoted into positions like that. Being a young woman, I get to see it and think I have a shot at it. Honestly, if my entire career goes by, and there’s just one young woman right behind me that says that about me, I’ll consider it successful.