Setting sights on the broadcasting world
Growing up in McKeesport, Pa., I always knew I wanted to be on television. I would come home from school and be glued to our TV, but I wasn't watching cartoons -- I was watching talk shows. I have always been fascinated by people like Oprah -- how they can command a room, ask the tough questions and really build relationships with people who they have, in reality, just met and may have only read about.
When I moved to Connecticut for college, I became acquainted with another inspiration -- Robin Roberts, a former athlete who transitioned into broadcasting. Here she was a successful, well-spoken, female, African-American broadcaster ... and she covered sports.
Roberts, with ESPN at the time, occasionally worked out at UConn during my time there, and I had the opportunity to speak with her several times. Sure, some of our interactions were traditional interviews, but I also got to ask her some questions. "What got you into this?" I would ask. "What makes you so good at your craft?"
At a Final Four dinner event in college, my admiration for her grew. As I sat there with my teammates, Roberts did exactly what I had seen Oprah do so many years before -- she commanded the room. She seemed to know something about everyone, but in a good way. She was able to build relationships and mingle with all of these different people -- businesspeople, alumni, donors, coaches, players, families, etc. Needless to say, I was impressed.
In 2007, I was given the opportunity to cover the NBA at ESPN. The Worldwide Leader in Sports wanted a female, in-studio broadcaster for the NBA -- of course, I jumped at the opportunity. Broadcasters across different sports -- soccer, football, basketball, etc. -- would hang out in the "war room" between tapings, discussing anything from hot topics in sports to production schedules. I remember once, we were waiting in the "war room" before an “NBA Fast Break” broadcast. I decided to do some research for the show, so I reached out to contacts I had. Since one of the topics was the Cleveland Cavaliers, I was able to connect with Drew Gooden, and he was kind enough to provide helpful insight that he allowed me to share. During the subsequent broadcast, I came on air and said something about "Oh, I talked to Drew and he said XYZ."
Athletes have a mutual respect for one another, and that allowed me to gain more insight and access to prepare for the broadcast because they will be more willing to share with their peers. "You're making us look bad," a colleague said afterward, chuckling.
When I injured my back and was unable to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, it was a major blow. I had been training so hard, but now I was sidelined, which is a struggle for any athlete. That was when I received a phone call from NBC. They were interested in bringing me on as a guest broadcaster in New York for the Beijing Games. I jumped at the chance and can honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my life. I found myself on the other side of the camera, talking about what I already knew -- basketball, my teammates and the competition.
One thing I hope to do in the future is interview people outside of basketball. I love to watch Anderson Cooper and Roland Martin, because I have a passion for politics and world issues. I love Tyra Banks because she's built an empire around fashion, promotes non-traditional beauty, is philanthropic and empowers women. I watch Cheryl Miller being a trailblazer on the sideline of TNT. Someday I hope to be in a position to be an inspiration to others the way these individuals have been to me.
Because I grew up outside of Pittsburgh, I have to mention the Steelers. Sundays are devoted to my black and gold. It broke my heart when Hines Ward retired, but if I could interview anyone right now, it would be Mike Wallace. He is a hot topic, having just arrived at Steelers training camp, and I would love to be the one asking those tough questions. Or my all-time favorite would be Franco Harris.
Regardless of what the future holds, there will be a future for me after basketball. Maybe someday you'll see a new Swin Cash: WNBA champion, Olympian, philanthropist, fashionista and TV talk show host. So whom would you want me to interview?