The Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, Oct. 19 open their 2022-23 regular season at home against Oklahoma City. Timberwolves TV broadcasts this season will be led by veteran play-by-play announcer Michael Grady, in his first season in Minnesota. He is the team’s first Black play-by-play since Gus Johnson in 1996-97.
“Gus is fantastic,” said Grady of the legendary national voice of college football and college basketball.
I wrote back in 2020 that only one NBA team had a Black play-by-play, and there was one Black female announcer in both the NBA G-League and the WNBA. This past NBA Finals game one had its first all-Black broadcast team for ESPN.
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) in its latest NBA Racial and Gender Report Card reported the percentages of Blacks and POCs in radio and television broadcasting did not change from 32.7% in 2020-21 to the same in 2021-22. But the biggest one-season jump occurred in ’20-21 (28.7%) from 12.2% in ’19-20 among Black broadcasters.
Grady, a multi-time Emmy winner and 2016 Indiana Sportscaster of the Year, was for the past six years the sideline reporter for the Brooklyn Nets on the YES Network. He has play-by-play experience with the WNBA’s New York Liberty and college basketball for YES as well as a pre-and-post-game host for the New York Yankees. He also did sideline reporting for CBS Sports (NFL and college football).
The Wolves’ broadcast team also includes Lea B. Olsen (sideline reporting), Rebekkah Brunson and Quincy Lewis (game analysts), and WCCO’s Henry Lake, who will host “Wolves Warm-Up” before the pregame show and “Timberwolves Tonight,” following the post-game show. The radio station’s nighttime host also will do a “Life in the Pack” podcast for the second consecutive season on WCCO Radio.
An Indianapolis native, Grady got inspired to become a broadcaster when watching and listening to Bob Costas as a youngster during the 1998 NBA Finals. “The way that Costas told the story and put the moment into historical context,” he told the MSR, “it just gave me an example of the power of this industry.”
His rich baritone voice was still developing, he recalled: “I was still a young teenager at that particular time. We had a radio station in my high school, and I started to put in work [there] and that led to college.
“I was blessed,” continued Grady. “Just because you have a voice, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that you have to work on—articulation, range, pitch in your voice and inflection, and all these different types of things that I really had to put a lot of work in.
“There’s so many people who want these broadcast positions, and it’s really hard to break through. I just had a love for it. I just had a real love for telling stories.”
He vividly remembers sitting in the car with his mother “and we’re listening to the radio, sitting in front of the television watching NBA games and listening to the broadcast.”
His mother recently passed, but Grady proudly noted, “I’m representing my mom, the rest of my family, my wife, my stepson, representing this community, the Black community. I know it’s a big deal to a certain degree.”
“I want to inspire people,” concluded Grady. “To be one of four Black play-by-play announcers in the NBA is something that’s not lost on me.”
Russell’s 6 retired
The NBA has permanently retired Bill Russell’s number 6 in the same fashion that Major League Baseball did in 1997 when it retired Jackie Robinson’s No. 42. Russell passed away at age 88 on July 31.
Every player this season will be wearing a “6” patch on their jersey. “This patch on our jerseys only symbolizes his place” in basketball history, said Wolves rookie Wendell Moore, Jr.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.