Doris Burke: A New Jersey Girl Makes Good

Doris

Doris Burke interviewing Kyrie Irving during his days at Duke (Flickr via Creative Commons)

If you are a basketball fan–especially an NBA fan–you know about Doris Burke.  You may recognize her as the sideline reporter during ABC’s coverage of the NBA finals.  But did you know she grew up on the New Jersey shore, was a dominant high school basketball player at Manasquan High School, and is one of the best point guards to ever play in the old Big East?

 

Check out Joseph Atmonavage’s long-form piece on Burke at NJ.Com.  Here is a taste: 

The story of Doris Burke becoming the best basketball broadcaster working today starts in the 1970s, when her family of 10 moved from Long Island to the Jersey Shore because her father wanted a shorter commute.

Basketball was the first thing that greeted the 7-year-old Burke when she walked into her family’s new Manasquan home at 23 Fisk St. A left-behind basketball was just sitting there, waiting for her to pick it up. A basketball court — just a few strides away — was her newest neighbor and would become the place to find young Doris.

“A little divine providence,” Burke said.

All she ever needed was that ball and that court. Burke would step in between the lines and lose herself for hours, finding a confidence and self-worth that would propel her career.

“The love of the game is something I found in Manasquan,” Burke, 52, said in a phone interview a few days before announcing Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals for ESPN. “I literally picked that ball up as a 7-year-old and I have not put it down to this day.”

Then, she was Doris Sable: the youngest of eight in a tough-as-nails Irish-Catholic family crammed into a minuscule home in the tiny, happy-go-lucky town. Just a basketball-possessed Shore kid people described as having a killer instinct on the court. Off of it, “there wasn’t a mean bone in Doris’ body,” childhood friend and teammate Tara Gunning said.

Now, she is Doris Burke: a trailblazer in the game of basketball as an ESPN color analyst — a role that is almost always filled by men and usually reserved for aging coaches and ex-players.

She was the first woman to announce a Big East men’s basketball game on TV, the first woman to do a New York Knicks game on TV or radio, the first woman to be a full-time NBA analyst on national television. And she’ll again work the sidelines at the highest levels during the NBA Finals, which start Thursday on ABC.

On air, Burke gracefully weaves her “I’m from Jersey” attitude with a humility and knowledge that the basketball world practically drools over. Within the hysteria of a basketball game, Burke is often the calmest person in the arena. She breaks down the game in a to-the-point fashion that both the sophisticated basketball viewer and someone watching for the first time can appreciate and understand. And when she transitions to the sidelines, Burke can put on a Ph.D.-level discourse of how to ask questions in a hectic, emotional environment, like she did at last year’s Finals. (According to Sports Illustrated, over 11 minutes and 25 seconds, she asked 13 questions of seven people.)

Read the entire piece here.