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From the DMV to MSG, Monica McNutt has made most of opportunities in basketball 


This Women's History Month, is passing the page to Monica McNutt to talk about her passion for sports and journalism in her own words.

Third grade was when I decided that I wanted to play ball, and I wanted to be good. Basketball had been such a huge part of my dad's life and that passion for the game had been transferred to me early on.

Plus, this was around the time when the WNBA was starting to take off. There I was, watching these strong, athletic and powerful women showing the country that they could play. As a tall, gangly and admittedly loud young girl, that inspired me. The court was a place where my length was celebrated. Being loud, physical and vocal -- all the things that used to get me in trouble -- were fully embraced.

Georgetown had always been in the fabric of my basketball experience. My dad was a lifelong Hoyas fan. We were a part of Hoya Paranoia you might say, and my dad had played for "Big John" Thompson in high school. I didn't realize I had been groomed to be a Hoya until I got to around junior year of high school, and I was deciding where I wanted to play.

I felt like Georgetown was on the cusp of something. They had a Black woman head coach, and I had never played for a woman at that point in my career, so I was curious about that experience. It seemed like playing for the Hoyas would give me the chance to be an impactful part of a program and not just a member of a team. I went on my recruiting visit and was swooned by Big John. Not to mention, it's a great school. It checked all the boxes.

New York Knicks radio analyst Monica McNutt in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

On and off the court, my time at Georgetown offered me so many experiences that shaped me into the person I am today. I became a part of a sisterhood that I'll forever cherish and gained so many leadership skills. And it was while I was a Hoya that I had a conversation that would go on to change the trajectory of my life.

Our sports information director Barbara Barnes said to me one day, "Monica, you should consider media." It made sense -- I was, after all, always the one talking, doing interviews when we were heading to the Sweet 16 and things like that. After she put that in my ear, I took a class and immediately got the journalism bug.

My focus was set. Sports journalism gave me this special chance to stay attached to what I already knew and tell sports stories in a real, authentic way because I went through it. As I got my career started though, there were plenty of frustrations I dealt with.

Media, unlike competing in sports where there are scoreboards and stats, is so subjective. That mind shift was a struggle. I felt like I had been very diligent trying to get reps, get networking opportunities and get my acumen together, but I heard a lot of "no." People can just not like your style and move on quickly. The lows included being laid off twice in three years.


But where there were valleys, there were also peaks. I did have some fortuitous bounces that helped get the ball rolling in my career. The DMV came through for me. I had the opportunity to go to the University of Maryland's Merrill College of Journalism as a fellow and not accrue a ton of debt. I got to work early on at Prince George's community television and WJLA 24/7 News.

I was able to stay in the area, save money and continue to grow in my career path.

Though it may have been a rollercoaster at times with lots of uncertainty, I couldn't be more thankful for where I am today. I get to cover basketball for a living, and that is a dream come true.

My job is a blast, but it also comes with responsibility. For one, I always want to humanize the athletes on the floor. Sure, we love the crazy dunks, the high scores, the award-winning things these individuals can do but they're also men, women, mothers, fathers, the whole bit. I take a lot of pride and joy in the opportunity to talk about them with respect for what they've built and for who they are.

ESPN reporter Monica McNutt interviews New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

I also believe this job comes with a responsibility to those that are watching. Of course, it's impossible to never step on any toes or never disagree with folks, but I always work to be respected by our fans. My favorite compliment meeting people is "Oh, you're just like you are on TV!" That's the goal.

Thinking back to when I was in third grade and now where I am, it's hard to wrap my head around how much basketball has blessed me. This game has allowed me to find my voice, gave me such important relationships and, thinking back to those early days, showed me how to hold my own against the guys (that's been helpful in my job now!). Being a part of the sports conversation representing women, representing Black folks is special, and I'll always strive to never take that for granted.

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