When you love basketball as much as I do, you really appreciate meeting someone else who loves the game as much as you. That’s why I really liked interviewing Sportscaster Chris Miles. Chris is the pre- and post-game announcer for the Washington Wizards and a Sports caster for Comcast. He has an impressive background in sports broadcasting. He took some time to talk to me and my brother about basketball and his career journey centered on the game. To me, it proves once again that basketball can lead you in many directions both on and off the court.
After interviewing Chris, I could tell he really loved his job and felt lucky to be doing what he loved. He had worked in many states and many sports casting jobs along the way but really appreciated the ride. That is how I would like to feel in my future career. When I asked Chris who his role model was, I was expecting him to name a basketball legend that he admired and looked up to the most. I was surprised when he told me that in life you have many role models along the way but his most important one was his mom. He said she died when he was only 15, but taught him early on how important a good education was and to work hard and stay focused. I realized after talking to him that he is definitely a good role model for me and other kids that love basketball. He loves the game, works hard to work in and around basketball, and is a really, really nice guy.
Here are some excerpts from my interview with Chris Miles. For the full interview, please click on the podcast.
Q: What do you think will be the big NBA stories in the upcoming season?
A: Well, right now it is already circulation that Anthony Davis for MVP. And I am going to jump on that bandwagon, simply because I think that he is great and he has a great head on his shoulders and his family is great. I also think the Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving situation in Cleveland with LeBron James returning. I think that is going to be a big story but I think that is going to be something that is so obvious that everyone knows about. I think the underlying story that nobody is talking about yet is the possibility of Kevin Durant moving maybe coming to Washington DC and playing for the Wizards. I don’t know if he is just going to play out his contract or if there is going to be a lot of trading speculation but I think that that is something that is not on anyone’s radar right now and I also think that Greg Monroe and Eric Bledsoe possibly being traded also could turn out to be a big story this season. Those are the two guys that aren’t really huge stars but if you put them on a major team, let’s say the NY Knicks, or even the Cleveland Cavaliers, I think that they become huge stars and that becomes a huge story. So, I think Kevin Durant possibly being moved--that is something that no one talks about now-- and I think Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe being moved also would become huge stories if they moved to big contenders.
Q: How would you describe your career path? How hard was it to achieve your success?
A: Well, Isaiah Thomas had a saying where he’s like you know there were a ton of guys better than me when I played basketball but I worked hard and I tried to stay focused and I made the right decisions and also I was lucky. I certainly feel like it’s the same situation with me. When I think about the fact that I have the job with the Washington Wizards pre-game and post-game host that there’s so many ups and downs, that when you have a great opportunity you realize. “Gee how did I get here?” This was a great journey. This was fun so I think for me it’s just the idea of bouncing around from Bloomfield, West Virginia, to Roanoke Virginia, to Columbus, Ohio, and being at the stations in New Jersey and New Orleans, I think I am just grateful for the opportunities through the entire journey, which I could never map out in a million years.
Q: Can you tell me about your career journey and how you became a sports broadcaster?
A: Well, it started off playing basketball at Rice High School in NY and I realized I wasn’t as good as some of my teammates, who were McDonalds All Americans and had the opportunity to play in the NBA. So, I tried to come up with an idea for a career that would work out for me and broadcasting really fit. I’ve interned at ESPN and the NBA offices and I really found a good group of people that I could learn from and I’ve been doing it since.
Q: What’s the best thing about your job?
A: The best thing about my job is that it never feels like I am actually working. I am a self-admitted sports addict, so when I am not actually at work I am still working -- meaning I wake up in the morning and I go get some shots up, I call my friends and ask we are we going to play today? I try to figure out where I am playing basketball and if I am not doing that, I am reading about all sports really and then I am on TV at different times. Basically, that is my lifestyle and I really enjoy it and I can’t believe some times that this is actually working out for me.
Q: What characteristics make you a good sportscaster?
A: I think the most important thing is to be a student of every sport. One thing I had to learn as a former basketball player is to learn the ins and outs of the NFL….to learn the ins and outs of NASCAR…to learn the ins and outs of baseball. I’d talk to people, who were just as enthusiastic as I am about basketball, about other sports. And, truly, that’s how I developed a kind of higher learning of all sports. And once you do that it becomes really easy and a lot of fun. You also have to make sure that you can talk on TV because if you don’t know what you’re talking about, or if you haven’t done your homework, it’s really difficult to go in front of a ton of people and act as if you are an expert. You have to actually be an expert. And I think that is the key to it all is to make sure you do your homework and make sure that you are passionate about it.
Q: In your opinion, what are the top three skills a good sportscaster needs to become successful?
A: The top three skills…Well, I find that in order to be on television period a lot of people say, ‘Well how do you do it?’ ‘Do you get nervous?’ I think a lot of it is bottling up the energy. Understanding that once the camera’s on, it’s no different than talking to your friends about different sporting events that you would normally do. You just have to make sure that you have a good command of the language and that you read a lot because I think those things help you to really develop an on air presence. That’s number one is to make sure that you are very, very good at speaking in front of a group of people. So, when I was younger I spent a lot of time speaking in public forums and making sure that I was comfortable in front of an audience. I think that’s the number one thing. The second thing is to become a great writer. I know a lot of times people think of newspapers, magazines, online but truly if you are going to speak in front of a camera you should also be a good writer because also because those are the people that really excel. The third thing -and I always tell people that this is something I had to learn on my own- is to be yourself. Everyone looks up to someone and they want to be that person, or they want to feel like they want to be like an on air personality. But, truly, if you do the first two things on that list, the third part will come because you have a unique personality. You are who you are and that will come across eventually. And if people like you, they’ll like you on TV as well.
Q: What do you know now about the job that you wished you knew growing up?
A: I wish I knew when I spent all that time playing basketball, that there was a career that would last way longer than any playing career. One that I could’ve prepared for at a younger age because truly I didn’t prepare for a career in television until after I realized I wasn’t going to make it as a professional basketball player. I think if I had known that when I was younger, I would have prepared for it a lot more and maybe had a quicker start to my career but I think that is the only thing I would’ve done differently. I lived in 10 different states, I worked in West Virginia, Virginia, Columbus, Ohio, New Orleans and now here in DC and I enjoyed every stop on the way.
Q: Is you on air personality the same as off air? How does it differ?
A: I think I am the same person, at least I hope that I am. And what I mean by that is I try not to be a different person when the camera is on. I try to treat people every day the same way that I would like to be treated. And then when it is time to go on television, I try to make sure that whoever I am interacting with, I treat them with respect and I try to learn something from them the same way I would try to learn something from them when I am not on camera. I don’t try to attack any people that I interview. I don’t really try to interject my own opinion too often. I try to get the facts from people and really try to let them tell their story. And I’ve found that that makes people tell me how refreshing that is because truly as an on air person your job is to get the truth and get the story out, not necessarily push your agenda and I think sometimes people get confused.
Q: What’s the best basketball story you ever covered?
A: Hmmm…there are so many. One of the more interesting ones is during the time I covered Virginia Tech for three years when they did not make the NCAA double tournament. It was interesting to become friends with Seth Greenberg, who now works at ESPN, as he went on his rants and all of the pain—they beat Duke and North Carolina the same week, they knocked off a number one Wake Forest team and they did not make the NCAA double tournament. And to just be around that. It was a crazy time and a crazy ride. But I think for me right now, the biggest story for everyone else to see was Anthony Davis. He was drafted by the New Orleans Hornets at the time and I was there and I was good friends with a general manager down there and I remember when Anthony came in and he’s a little kid and he might as well be 13 years old. And I remember the year after he was drafted (2013), I had the opportunity to meet him and a couple of guys in a room and I said, ‘Hey who’s going to go number one in the draft overall?’ And he looked at me and he’s like it’s going to be Anthony two years in a row. And I am like this big kid doesn’t know what he is talking about. And sure enough when the Cleveland Cavaliers took Anthony Perry? I looked at him and he had this face on like, ‘You better believe it, I am a basketball genius!’ And from there, I tell people that story and how I watched him practice for the first time, and I just know he is a superstar and everyone else is starting to see it now. So, to know that about someone before everyone else is a pretty cool feeling.
Q: What is the most difficult part of your job?
A: I think the most difficult part of being a sports caster in general is being live. Learning that everyone makes mistakes and that when you make a small mistake, let it go. The worst thing that anyone can do is to go back and try to correct themselves, stutter and stop and start over again and I’ve learned from even when I was younger and I spoke publicly, if you mess up a word, everyone does, but you only notice when people try to backtrack a little bit. I know that is a very small thing but it really is a big thing. And to make sure I always have my fact straight I think those two things help me to really be good.
Q: What advice would you give others that share a similar dream?
A: I would say don’t be focused on the end goal and focus on getting better every day. Because what happens is a lot of people make decisions to try and advance their career and they skip out on developing their skill set. And it is like that with anything. If a guy is a great shooter but he doesn’t stay in college long enough to work on his speed or his conditioning and his ball handling skills and goes to the NBA too early and he’s not good enough. I think there are several guys that stayed in college an extra year or two it really helped them in the NBA. Stephan Curry is one guy that no one talks about doing that but he led the NCAA in scoring and then came back another year and I think he got faster and I think the same thing with sports casting. Early on I would make more mistakes because I hadn’t anchored a lot, now I’ve anchored in so many places, I’ve done live shows without a teleprompter that now I feel that I have enough experience that I can be placed in any situation and have the confidence that I’ll succeed. I think you need to make sure you go to places where you’ll get opportunities before you try to do something that is on a nationally or even a regional scale.
Q: So, what do you love about basketball?
A: I can’t really put my finger on it. I’ve been playing since I was four years old and we used to dunk on the trash can outside on the corner of 141st street and 7th avenue. We used to play on fire escapes in order to reach the hoop and I’ve always loved it and even now, I am still obsessed with the game, I loved everything about it from the strategy, to the fact that you have to run, you have to be strong, you have to be physical to play above the rim or you can be a shooter. I loved the competition too. I just love the game of basketball.
This was my interview with Washington Wizards commentator Chris Miles and it was very interesting learning about his history and what it is like to be a commentator. Anyway, thanks for reading and please comment!
My name is Mike V. I am an enormous basketball fan. I also am a die-hard Knicks fan. After graduating 5th grade, I started writing this blog at the age of 10 in the summer of 2012.