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You don鈥檛 have to watch a lot of basketball to know who Doris Burke is. There鈥檚 a chance you remember when, in fall 2016, rapper Drake made a very public (and reciprocated) admission of admiration for the longtime NBA broadcaster. But there鈥檚 an even better chance still that her ESPN presence since the early 鈥90s has found a way into your home on more than one occasion. In late September, the sports network promoted Burke from NBA sideline reporter, making her the first woman to become a full-time, national, game analyst. It was a watershed moment in an already momentous career.

Burke鈥檚 hard-earned milestone will go a long way to help break down barriers for other women looking to get into sports announcing, but Burke admits that, if she thinks too much about the significance of it all, she gets nervous.

鈥淚f I stepped onto the air thinking, 鈥極h gosh, you鈥檙e the first to do this, or right now, you鈥檙e the only one doing this,鈥 that would terrify me,鈥 she says over the phone from her home in Rhode Island. 鈥淚 try to compartmentalize things. I will tell you, still, 20-plus years into this profession, I鈥檓 nervous before every broadcast.鈥

It鈥檚 a philosophy that has guided the 51-year-old mother of two through her entire career: Put your head down and do the work. Recently, just as Burke returned home from a red-eye flight from a game in LA, we had the chance to speak about her career, the future being female, and, of course, the game she loves so much.

B+C: This might not be an entirely new job to you in practice, but do you feel the symbolic shift at all?

DB: It definitely feels different from a number of perspectives. First, typically at this time of year, I鈥檇 not only be trying to keep up with the 30 NBA teams and their story lines, but I鈥檇 be doing the same thing for men鈥檚 college basketball and women鈥檚 college basketball. So from a purely preparation standpoint, it鈥檚 drastically different.

The other part of it 鈥 one thing I鈥檝e tried to do my entire career is just lock in on the assignments. Just put your head down, work as hard as you can, make each and every broadcast as good as you possibly can, bring the story to the fans. The larger context of things, I don鈥檛 think about. It would make me nervous, frankly. I just try to lock in on the assignment, prepare to the highest level possible, and let the chips fall where they may.

B+C: How does it feel that a lot of the conversation is focused on you being the first woman in this role?

DB: It feels nice to have other female journalists come up to me and say how excited they are for me, and for what it represents for them in the future. It also excites me for what might be on the horizon for women. We鈥檙e not there yet, but it鈥檚 our responsibility to keep pushing, working hard, and preparing to the highest level so that we鈥檙e ready to meet these opportunities.

B+C:Are you seeing positive changes happening on the ground?

DB: It gives me great hope to have [NBA commissioner] Adam Silver say a year ago that he hopes sooner rather than later that there will be a head coach that鈥檚 a woman in the NBA. It makes me smile that [San Antonio Spurs head coach] Greg Popovich let [assistant coach] Becky Hammon coach a pre-season game. Men like that are helping to push the process along. And frankly, that has to happen. Women can keep preparing, working incredibly hard, achieving success at the highest level, but, you know, there has got to be enlightenment across genders to change the equation.

鈥淚t excites me for what might be on the horizon for women.鈥

B+C: Do you feel that culture is at a tipping point in that way? I can鈥檛 help but think of all of the stories of sexual harassment coming out from Hollywood at the moment and feeling a shift.

DB: I feel for these women who have been put through these heinous experiences in their profession. Having heard some of the experiences of my predecessors in the field I鈥檝e chosen, it hurts your heart that they had to endure these things. But the fact that they are intrepid enough of spirit, courageous enough, to say, 鈥淵ou know what? Enough鈥? Yes, that鈥檚 absolutely a tipping point. We are past the point at which we have to endure this to find success. No more.

The other thing I would tell you is that, in the last five years, I have sensed an incredible shift in the attitude toward my acceptance. And I don鈥檛 mean that from the players and coaches 鈥 they have always been my soft landing spot. Whether I was showing up at a shootaround, a practice, a film session with a team, the players and coaches have taken me in and embraced me. The exception to me came from the fans at large. Maybe viewers who are unaccustomed to hearing a woman in that position. And for me, whether it鈥檚 in an arena, the number of men who stop me to tell me they enjoy listening to me 鈥 I have no empirical data, but I can feel it.

B+C: What are you looking forward to this basketball season?

DB: Oh my gosh. First of all, I love basketball. But, I said this last year, if I wasn鈥檛 sitting courtside, I鈥檇 be on my couch watching the games. I鈥檝e been doing this since I was a kid, consuming basketball in any way, shape, or form that I could. I鈥檝e played since I was seven, I鈥檝e coached or broadcast it my whole life.

I鈥檓 excited for whatever story lines develop over the season. [Milwaukee Bucks鈥橾 Giannis Antetokounmpo is inserting himself early into the MVP race; that鈥檚 an exciting conversation. Golden State hasn鈥檛 looked spectacular except in stretches through the first four or five games, so the fact that so many people have anointed them as champions already 鈥 there鈥檚 months and months and many games to play. Who knows. Look at what happened to Gordon Hayward. Seconds into his Celtics career, he suffered this absolutely horrific injury. No one ever knows what stories will develop, what intrigue will develop in the NBA. I can鈥檛 wait for all of it. Everything excites me.

Are you watching Doris Burke on ESPN this season? Let us know @BritandCo!

(Photos via ESPN Images)