On the daily ESPN show NBA Today, host Malika Andrews and WNBA player turned analyst Chiney Ogwumike are applying full-court pressure, Ari Lennox–style, to professional basketball news. “And we do it with some flavor,” Ogwumike says.
The rising stars understand that sometimes in sports media, you have to be seen before you’re heard—and both Ogwumike and Andrews take the responsibility of making sure that Black women are seen, seriously. “We know that every time we step in front of a camera, we’re not just doing it for ourselves,” explains Ogwumike, 30. “We’re doing it for the next generation that looks like us, who grew up not seeing those faces, and now they know they can do this, too.”
Andrews and Ogwumike bring a distinctive voice to their industry—one that’s not often amplified in major sports. “Representation matters,” Andrews says. “Diversity of roles for women is just as important as diversity as a whole.” Andrews, 27, a native of Oakland, was one of the youngest sideline reporters in ESPN’s history when she was hired in 2018. Her journalistic prowess during the NBA’s 2019–20 Bubble season launched her to the head chair of her own daytime show less than three years into her tenure.
Ogwumike, an All-Star forward for the Los Angeles Sparks, became one of the first professional athletes hired by the network as a full-time employee in 2018. She began her off-court career calling women’s college hoops, sprinkling her H-Town flair into broadcasts around the country. The Nigerian-American also coanchored Africa’s edition of SportsCenter, where she was able to tie her heritage and her passion for sports together.
Despite taking different paths, Andrews and Ogwumike are on the same team, with the same mission: to be unapologetically themselves and lift each other up along the way. As Ogwumike points out, there’s room for both of them to thrive in this space. “Women have been conditioned to think that we have to be competitive with one another because there are not enough opportunities for us,” she says. “We won’t accept that notion anymore. We’re reinventing what it means to succeed as women, and that means being collaborative instead of competitive.” Andrews agrees enthusiastically: “Never forget that you belong,” she adds, “and that you’re needed.”
Though both women are still early in their careers, their anticipation of future Black girls dishing about the X’s and O’s of the NBA on ESPN is electrifying. “There’s going to be a time I’m lucky enough to see my replacement walk through the door,” Andrews says, “and I get to roll out the red carpet for her.”
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of ESSENCE magazine, available on newsstands now.