By the time NBA TV broadcaster Kristen Ledlow was 12-years-old, she was almost six feet tall. In her middle school pictures, she towered over her other classmates — boys included.
When she was introduced to basketball around the same time, it became the first place she finally felt comfortable with herself.
“The basketball court was the only place my confidence was there from the start, and it grew quickly when I realized what I already was could be seen as an advantage,” Ledlow said.
Ledlow’s dream of becoming a broadcaster followed shortly after. When she was attending a basketball camp in high school on Georgia Tech’s campus, she saw NBA TV’s studio on the now-Warner Bros. Discovery Sports campus in Atlanta on the other side of the same street.
“I told my basketball coach, ‘that’s where I want to work one day.’ He said to me, ‘it’s a long road from here to there.’ But when you do the math, it was only five or six years later that I got my job here,” Ledlow said with a laugh.
Flash forward to today, Ledlow is in her 10th season covering the NBA. She is a host for NBA TV, and also serves as a reporter for the NBA on TNT. Ledlow can also be seen on NBA TV’s #Handles with Channing Frye on Tuesdays and she credits her success to both her constant drive for excellence and the athlete mentality she honed while playing sports in college.
Ledlow attended Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., majoring in broadcasting and communications. She was an All-American volleyball player and announced men’s basketball games for her university. Her experience playing sports in college taught her some of the most important lessons she applies to her career today.
“My college volleyball coach constantly reminded me — today is all you have to give as your offering. You’ve been given this athletic gift, and every single day you have a chance to give it all back,” Ledlow said. “That shaped the way I approached everything. I wanted to be excellent — not so that I could be better than anybody else, but so that I could be ok with the offering I gave that day.”
Ledlow’s first job out of college was in local news at WTXL-TV hosting the “Good News Show,” while simultaneously writing for the Tallahassee Quarterback Club and doing freelance radio work for ESPN Radio’s Tallahassee affiliate. She later became a sideline reporter for Florida State Seminoles football and then a host for CBS Sports Radio. Ledlow joined WZGC as a host in 2013, before she was hired by NBA TV to host “NBA Inside Stuff” alongside former NBA star Grant Hill in 2015.
When asked what her “breakthrough moment” was, Ledlow said there is an interview she did with George Gervin for Inside Stuff that stands out about the rest.
Ledlow was contracted to host Inside Stuff for 35 episodes, and for the last episode she flew to San Antonio to do a feature on Gervin that they filmed sitting in a boat that circled around the River Walk. By the time the interview was finishing up, about 300 people had gathered on the shore to see Gervin.
As the boat pulled in, the crowd was chanting Gervin’s name, but also started chanting “Inside Stuff, Inside Stuff!” Ledlow said. She was in awe that so many knew both her and the show she was a part of creating and co-hosting.
“It’s such a vivid memory to me — I remember I was wearing a yellow dress. The air was hot and sticky, and I was just thinking if that is the last thing I ever get to do in this business, I will feel like I did something,” she said.
Ledlow noted her career as a broadcaster is heavily shaped by her mentors in the industry, most prominently — ESPN’s Doris Burke and TNT colleague Ernie Johnson. She admires Burke’s willingness to both privately and publicly champion other women in the industry. When Ledlow returned to work after giving birth to her 1-year-old son, Kai, last year, Burke sent her a text saying: “I want you to know how great it is to see you are back.”
“There were so many things going in my mind in that moment coming back to that same seat I’ve sat in for so long now, but with my life completely changed [after having her son]. She didn’t have to do that for me, but that’s who she is,” Ledlow said.
Ledlow also recounted an instance where she received life-changing advice from Ernie Johnson:
“We were in the Bay Area for the [Western] Conference finals, and I decided early on in my career I’m always going to be the first person ready, because I never wanted others to say, ‘we were waiting on the girl again.’ I get in the elevator on my way down and Ernie gets in with me.
“I told him I was surprised he was still showing up early — even though he could technically be late with all he’s achieved. He said back to me, ‘You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.’ Our industry is go, go, go all the time. His saying that to me that one time has affected so many areas of my life.”
After this interaction with Johnson, Ledlow makes it a priority to set time to rest and believes it has profoundly altered her work and life as a whole.
“If you’d asked me 10 years ago, I thought rest meant a day off and sleeping longer, but rest stems from soul-filling activities,” she said. “Rest can mean I spent my day with my family. It means shutting off when what we do constantly requires us to be on.”
Ledlow said she uses books and podcasts to attain self-improvement, but becoming a parent helped her realize how hard it is to accomplish this in all areas of her life.
“I was listening recently to this commencement speech that Shonda Rhimes was giving, and she said she is asked all the time how she does it all. Her response was ‘anywhere that you see me succeeding, I am inevitably failing somewhere else.'” Ledlow said. “That hit me so deeply, because every time you see me sitting next to Stephen Curry as he holds up his fourth NBA championship trophy, I’m inevitably not at home for bath time and bedtime that night.”
Ledlow calls it an internal daily struggle in dealing with the pressure to be great at everything we do at all times. However, it is her demonstrated career excellence that has led to her longevity at NBA TV. She credits the league in supporting her — and women in general — throughout her career for this achievement.
“It wasn’t possible when I was a little girl to look at basketball and think this could be my life,” Ledlow said. “Now 8-year-old girls today can look at the game and say I can play this as a job, or I can coach both men and women or I can referee or be in the front office or even I can call games both in the NBA and WNBA. In the last decade to see how far the game of basketball and its coverage has come, it’s stunning in so many ways.”
If she had to pass on anything to those looking to follow in her footsteps, her advice is simple.
“Know who you are outside of what you do. There have been so many seasons I have been lost in that,” she said. “I may not always get to do this for a living or some younger version of me may come along and do this instead. Knowing who you are outside of what you do is what keeps you standing when the bottom falls out.”