There’s a lot that goes into providing content for NBA studio shows than you can imagine.
coiski got a chance to hear what a game day in the life of Kevin Cottrell, NBA TV’s senior researcher – who provides stats for NBA TV, Turner Sports, NBA Ticker, NBA History and others – entails. From keeping an eye on eight different games at one time to providing up-to-the-minute research details for your favorite on-air talents, Cottrell breaks down what it takes to do a job that you probably didn’t even know existed. And this is every single NBA night of the year.
George Kiel: I don’t suspect you grew up wanting to be an NBA digital researcher, so how did you start on this path?
Kevin Cottrell, Jr: I got my Bachelor’s degree in TV Broadcasting at Clark Atlanta and my Masters in Sports Management and Drexel, so initially I wanted to be a journalist and I actually was for a moment. I wrote for the Atlanta Journal Constitution for three years, but I had a hard time just breaking solely into sports. For my first job, I actually wrote obituaries for the newspaper, but little did I know that was really preparing me for the NBA job because that’s where I developed my keen sense of detail because you can’t get any info wrong when someone dies – name, age survivors or any other detail.
Kiel: How did you even come across being an NBA digital researcher?
Cottrell: They decided to move NBA TV from Secaucus, New Jersey to Atlanta, Georgia and Turner Sports had made a partnership with NBA TV at that time. Ahmad Rashad was coming down to be the main host of a show, and he had a writer in New York that they didn’t want to relocate. So they were looking for a writer to be their head researcher. Long story short, I was one of the first hires at NBA TV. My sense of the NBA was great at the time, but it was more so my writing background that even got me the job.
Kiel: Did you even know what the job fully entailed before interviewing?
Cottrell: Yea, I didn’t really know. What was funny is the recruiter was selling me hard like, ‘You’ll be perfect for this job.’ I was like, ‘What does that even mean?’ Basically, she explained to me that I would be supporting the on-air talent. And she was right; I’m more so their eyes and ears for the league.
Kiel: What does it specifically mean to be their eyes and ears for the league?
Cottrell: So let’s just say on “Fan Night” when Ernie Johnson comes in, he hasn’t been in the studio since Thursday for Inside the NBA. He’s following the games at home, but there could be details about our game that he might not know. Maybe there’s something about an injury to a notable player or a scoring streak that someone is on. It’s my job that, when they come in, they basically have cliff notes on the matchups of the night’s game well before tipoff.
Now while the night is going on, I have to keep tabs on all of the games around the league. So where I sit in the studio, I have a bunch of screens around my desk and they’re all on the different games of that night. So between that and social media, I’m really aware of what’s going on, and I’m always in the on-air talent’s ear throughout the night like, ‘Hey, this guy just went down with an ankle injury’ or ‘this player won’t play tonight because of back spasms’ or, ‘Hey, Devin Booker has 60 right now, and we need to closely keep tabs on this game.’ I’m also kinda like the on-air talent’s fact checker or auto correct person, if you will. If one of those guys says something wrong on air, I’m in their ear correcting them. If they’re on air wondering when the last time someone scored 40 points in three straight games, I’m the one that’s looking it up. I’m always looking up a lot of “first time something happened” or “last time something happened” stats. That’s pretty much a gist of what I do.
Kiel: Preparation-wise and leading up to a game, what’s a day in the life of an NBA senior researcher look like beginning in the morning?
Cottrell: I support the group, which includes NBA Ticker, NBATV.com, NBA History, TNT – I send stats to all of those. So when I get up in the morning, I may read newspaper articles from different cities to see if there are any intricate things that may be said in these articles that would make me potentially look something up. I compile a bunch of notes and stats from my morning readings – some that we could use in the show and some that are good to know in case something happens. We have a production meeting two hours before the game starts in which I distribute my findings to our on-air talent. Then, I’ll get with our production assistants to provide them with stats that they can use on our screens for the day – stuff that you usually see like “5 players who have scored 30 points at 50% in a game” graphics.