'The Full 48' Podcast: Sarah Kustok Talks Breaking Gender Barriers in the NBA

Bleacher Report NBA StaffFeatured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2017

BROOKLYN, NY - December 26: Randy Foye #2 of the Brooklyn Nets talks with Sarah Kustok after a game between the Charlotte Hornets and the Brooklyn Nets on December 26, 2016 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Sarah Kustok of the Brooklyn Nets joins Bleacher Report's Howard Beck to discuss becoming the NBA's first full-time solo female analyst. She then breaks down the art of broadcasting, how to balance the fun and serious mix that comes with the job and what the Nets offseason moves mean for the upcoming season.

Kustok also talks about what it was like playing pickup games with Scottie Pippen during his time working with the Chicago Bulls.

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On becoming the NBA's only solo female color commentator

For me, it's such a fine balance of the idea of it, because I've always been someone—no matter whether it's work, whether it's playing basketball—I don't always like to really promote the idea of female or male. I like to show up—show up, do your job, are you good, are you good enough to do whatever it is it may be?


On women being pigeonholed into certain roles

I felt that way early on in my career. For me it was always that I loved calling games, I loved being an analyst, but I kind of felt like, 'okay, that's fantastic, but you can do that for college games or women's games.' For me, my eyes really were never open to the possibility of calling an NBA game until these past few seasons because it was that balance of 'I love doing the job of being an analyst, but I love the NBA and the NBA is where I want to be, so maybe I'll have to stay in that reporter role.'

So that's what I love that maybe moving forward, people don't see it as 'oh, okay, this is the job I have to have if I want to work here.'


On staying energetic during losing seasons

I think that's where it comes back to...you've gotta have a state of mind and show up every day. ... We are lucky to call an NBA game. And at the end of the day ... it's not about winning—and I know that it's not as easy as it sounds—but it's not for us if the team wins. ... Our job is to put together the best broadcast possible.


On entertaining viewers during losing seasons 

It's a balance because you can't always be laughing and joking when the team's down by 30. You kinda can't be making light of a situation when things do get tough. But I think that's a part of it. Like, how do you keep yourself engaged, and how do you keep the viewers engaged? And sometimes that comes in the form of having some jokes or thinking up some new games.

I mean, we do the 'Who am I?', we do some silly things, adding some competitiveness to it. But I think that's just what you have to do and understand that at the end of the day, our job is the broadcast that we put together and the show that we put on, and if the team is losing, if it's a game-winner, whatever it may be, our goal still has to remain the same.


On transitioning from fan to professional

When I worked in Chicago, we would play noon ball at the United Center with some of the guys ... that worked for the Bulls and worked within the Bulls organization, and so every game day they would play, so I'd go cover shootaround and then come back and play, and Scottie [Pippen] would play with us. So the first couple of times, I was like ... 'I am on the United Center court playing pickup with Scottie Pippen.' 

Then as you go along, it kinda changes. ... And I hate to say that, but it fades. How you look at people, then you see them so often, or see them in these roles, and you still have such an incredible amount of respect for them and you love the game and the games that you got to see ... It's a sad thing a little bit, but I also think it's good; it helps you be better at your job.


On Nets adding D'Angelo Russell

The fact that the Nets were able to get a lottery-type talent like D'Angelo Russell, 21 years old—I know he probably didn't have the first two seasons with the Lakers that he had hoped, that many had hoped and expected. But the opportunity, and I've gotten a chance to sit him down for some of our interviews—he's got a different mindset, he's got a chip on his shoulder, he's ready for a fresh start. You bring in a guy like that with a coach like Kenny Atkinson, who's looking to develop players—I just think that having that type of talent in the gym for the Nets makes a big difference.


On Nets' roster outlook

The ability of what [Russell] can do, and then match that with an Allen Crabbe—you get a knockdown three-point shooter for as many threes as the Nets took last season, you've got a guy who's proven that he can shoot threes. DeMarre Carroll, I think the leadership that he brings. Will Caris LeVert make the big jump that people expect? He really only played the second half of last season; will he make the jump that people expect? Hopefully Jeremy Lin will stay healthy. 

They're so...they're so loaded in the backcourt. You look at their roster, and I do think that part of Sean Marks' plan was acquiring talent. Less concerned about what positions do we need to fill, more about what's the best talent that we can bring in. So I think there will be a lot of competition.


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