Spring 2021 Magazine

Rising NBA broadcaster Kristen Ledlow aims 'to shine a light in the dark places'

Many NBA fans have heard of Kristen Ledlow from her work with NBA TV and the NBA on TNT. From sideline reporter to co-host of NBA TV’s “Inside Stuff” with Grant Hill, Ledlow does it all, even recently showing off her “Family Feud skills with the “Inside the NBA” guys.

Ledlow’s television charisma and basketball acumen have given her the opportunity to travel the country and meet many of the game’s greats – past and present. It was on the San Antonio River Walk interviewing “The Iceman” George Gervin in her first season with “Inside Stuff” that reality finally set in: She was getting paid to do this.

“Here in this moment, in some small way, I get to be part of the basketball story,” Ledlow said recently on the Sports Spectrum Podcast of that brush with basketball royalty.

As Ledlow’s star has continued to rise in the nearly five years since that day on the River Walk, a new broadcasting test recently presented itself.

In the summer of 2018, Ledlow made her debut as a play-by-play announcer for the NBA Summer League. Ledlow was almost joking at the NBA Finals when she made her far-fetched request to try play-by-play, but her employers promptly scheduled her for four games.

A longtime sideline reporter, Ledlow said she had to completely change the way she thought about her job.

“What I typically do in a sideline reporting role is try to, in some capacity, further the story of the game,” she said. “The play-by-play broadcaster and analyst are kind of telling the story of the game in live time as it’s happening.”

It was difficult, but – as she’s always done – Ledlow embraced the challenge. She said she improved each game.

“I would love to do more of it, if the opportunity presented itself,” she said. “For sure.”

Ledlow has never been one to back down from challenges, a lesson she learned at a young age. She is a Christian, and she knows God gives her the strength to tackle life’s trials. Ledlow knows fear is nothing when the omnipotent God on her side.

Ledlow was raised in Tallahassee, Fla., by two Christian parents who taught her to always pursue excellence. Her father even gave her a ring that said “Follow Through,” lest she ever forget. She wore it for years.

When Ledlow discovered basketball at a very young age, she brought that same attitude to her new favorite sport. The WNBA began play when Ledlow was 9, but her goals were even higher. She wanted to be the first woman in the NBA.

Like many of her classmates, Ledlow enrolled at Florida State for college. But she quickly realized God had called her elsewhere.

“For me,” Ledlow said, “(attending Florida State) was a decision that was based on comfort, not necessarily based on confidence in any capacity.”

Ledlow’s decision to transfer from Florida State to Southeastern University (a private Christian university in Lakeland, Fla.) was filled with uncertainty. Yet it provided the foundation for God to mold Ledlow into who He wanted her to become.

Her faith matured by leaps and bounds at Southeastern. She now describes it as a come-to-Jesus season of life where she grew closer to God and learned more about who she was in relation to Him.

Ledlow found immense success on the volleyball and basketball courts at Southeastern, but it was in the school’s broadcast studio that her budding television career took shape. Southeastern isn’t known for its journalism department, but Ledlow made it her own. She had opportunities to learn all the different aspects that go into a broadcast, leading to ample opportunities to practice her skills in real-life settings. Her extensive networking outside Southeastern’s walls eventually resulted in internship opportunities. Ledlow never looked back from there.

“The leap of faith (of transferring to Southeastern), which as an 18-year-old seems like the most giant one you can possibly take, is that of moving away from your hometown and transferring schools to one where you know nobody else,” she said. “For me, that was instrumental in my life, in my career and in my walk with God.”

Ledlow will not soon forget the moment in 2014 when she was offered the job of co-hosting “Inside Stuff” with Grant Hill. Sitting in the parking lot of an Urgent Care clinic, the flu-stricken Ledlow decided to return a missed call. The voice on the other line told her the job was hers.

She had only auditioned for the position because she wanted to meet Grant Hill; never did she think she would be offered the job. Apparently, that loose, carefree attitude translated well through the camera. She played it cool over the phone, but wasn’t as cool with her family later. Almost immediately, she was given a national platform the likes of which she had never owned before.

Always wanting to be part of something bigger than herself, Ledlow now uses her platform to be a part of the generation of women normalizing the role of females in sports. She even notices a difference in how women are accepted now as compared to when she began her career a decade ago. 

When Ledlow has the time, often around July or August, she also helps out with the End It Movement and Preemptive Love. The End It Movement seeks to stop modern-day slavery and Preemptive Love improves the lives of people in war-torn regions.

“I want to be a voice for those who are voiceless,” Ledlow said. “I want to be able to shine a light in the dark places because I know it has been done for me. I want to be able to speak up for those who can’t or won’t and I want to be able to leverage the position that I have been handed.”

Ledlow realizes God has blessed her in many ways. He recently gave her the gift of a husband, as she was married last month. 

She also recognizes that God gave her the gift for talking about basketball on television, yet until a conversation with “Inside the NBA” host Ernie Johnson, Ledlow questioned how to best make her career an offering back to God.

“(Johnson) told me a couple of years ago that his life was changed as a believer in the business when he decided that it was no longer about changing the lives of the millions of people that are watching every night and instead about changing the lives of just the three men that he was sitting next to (on the set of the show),” Ledlow said. “He said that that perspective shift ultimately changed the way that he looked at his calling in this industry.”

Because of Ledlow’s hectic life and travel schedule, she is unable to attend church services where she lives in Atlanta every Sunday. But she contributes to the women’s ministry when she can and knows hope and comfort are found in the body of Christ. Through some very rough times in her life, the Christian community offered in the church has strengthened her when she’s had nothing to give.

“In the lowest moments of my life, (the church community has) given me someone that I could call. In the highest moments – celebratory moments of my life and career – it’s given me community to celebrate alongside,” she said. “They’ve given me accountability, they’ve given me encouragement, they’ve continued to help me align my mind and heart with truth.”

Ledlow knows she and her husband belong to Christ. She knows God doesn’t let a hair fall from their heads without His knowledge. God has been with her through life’s ups and downs, successes and failures, and He is with her now. It is by God’s strength that Ledlow has been able to make decisions amid a cloud of uncertainty. From transferring schools, auditioning for “Inside Stuff” or trying out play-by-play, God has always been leading her toward Himself.

“It was little things now that I look back and realize, ‘Wow, that all kind of fit together,’” she said. “It was like all these little pieces of a puzzle that ultimately became this beautiful picture.”

You can listen to Kristen’s entire interview with us on the Sports Spectrum podcast below:

 

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