Women In Broadcasting

Women Of The NBA: Cassidy Hubbarth

ESPN reporter Cassidy Hubbarth’s balance of motherhood and a high-intensity job illustrates her devotion to both tasks.

ESPN reporter Cassidy Hubbarth, shown here as host of the 2018 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.

For this series, Julia Adams spoke to women from various positions around the league – from play-by-play broadcasters, to analysts, to producers – in order to capture how the NBA is supporting women to enter roles on a league-wide basis.

ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth joins the Zoom interview from her kitchen next to her 3-year-old daughter. She just picked her up from school, and is freshly back in New York from Dallas, where she covered the Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks series in the Western Conference semifinals. Hubbarth has just a few days off before she is on the road again for the Eastern Conference finals in Miami and will also be on the road for the 2022 NBA Finals

“As you can tell this is a microcosm of how I work right now,” Hubbarth laughs after assuring her daughter it’s almost time for dinner. “In two different places.”

Hubbarth is a woman of many hats, and she wears them all well. Along with being a mother, she is an accomplished reporter and host for several of ESPN’s signature properties — most prominently the NBA. She serves as a full-time reporter for ESPN game telecasts throughout the regular season and playoffs. She also guest-hosts several of ESPN’s shows, including “Get Up,” “SportsCenter” and “First Take,” and contributes to “NBA Today” and “NBA Countdown.” For the 2022 Finals, she is hosting “Hoop Streams,” ESPN’s digital NBA show.

Despite all her apparent accomplishments, Hubbarth, like many high-achieving women, experiences imposter syndrome — a term loosely defined as doubting one’s capabilities or feeling fraudulent in one’s role. ESPN’s Doris Burke mentioned experiencing that feeling in her role. To Hubbarth, feeling like an “imposter” amidst her successes is particularly heightened as she takes on the balance of motherhood and her high-intensity job. 

“Early on in my career when I was just focusing on work it was easier for me to feel prepared,” Hubbarth said. “Since having my daughter, it’s been a little hard because not all of my focus is on work anymore. There is this perpetual feeling that I didn’t do enough on both sides. That is what feeds some of this doubt that I belong here.” 

While she does experience self-doubt at times, Hubbarth says being a working-mother is extremely rewarding.

“It is also an empowering feeling, because I am still operating at a high level in both places. It’s having to balance those emotions and feel like you’re enough both at home and at work that a lot of people deal with,” Hubbarth said.  

Hubbarth’s career journey to becoming an ESPN sportscaster began with her love of basketball. 

She grew up in Chicago during the Michael Jordan-era of the 1990s, and many of her core memories from childhood are of watching the Bulls. 

“The NBA is just in my blood … being spoiled to watch six championships, and the greatest player to ever play on my hometown team laid the foundation for my love for the NBA,” Hubbarth said.

Hubbarth interviews Luka Doncic during the 2022 playoffs.

She also grew up in a sports-loving family. It was a tradition in her house after church on Sundays to turn on the FOX NFL pregame show. When she saw sportscaster Pam Oliver on TV doing sit-down interviews with players, she knew she wanted to be in sports media one day.

“I remember sitting on my couch watching her and being like, that’s what I want to do. I want to tell these athletes’ stories,” Hubbarth said. “I haven’t looked back since.” 

Hubbarth decided at that moment she would do whatever it takes to realize this goal. She started covering sports in middle school and eventually attended Northwestern. There, she studied journalism and graduated in 2007.

While at Northwestern, Hubbarth took a course that examined the future of media and how it was evolving to support the digital landscape. Her understanding of how to reach sports fans digitally helped her stand out while looking for jobs.

“Before I graduated, the only place you could go was a local sports newscast and work your way up,” Hubbarth said. “By the time I graduated, Twitter was launched and there were websites and even blogs that were expanding the space of how sports were covered”

Hubbarth’s first job out of college was at Intersport, a sports production company, where she developed on-demand content for Sprint mobile phones. She described her work there as “creating three to six-minute clips Netflix-style for your flip phone.” Her work experience in digital ended up eventually getting her into the ground floor at ESPN on the digital team.

“I rode this digital wave, because not only do I have a passion for sports, but a passion for learning how the media landscape is changing,” Hubbarth said. “That’s how I stood out.”

Hubbarth has experienced her share of breaks to match the different stages in her career. She went from being an associate producer for Comcast SportsNetwork in Chicago (where the Nets’ Sarah Kustok was a reporter) to reading tweets on-air to covering the SEC for FOX Sports South to working her way up from digital talent at ESPN to hosting “SportsCenter.” However, she says her biggest break was when she was asked to host “NBA Tonight” eight years ago. 

“I had the opportunity to not only cover the sport that I loved the most, but it was a show I got to work on every day,” Hubbarth said. “I had a say in the content and the production behind the scenes. It was such an awesome time in my career where things really clicked for me and I felt like I was building something.”

One of Hubbarth’s current roles is working sideline for NBA games on ESPN. Many women in this series have said the sideline is the most difficult role on sports television. Hubbarth broke down her sideline preparation process:

“Being a national reporter, it’s a little hard because I’m flying into cities and playing catch-up. I have to figure out what is happening with these two teams I’m not around on a daily basis. When I head into a city I pray teams are having a shoot around, and there is access so I can pull a player aside for an original quote I can add to my reports,” she said. 

Hubbarth then uses OneNote to write out her team and player storylines that she builds on throughout the year. She prepares around 15-20 stories for a game and sends them to her producer ahead of time. Then comes game time, which presents a whole new challenge — balancing her report with the conversation between the play-by-play announcer and analyst. 

She compares it to a game of double-dutch.

“You wait your turn to get in and start … it’s a delicate dance,” Hubbarth said. “You prepare all these stories to enrich the viewing experience just to be ready for a moment that you don’t really have control over at times.”

The highlight of the sideline role is the postgame interview, which Hubbarth added is also tricky.

“If it’s a tight game, you’re preparing to talk to multiple people. For the Warriors-Grizzlies game I was preparing questions for Jaren Jackson, Ja [Morant], Steph [Curry] and Jordan Poole,” Hubbarth said. “Ja and Steph are the stars, but Jaren was having a fantastic game and Poole was leading in scoring. I was trying to be prepared for any and all possibilities.”

Hubbarth reports on Game 2 of the Western Conference finals during the 2021 NBA playoffs.

However, Hubbarth would not have gotten where she is today working these coveted positions without experiencing failures. She said learning how to go through failures and dig herself out of them was key to progressing in her career.

“[Learning how to] quiet my mind down where I can see everything like Neo from the Matrix — if you can find a way to concentrate in those moments, that’s when you’ll be at your best,” Hubbarth said. “That took me a long time, and honestly there are still moments where I need to fail and make mistakes. You need to go through challenges in order to be experienced in this business.”

Kustok has both worked with and is a close friend of Hubbarth’s. She says Hubbarth is not only incredible at her job, but one of the best humans and hearts you’ll find.

“Cass is the total package in sports broadcasting. Brilliant, versatile, funny, and has a work ethic second to none,” Kustok said. “She’s the ultimate teammate and does everything she can to make the whole team shine. I’m so proud to call her a dear friend though, not because of the pro she is, but because of who she is as a person.”

Along with representing the working moms and females in the sports community, Hubbarth is also extremely proud of her ethnicity as a Filipino, German and Irish woman. She grew up in a diverse community, so was lucky to never feel different specifically because of her Filipino identity. Instead, Hubbarth views it as something that makes her unique.

Hubbarth during Game 3 of the 2022 Western Conference semifinals.

“Being exposed to Filipino culture [as a kid] and understanding that side of my life of what it was like for my mom to grow up in the Philippines and be an immigrant. I embrace being different and making sure there is representation,” Hubbarth said.

Hubbarth believes representation and visibility are everything, which is why she is vocal about her background. She said in her years covering the league she knows the NBA shares this belief, but hopes to see more women in decision-making roles. 

“The NBA is authentic in how they value women. I feel like the NBA sets the standard for being progressive and understanding that they have a platform and voice that needs to be used,” Hubbarth said.

Her balance of motherhood and work illustrates that women can really do it all. For those looking to follow in her footsteps she offers this advice:

“You can’t cheat the work. We’re in a microwave society where we think things need to happen immediately, but enjoy the ride failing, learning and growing.

“Also, if you want to be in this business, try to be as multi-talented as you can. This journey is not about chasing after one role, it’s about being as well-rounded as possible so you can be informed as possible to really advance in this career that’s ever-changing.