Work Friends

Malika Andrews

Journalist & Host

Malika Andrews has a signature work look: a power suit and a pair of heels. High ones, to be exact. But for those who have been following her career since her early days as a reporter on ESPN, you may notice a change. Once a fan of floral dresses and more flowy silhouettes when on duty, the host of NBA Today tells us that she would previously use clothing as a means of hiding, diverting the story away from herself and onto the players and the game she’s so passionate about. But Andrews' story is history-making and also one worth telling.

At 28 years old, Andrews has experienced career milestones that were merely a dream not long ago. Among them, in 2018 Andrews became one of the youngest-ever sideline broadcast reporters; in 2021, the youngest person to host the NBA Finals Trophy ceremony; and in 2022, the first woman to host the NBA Draft on ESPN. The same year, she won her first Emmy for Outstanding Personality/Emerging On-Air Talent.

So while Andrews remains conscious about keeping herself out of the story, today she shares that her new uniform—a sleek, tailored one, established with the guidance of her stylist, Leon Gray—does symbolically represent the significance of her career at this moment. “There's a balance for me between leaning into [being young] and wanting to show all the ways that my age is a strength. I want to be able to relate to players that are close to my age, be able to relate to a young audience that loves basketball, but also to come from a position that showcases my work and what I'm able to do.”

Ahead, our Work Friend and groundbreaking journalist, Andrews, shares more about what it means to be the first, the youngest, and to honor those who paved the way for her to build a career that’s, in many ways, only getting started.

"I stand on the shoulders of giants."


My dad's a personal trainer and I always enjoyed watching basketball with him. We would stay up late watching Golden State Warriors basketball games. It was one of those things where we couldn't stay up late to watch cartoons, but we could stay up late to watch the end of a 25-point game. And separately from that, I always loved to write. I am an avid reader. I loved writing fiction, diaries, anything. I never really saw those two blending until I went to college at the University of Portland. My best friend who I met there had joined the student paper and she said they had an opening in sports. And I very quickly fell in love with it. 


I thought I was going to work in newspapers my entire life. I loved to write and I had no aspirations to work in television. My dream job has changed so many times. I've been fortunate enough to hold some of them and to have jobs that I never thought I would, but writing was always what I wanted to do. Television is something that came out of my love of reporting, and whenever young people ask me about going into television, my advice is always to focus on the reporting and on the information, because everything else will come. That's what I found success in.


I eventually became the editor-in-chief of my university's paper and did a bunch of internships—all newspaper internships—culminating with a fellowship at theNew York Timesafter I graduated.I loved it. It was my dream job. I'd spent all of my extra time there writing, networking, attending games, and trying to job shadow people and understand the way they did what they did. 

I'd be naive to not recognize that there's a piece of luck that comes with all of the yeses that I received early in my career. But my first big no was theTimes, too. I was there for a three-month internship, and they extended it to six months, and then nine months. Then, after a year, when it was time to decide whether or not I could stay there, they told me—and I'll never forget this—“Working for the New York Times is like a Supreme Court justice seat. It's a seat for life and you're not ready.” I was crushed. Looking back now, though, they were right. I wasn’t ready. I needed to grow.


After theNew York Times, I ended up at theChicago Tribunefor four months. I moved to Chicago sight unseen. It meant taking a pay cut. And I recognize the privilege in even being able to make that choice.The Tribuneis the job that I saw the most potential to grow, work on the stories I was most passionate about, and learn from K.C. Johnson, who is an incredible reporter in our industry.  But while I was there I got a phone call from ESPN asking, “Would you be interested in our Midwest reporting beat?”

At first, I said no because I always saw myself in newspapers. But after a couple more conversations and understanding the job, I agreed to go down that path with them, in part because of my mentor Adrian Wojnarowski.

Adrian is a reporter who’s peerless in our industry and I met him when I was in college. I'd written a front page story for our newspaper about Terry Porter, a Portland Trailblazers legend, who was hired as the university’s head men's basketball coach. Adrian happened to be on campus doing a podcast with Terry Porter, and he picked up a copy of the paper and thought the article was pretty good. I felt very lucky that when I met him he already knew who I was because he said, “You wrote that story that I read.” After that, he became a mentor and a dear friend of mine. He wound up at ESPN and became one of my advocates. Our conversations are part of what convinced me that it was the right move to make. So I ended up at ESPN as a print reporter for three years. And up untilNBA Today, my job primarily was print.


Sports journalism is one of the few sectors of journalism you get into because you're a fan, and it's the first thing that sort of has to be balanced. I think that my love for the game and for sports is what connects me to fans. And remembering that love, bonding over that love is something that connects me to our viewers onNBA Today

I get asked all the time, “Who are you a fan of?” And the only thing that I root for is great basketball, great games, great people, and getting to the mountaintop. It's a privilege to witness anybody get to the pinnacle of their sport because there's nothing like it. There is no other human experience where 20,000 people are bonded together or against something like sports. Grown-ups do not behave in the way they do in sports arenas basically anywhere else in the world. It's this unique human bonding experience that I'm so lucky that I get to play such a very small role in—stewarding people's relationships with their favorite players. So much of what people know about their favorite team, their favorite player is from places like NBA Today and game broadcasts. And as fun as it is, I also take immense responsibility because that's something that's so very special. 


I used to not want to wear pants. TheNew York Postone time called my style “garden party chic,” which I very much agreed with. I liked flowy dresses that I could hide in a little bit. I never wanted to be the story. I never wanted to stand out too much and distract. 

My style has changed a lot over the years. Now I'm very much a suits person. I love a power suit and a very high heel. I'm 5’7” but I project as 5’10” or 5’11”. And I also recognize that being a woman in locker rooms is still, in the grand scheme of sports journalism, relatively new. And it's a privilege that I feel a responsibility to maintain. So in the last year, it's definitely shifted to more structured suits.


I stand on the shoulders of giants. I stand on the shoulders of Claire Smith, Robin Roberts, Doris Burke. Women who were not only told ‘no’ on an individual level, but sweeping no: Womankind is not ready for this. I stand on the shoulders of the women who were told that not only are you not ready, but it's not because of your skillset, it's because of inherently who you are. 

As a Black woman, I look toward the Sports Task Force, a part of the National Association of Black Journalists, as a microcosm of the industry’s progress. The task force was born out of a list that Larry Whiteside used to bring into arenas and stadiums. He would bring a piece of paper and write down the names of Black journalists in the press box. When he began, you could count the names on one hand. Today, I am one of hundreds of members.

We've come an incredibly long way. I cannot imagine what the women who came before me had to barrel through to make it so that I'm in a position to be able to be the first woman to host the NBA draft since the first time it was televised in 1980. I cherish that—and doing it with analysts Andraya Carter, Monica McNutt, and Chiney Ogwumike alongside me made it all the more special. Now, we get to carry the torch and march forward.


The beautiful thing about my career is the many opportunities I never saw happening for myself. Dream jobs can evolve—that's why they're dreams, right? They can change and become more magical. And something that felt completely unattainable at some point is all of a sudden your everyday reality, and you have to pause and remind yourself of that. It's easy to lose sight when you’re in the day-to-day grind of getting up early and being on the road for half of the year. It's easy to lose sight of the fact that being in this position is something that I wouldn't have even thought about five years ago. There are folks at ESPN like David Roberts and Jimmy Pitaro who saw me in roles before I saw them for myself. I’m so thankful for that. It took advocates, it took mentors, it took failures, learning the hard way, and it took missteps. And probably all of those things are in store again and again in order to get to whatever the next step is. 

I love what I do. People ask me, “What's your dream job now?” I'm living it. I just get to take new steps in it and it'll take slightly different forms.

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"It's a privilege to witness anybody get to the pinnacle of their sport because there's nothing like it."

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