Kate Scott wrapped up her second year as the Philadelphia 76ers television play-by-play announcer, and she’s already looking forward to year three. I recently sat down with her to talk broadcasting, the city of Philadelphia, and the Sixers playoff run.
Q: So after what I’m sure was a gauntlet of interviews, you get the phone call. You’ve got the job, and you’re the new voice of the Sixers. You hang up. What goes through your head?
Kate Scott: “When you apply for positions of this level, there’s obviously agents involved. There’s spouses involved. It’s a lot of things. So even though I wanted to say ‘F yes, I’m in!’, I needed to talk to my wife. I needed to say ‘hey, I know we both spent our entire lives in California so far. How do you feel about picking up everything and moving to Philadelphia, where they might hate me, where this might all go horribly wrong but I think it’s a dream come true?’ You have to talk to your agents and say ‘Is this as good of a fit in your heads as it is in mine? Is this going to be a place where I can shine and succeed?’
But on that phone call [with the Sixers], after I regained my breath from just hearing they wanted me to be the voice of the 76ers, I did say something to the affect of ‘I’m so incredibly humbled and honored. You all know how I feel about your city and your franchise from the interviews we had. I need to talk to a couple people, but I’m so very excited.’”
Q: You talked about moving across country, a saga that took awhile based on your social media posts. Now that you’ve settled, has there been a moment or place where you stopped and thought ;OK, this can be a good new home’ or even ‘Philly is home now’?
KS: “When it actually hit me was on my first trip back to the Bay Area since I got this job, in March of this year. We weren’t traveling yet [due to COVID-19] when we played Golden State and Sacramento in my first season, so that was my first trip back to the area that had been my home for 20 years. I went to college in the Bay, found my sea legs in this industry, found my voice as a broadcaster and as a human, and became the person you all have gotten to know because of the 20 years I spent there.
“But after one of our games there, I called my wife and said ‘it feels very strange being back here, because my thought is that I want to come home. And home is Philly now.’ I used to say I wanted to come home when I was away from the Bay Area, but after just two years here I can’t wait to get back home, back to the East Coast, back to Philly. That was a very cool moment.”
Q: You seemed to settle into the gig a lot more in year two. What was different for you, as a broadcaster and as a human, this year that allowed you to do that?
KS: “If you really pull back, anyone can relate to this. Think about your first year at a new job, especially one that has caused you to uproot everything that was familiar in your life. You’re learning the ins-and-outs of a new company. You’re learning everything in the community, like where you’re going to do your grocery shopping or get your coffee. Do you sell the old house or keep the old house? How long do you give this new company to decide if they like you or not? All this stuff, anybody in any new job would think about and it would be very trying.
“Then, make your job public-facing, on-air in communication with a very passionate fanbase. It was a lot. I tried as hard as I could to just focus on the broadcasting, but now, in retrospect, comparing how I felt this year to last year... Alaa [Abdelnaby] and I would joke sometimes, I’d just say ‘man, last year was totally survive and advance. It is March Madness in your first year’ and he’d say ‘yeah, kid, I was worried about you multiple times throughout the year, but you kept going and that showed me something.’ So, that was year one.
“But, again, this was my first year traveling. So it was the first year I was able to go to every practice I wanted to, and getting to pull players aside to have those 1-on-1 conversations. All those things that help you to get to know things as quickly as possible, I didn’t get that at the start of my first year because of COVID. It’s the little things like where the hotels are in every city, can I eat at the restaurant in the hotel, or where in the arena we are going to sit to call the game from. Now that I finally have a full year of travel under my belt, I’m so excited about year three because I think it’ll be the first year I get to just be a broadcaster.”
Q: I have to read you a little story going around on Reddit. It reads ‘Kate Scott just ran down to the bottom of section 112, hyped up the crowd, and took a gulp of a fans beer.’ Would you like to confirm, deny, or plead the fifth?
KS: *Laughs* “All I’ll say is, I was so excited to call the opening game of the Sixers’ postseason run, which I’m hoping will be a very long and special postseason run. I kind of blacked out because I was just so excited about the broadcast, so I can neither confirm nor deny. All I know is I was fired up. We crushed our open and I was running back to the booth high-fiving folks and felt like we called a really great game that night. So, yeah, go Sixers.”
Q: Honestly the reaction to that story online was overwhelmingly positive and even some comments like “she gets it” or “she gets Philly”. When you first were announced for the job, the reception was certainly not as kind, with comments like ‘who is she?’ alongside the most sexist things you can imagine. Have you noticed that shift towards more positive reception from the Philadelphia crowd?
KS: “I’ve noticed a huge shift. And this was all expected. I had been the first woman to call a lot of things in the past, so I knew there was going to be a huge blowback, because so many sports fans had never heard a woman call a game before. All of the sudden, I was on their radio or televisions calling games. And change is hard. Different is hard. New is hard, for all of us, in every facet of life. So to be kind of all those things represented in human form, I knew it was going to be really hard. On top of that, I knew I was taking over for a lifer [Marc Zumoff], who’s a legend. So I knew that was going to be an added layer. I knew all of it was coming. It wasn’t unexpected and wasn't something I couldn’t take.
“But I felt the first shifts after one of my favorite calls so far in my young tenure here in Philly, when Tyrese Maxey and the Sixers beat the Grizzlies at the end of January of my first year. Just a good game-ending call, and I’ve feel like I’ve had tons of those in my career but obviously nobody in Philly knows about that, so that seemed to show people ‘oh, this chick can do it. Maybe I should give her a shot.’ So that’s when I first felt the shift.”
Q: The shift seems to be continuing. Reactions to your postseason thank you video on social media as well received a flood of positive comments.
KS: “Just as the season has gone on I’ve gotten more and more notes from people, especially after I posted the video that you mentioned after my season came to an end. Just about all dudes, saying ‘I owe you an apology. I didn’t like you at first. I didn’t want to give you a shot. I thought you were faking it. You were too energetic. I never heard a woman call a game.’ Again, all these things that I know. And all of the messages end with ‘but now I’m a huge fan. My whole family watches. We can’t get enough of your energy. You care about every single play of every single game and it makes it awesome.’
“I love those messages, because I know from previous experiences that the only way you can win people over is by being you and doing the work. You can’t rush it. You just have to be you and you have to be patient and then along is going to come those calls like that Tyrese Maxey one or Joel Embiid’s spinning, fading, hitting against the Portland Trail Blazers this year.
“You can’t rush something like this. It’s hopefully going to be a long-term relationship and like any long-term relationship it’s going to grow with time. So I just told myself, when I got here and got off that plane for the first time, ‘go and do the work’.”
Q: You’ve been here for two years now. You’ve seen deep playoff runs by the Philadelphia Phillies and Philadelphia Eagles and how those runs affected the city throughout. Is there anything that surprised you about the intensity and passion of Philadelphia sports fans?
KS: “It has been everything I could have hoped for and more. I was hoping this city would go crazy, and it’s proven me right. It’s one of the reasons that I’m so happy that I get paid to work in sports, because sport is the last community where it doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you make, who you love, what religion you are. If the team we both root for is winning, we are chest bumping and chugging beers together. We may hate each other tomorrow, but today we are making out because the Phillies made it to the World Series.
“That’s who I’ve always been. I’ve always been so passionate and so live-or-die by the teams that I cheer for. And everybody here is like that about all of the teams! I just want to tip my cap to all the Philly fans because they are everything I expected them to be and more, and I love it.
“And I know the Sixers saw all that too. You saw so many of the guys at World Series games or the NFC Championship. It made me so happy because players of any sport remember that, and it sticks in your soul and you want to replicate it as a player in your sport. I know back in 1980 all the teams made it to the finals and the Phillies were the ones to finally win that championship, so I hope all the teams make it to the finals this year and maybe it’ll be the Sixers that are the one to win it.”
Q: Let’s hope so. Speaking of that playoff run the Sixers are embarking on, what have you seen, on or off the court, that gives this year’s team an edge they may have not had last season?
KS: “I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. I was at practice [Thursday] and Doc was asked the difference and he said multiple times this year there’s been flights where the coaches sat in a section and talked about ‘last year we wouldn’t have won that game, this year we did.’ I think you can point to so many games where a different player stepped up, when for some reason the guys just decided ‘we’re not losing this game’. The last few games of the season come to mind. You’re top six guys aren’t playing, but you take [the Hawks] to overtime and beat them. Last game, Mac McClung comes up and has a great game in the NBA. Last year’s team, they showed up but I don’t know if they play as hard or care as much.
“The guys played 12 of 17 on the road in March. There was the game in Cleveland where right out of halftime the Cavs went on a run, and it looked like our road win streak from the time was going to come to an end. But Doc called a timeout and Danuel House Jr. of all people, who wasn’t playing much at the time, comes in the huddle and hypes up the guys and suddenly we rally back and beat the Cavs in Cleveland. There’s also the five-game Western Conference road trip where they won every single game including two tough ones.
“All this is a really roundabout way of saying it’s a combination of things. I think the additions of P.J. Tucker and De’Anthony Melton have been huge. P.J. does so much behind the scenes in addition to what he’s doing on the court. Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey and Doc all said after being knocked out by P.J. and the Heat last year that they needed to add some toughness and Tucker has brought that. So has De’Anthony. He has meant so much to this team. He had 15 points in the fourth in Game 4 of the last series and was a +24 in Game 3. In addition to that, he’s one of Tyrese’s best friends. Up until now, Tyrese has had the older guys but was kind of the young star on his own, and now he has the 24-year-old De’Anthony and they’re like brothers. Stuff like that matters!”
Q: The second round has been a tough hurdle for the Sixers. Right now, there’s a lot up in the air for the series with the opponent not yet decided and with Joel Embiid’s health and availability in question. How do they get over this hurdle, finally, no matter who they’re playing?
KS: “Again, it’s just all the things combined. They’ve got to believe they can do it and keep playing for each other, and playing for something bigger than their individual numbers. They’ve got to keep listening to their coaches, because when they do, they play really well. They need to catch some breaks, too. Luck is a part of things in the postseason. Look at how many players have already gotten hurt. Everybody picked the Los Angeles Clippers in the West and possibly even the NBA Finals, but their stars are out and now they’re out. So much has to go right to be successful in the playoffs. I don’t think there’s one x-factor, there has to be a lot of x-factors.
“The big thing is they have it all, in my opinion. They just need to keep leaning into each other, continue to be resilient as they have all year long and continue to believe they can do it.”
Q: I was hoping you had the secret or key to get out of the second round because it’s been a tough few years as a Sixers fan.
KS: *Laughs* “All I can say is they’ve got everything they need.”
Q: Now that you and Alaa Aldelnaby are done for the postseason and we all have to switch to national broadcasts, how will you be spending the playoffs?
KS: “It’s not confirmed yet but it sounds like I’ll continue to travel with the team as a reporter for NBC Sports Philadelphia. I’ll be our live boots/heels on the ground wherever the second round and hopefully next rounds takes us. I’m really excited because chances are, if I got an opportunity to just be a fan, I’d probably do or say something that would get me fired because I’m all in on this place now. Don’t give your girl a couple of beers and a Twitter account or anything like that.” *Laughs*
Q: Does that mean we can expect a Kate Scott appearance on Broad Street for the parade?
KS: “Let’s all knock wood first. But in past cities I’ve seen the television play-by-play announcers serve as the emcee for the parade festivities and I’m very hopeful that might be the case here in Philly, because that’s actually how my career started. Way back in eighth and ninth grade I was emceeing events. It’s something I very much enjoy doing because I get to let my hair down even more so than I do when I’m calling games. So if there is a parade I will 100 percent be there and I will have cigars, water and sunscreen. The three essentials for the championship parade, and hopefully a microphone and a whole lot to say.
“So let’s keep our fingers and toes crossed because I would like nothing more than to have a blast with everybody on Broad Street.”