“An Opportunity To Put My Journalism Background To Use” | Pelicans’ CJ McCollum Joins ESPN As Newest Analyst Amid Player “New Media” War

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - APRIL 24: CJ McCollum #3 of the New Orleans Pelicans reacts against the Phoenix Suns during Game Four of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center on April 24, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Add another professional basketball player to ESPN’s talking head roster, the network has announced the signing of CJ McCollum as a multi-platform NBA analyst.

“It is my honor to be joining the ESPN family in this new role and I am excited to bring what I feel is my unique perspective, based on my vast knowledge of the game that I’ve gained during my nine years as a player in the NBA,” McCollum said in a statement.

“To have an opportunity to put my journalism background to use on the largest stage with the many talented professionals at ESPN is a dream come true.”

The Player Principle

McCollum’s addition to the ESPN roster comes when there is an unofficial faceoff between sports journalism’s old guard and former and current players representing an insider’s perspective.

With former players like Kendrick Perkins, Jay Williams, and Amar’e Stoudemire holding it down, current players like McCollum are adding to their on-court duties by providing a real-time player outlook.

But is that a dangerous proposition for the neutrality of a televised newsroom?

Recently, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Pat Beverley shook up the NBA analyst world when he held court on ESPN morning platforms to both challenge ESPN star Stephen A. Smith and exact his “justice” in the form of balancing the athletic narrative.

All Flex Zone

However, when it veered into a personal attack on fellow current guard Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns, the dangers of a very partial athlete manifested for the viewing audience. Additionally, Beverley was praised by Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green, who labeled him part of the “new media,” a catch-all that encompasses analysts Green feels do not disparage or negatively compare players.

However, Stephen A. Smith was quick to point out the rules of journalism that both former and current players are still learning.

“When you talk about new media, y’all need to watch yourselves,” Smith said to Beverley on “First Take.” “Because, let me tell you something, ain’t nobody usurping this brother, not from a basketball standpoint, not from an athletic standpoint.

“I don’t give a damn what player is out there. There’s skills that come from doing this too.”

McCollum’s Major

Smith points out that simply having an opinion and a platform does not make one a journalist. However, experience, practice, and mentorship in the industry do, and CJ McCollum has been shooting in the newsroom gym.

He might be the difference-maker as an experienced journalism-athletic hybrid.

His journalistic start came as an assistant sports editor for The Brown and White, the school newspaper for his alma mater, Lehigh University. As a professional basketball player, McCollum has interned at The Players’ Tribune, receiving his first byline in the publication in 2014, during his second season with the Portland Trail Blazers.

He has reportedly organized youth programs in Portland, Oregon, that are media-centered.

“The impact that The Brown and White had on me taught me how to seek out people, how to get five or 10 minutes, to get a quote after a game,” McCollum said to the Lehigh paper. “To write a feature story on someone and have to track them down in the lunchroom, it was a unique experience for me.”

New Rules

Now McCollum will reportedly serve as a game analyst for ESPN’s coverage of NBA Summer League while also contributing studio analysis on a year-long basis. He’ll provide insights to “NBA Countdown,” “NBA Today,” “SportsCenter,” “Get Up,” and “First Take,” among other platforms.

The New Orleans Pelicans star and current NBPA President makes his debut on Thursday, June 2, just in time for NBA Finals Game 1: Celtics vs. Warriors. McCollum will appear as part of an ESPN special, “NBA Finals: Celebrating 75.”

It is ESPN2’s alternate presentation for NBA Finals Game 1, which will celebrate the NBA 75th anniversary season. He will also work closely with ESPN to develop a new podcast that will be available on all streaming platforms throughout the year.

Potential Leader of the New School

The network seems confident that McCollum will bring the value expected.

“CJ is one of the most respected players in the NBA, which is evident by his role as President of the NBA PA,” said David Roberts, ESPN head of NBA and studio production, via a statement.

“Furthermore, he’s an extremely talented member of — and leader on — one of the most interesting teams in the league: the New Orleans Pelicans. CJ’s commitment to this opportunity, combined with his passion for journalism and sports broadcasting, will be a clear benefit for NBA fans.”

As the “new media” and the journalism stalwarts clash daily on live television, the pipeline to broadcast for current players is only expanding. The question is will the narrative and neutrality stretch too.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.