TNT recently added Jared Greenberg to its Tuesday night NBA lineup, which means he is now doing sideline reporting on one of TNT’s two Tuesday games while continuing to perform as studio host at various NBA-TV telecasts. He suddenly seems everywhere.
That’s a good thing, as he has quickly become one of the most versatile and respected voices in NBA broadcasting.
Edited for clarity and length, my recent interview with Jared offers an in-depth discussion of his background, the path to his present status, his broadcasting philosophy, advice and more. We are pleased to help you get to know Jared and how he worked his way up into what remains a dream job for many.
Ray: Let’s start back toward the beginning. What was your path to getting into the business that led to where you are now? How much of it was planned and how much of it was happenstance or serendipity?
Jared: I’m a bit unique in that I started really early. I was a freshman in high school, and I really didn’t have many interests outside of consuming sports. One day when I was in a TV production elective class with mostly upperclassmen, my teacher told everyone there was a signup sheet. The local college radio station was looking for volunteers to come work.
My ears perked up but it was only for seniors. And again, I’m a freshman, so I said, “You know what, screw it. This sounds awesome.”
And it was the first thing that ever really intrigued me outside of traditional sports. All I did back then was watch ESPN, listen to the radio and Mike and the Mad Dog every day religiously. So I inquired and it turned out that they didn’t really care that I was a freshman. They cared about my interest level.
My father had to drive me to the college because I was 14 years old and didn’t have a driver’s license. My father walked me into the studio, and it was one of these setups where my Sunday morning show was their first show up for the day station. I literally had to flick the transmitter on. I was so empowered and invigorated by that.
I said to my father “I’m never doing anything other than this again, in my life. This is what I want to do.”
And at that time, I was just playing music for a few hours a day and talking into a microphone between songs or commercials and it was thrilling. I was one of two kids from the class that actually got something out of it, and I ended up being the only one that actually stuck with it.
I started off doing that music show, and I said to them, “You don’t have any sports on this channel. Can I do a sports talk show?”
And they said, “sure.”
And then I noticed that they weren’t broadcasting any college games. So I asked if I could do play by play for the basketball and baseball games.
And they said, “Sure, that’d be great.”
And the college didn’t have a football team but my high school did. So I said, “What about broadcasting my high school football games?”
Then I started networking and just trying to see what levels or boundaries I could cross into, and I did that throughout high school, including with the minor league baseball team the Newark Bears. One thing led to the next that led to the next. I was getting credentials, using just letterhead on pieces of paper and faxing to all the New York team, saying, “Hey, I host a sports talk radio show. Can I have credentials?”
I couldn’t believe that teams started giving me press passes to all these games. I met so many people. The one guy that always stands out for me is Ian Eagle who I’m now working with on the TNT broadcasts,
When I first met him at age 15, I said, “I’m going to do what you do when I get older.”
And he said, “Oh, yeah, that’s cool.”
And then 20 years later, I’m working with him.
Ray: Who do you name as important influencers, mentors or models that have played a significant role in your development?
Jared: There’s a few… Ian Eagle is the most well-known. He has been a tremendous support system since I’ve been in high school up until today. I could call or email or text him anytime, and he’s always provided great advice and helped open some doors for me throughout my career.
Another one is Dave Popkin, who is a broadcaster in the New York area that does national college games as well. When I was 15, Dave took a chance and gave me an internship for the minor league baseball team. He hired me as his broadcast associate for the games on the radio.
Dave is still a broadcaster, but he also does a lot of marketing work and he has worked with a lot of different teams and organizations. Wherever he went, he took me with him, and whether it was a volunteer-type of internship gig or maybe, if I was lucky, he was able to pay me $25 to show up to wear the mascot costume or to hand out flyers or to pull the tarp on a baseball field… Whatever it was, he always had me alongside.
And I got so much experience and exposure and met so many people. They’ve helped me throughout my career, and I try to pay that forward.
With anyone I speak with now, I stress the importance of having the experience of learning not only what you love in this industry, but what you don’t love and figuring out what you’re good at and identifying what you’re not good at. That is key to helping you move forward and pick which path you’re going to go on. Because until you can put your finger on what you’re great at or what you’re not great at, it’s hard to figure out which direction you’re going to go and whether it’s going to lead to what you deem to be successful.
Ray: Can you identify anyone as a model for how you wanted to present yourself, or would you say it’s just a function of what you’ve just been talking about, namely: figuring out what you’re good at and what you’re not good at?
Jared: I remember meeting Mike Francesa when I was 15 or 16 and telling him, ” I’m gonna be just like you.”
And the first thing he said to me was, “Don’t ever try and do Mike and the Mad Dog. Do the Jared Greenberg show.”
And while I do try to model how I present myself or use some specific techniques from different people across the industry, I try to be a unique person who has certain characteristics that I hope people see.
Ray: You now have multiple roles, probably more than anyone else who covers the NBA.
Jared: I’ve been utilized throughout my nine seasons at Turner as kind of a Swiss Army knife, and I love that.
Everything from a studio show host to a reporter to a play by play commentator and anything in between… My primary role has been hosting NBA-TV Crunch Time, which is our whip-around show where we show the biggest moments of the night as they happen live. If you need to know what’s going on that night in the NBA, you can just stay on our channel and we will give you everything you need to know.
My primary role at NBA-TV is hosting that show, but I also host our Game Time show and other shows. And the role that’s been added for me this year is on the new Tuesday night TNT package where I’m one of the courtside or sideline reporters for one of the two TNT games.
Ray: How did this new assignment come about?
Jared: It was in the works for a while. I knew that they were making a change to how we were going to staff Tuesday night games. They were looking for people who had done that role before. And I do have quite a bit of sideline experience.
I’ve done the playoffs the last several years on both TNT and NBA-TV. And prior to even coming to Turner, I did a lot of sideline in the New York area.
So, knowing that this was coming about, I told the people in the talent department who make the personnel and staffing decisions—as well as the recommendations to the executives on how they want to move forward with staffing our shows and games—that this is something that would really be of great interest to me.
It took a few months from that initial conversation, and then one day I got a phone call saying I got it. That’s one of the great phone calls of my career because people really identify watching basketball or watching the NBA on TV with TNT, and TNT with watching basketball.
Learning that I would be associated with that great brand and that great franchise in helping build a new brand on Tuesday nights was one of the greatest moments of my life.
At Turner, we pride ourselves on not taking ourselves too seriously. But we do take our approach to work very seriously. So for me, it was a thrill of a lifetime to finally get that call after a long time of waiting and not knowing really where I stood in the process.
Ray: Would you say it has met or exceeded your expectations?
Jared: It’s been great. We’ve done the first five weeks of the nine-week total package. Being able to work with Ian Eagle and Brian Anderson has been unbelievable because they are absolute professionals as well as two of the nicest human beings on earth.
They are really cool about encouraging the courtside reporter to get involved in the broadcast. They want that third voice and that view from your vantage point of what’s going on as well as your energy and knowledge, and the stories that you can add and bring perspective and context to.
They’re also incredibly respectful. They understand that I’m deeply involved in the NBA every day. It’s the only thing I do, and while they certainly are very involved in the NBA and Ian calls the Nets games, they have a lot of other responsibilities as well.
They respect me enough to allow me to interject story ideas, and they allow me to share my knowledge of subjects. They don’t just treat me like a third wheel.
Ian was my superhero growing up. He took me under his wing when I was 14. And now, 22 years later, I am working with him on the broadcast on Tuesday nights that any NBA fan who’s interested in watching basketball is going to be tuned into!
Ray: Regarding your various roles: Do you have a preference? Do they present different challenges?
Jared: I love all of them equally, and what I love about Turner is that I don’t have to be locked into any one role.
If I’m doing the studio too often, right around the corner there’s a road trip coming. And that reinvigorates me. If I’m on the road a lot, and I’m getting tired from all the flights and preparation, pretty soon I’ll be off the road and there’ll be a lot of studio work. They present different challenges that I love and complement each other very well.
I am better prepared to do a studio show after I’ve been on the road, primarily because I get the human interaction. It adds credibility because the players, coaches, executives, referees and fans who see you at games go, “That guy actually does get out of the studio. He does watch basketball games.”
Those interactions give me more information and knowledge as well as the human touch of interacting with people. That helps me obviously during the game, but then when I take it back to the studio, it allows me to share different experiences beyond what I get from my regular research—which may involve calling people and doing a lot of reading and studying of stats and different information.
And preparing for the studio helps me to be better doing the games, because when you do a game, you really are locked into those two teams. In the days leading up to whatever game I have, I am really just zoned in on those two teams and what’s going on with them. But when I’m in the studio, I have to be prepared to talk about all 30 teams. I have to be able to talk about the past, present and future of the NBA.
When there are things that happen in a game that don’t necessarily pertain just to those two teams, or if there’s a breaking news story during the game, my experience and my knowledge base of talking about all 30 teams supply storylines that have me fully prepared for anything that may happen.
Ray: What’s the difference for you in saying, “When I’m going to do a studio show, this is how I prepare and when I’m going to do a game, this is how I prepare?”
Jared: I’m a little psychotic when it comes to preparation. I pride myself on that more than anything else. People can fairly or unfairly criticize my on-air delivery. They can criticize my wardrobe. They can criticize the words that come out of my mouth. The one thing I never want to have anybody criticize me for is making sure I’m the most prepared person that I can be for every broadcast—whether it’s a game in the field or whether it’s a studio show.
The most common question when I meet somebody who finds out what I do is, “Are you nervous”?
And my simple but complex answer is, “No, unless I’m unprepared.”
I owe it to not just myself, not just my family, but more importantly to the people who are watching who are investing their time and tuning into that particular broadcast to truly come prepared and give them something that they walk away with—whether they’re educated, entertained, or whether it’s just information that makes them want to continue watching.
I have different preparation tools that I use differently for a game than I do for a studio show. What is amazing is the amount of reading that I do to prepare because, if you spoke to anybody that I grew up with or any of the teachers that I ever had, they would ask “This guy?… This guy prides himself on doing a lot of reading?”
Growing up, it just wasn’t a big part of my life. But now it’s an everyday thing. You have to consume information so that you will always be ready to talk about whatever is relevant: The context of where the teams have been, leading into the game. What’s the latest injury report? Who’s been playing well? Who hasn’t been playing well? What are the coaches’ recent comments? Are they making changes to the rotation or the starting lineup? Who are the new faces? Who are faces that are lost?
Ray: When I hear an analyst who is unprepared, I want to ask them “Did it ever occur to you to do a little homework?” Maybe they are getting by on virtue of their charm, their personality, their name, or some extraneous factor and I’m embarrassed for them. Preparation is so crucial and critical to doing the job the right way.
Jared: I grew up wanting to do baseball. That was my first passion. My first job out of college was minor league baseball play-by-play, so I learned that you needed an A game plan, B game plan, C, D, all the way down to E or F… Going into it knowing you had all of those levels of things that you could get into, your goal was to never go past A or B. (Because if you’re going past A or B, that means the game was terrible.)
You understood all that information might not get in on a particular night, but you have it in your back pocket, you may need to use it in a different broadcast.
Ray: How about physically, mentally, emotionally, dealing with a sometimes frenetic schedule?
Jared: I don’t want to make it sound like it’s like the worst thing in the world. Recently, I woke up at three o’clock in the morning in a Toronto hotel room to get picked up at 3:45 and catch a 6 am flight back to Atlanta so I could go do a six-hour show. That schedule is not the most fun.
Yet, the night before I was on TNT with Ian Eagle calling a game involving the top two teams in the Eastern Conference… with a guy on the court who’s going to win MVP, getting the opportunity to interview him and then going to do Crunch Time, my favorite show on NBA-TV, with people I absolutely adore and love working with. I have one of the best producers in the business in my ear for that entire six-hour show.
How could I sit there and complain that I only got two hours of sleep?
Am I tired? Yes. Do I wish I had more time to prepare? Absolutely. But I’m literally doing exactly what 20 years ago I dreamed I would be doing. And if I take a pause to feel bad for myself for a second, I want to slap myself in the face.
Ray: So do you watch a lot of game film on top of all that?
Jared: I watch a lot of games live or on TV. That’s kind of my game film. But if there’s something I need to look up, I do so.
My job is not to break down X’s and O’s unless I’m relaying a conversation from a coach or a player or executive. My job is more fact-based, more story-based. I work with such high-level people who come from a background of either playing or coaching, where that’s more for them to do. I respect those roles, not because I can’t or shouldn’t do it, but because the viewers appreciate those comments and that analysis more from a former player or coach.
Ray: What do you think are the qualities that make an outstanding broadcaster?
Jared: It starts with the preparation, but the second thing is valuing the viewers.
I take a moment, whether it’s while I’m preparing or right before we go on air, to ask myself, “If I were at home right now watching this game or this show, what is it that I would want to watch and would keep my interest?”
We need to do that on a constant basis. Too often, there’s an ego or pride factor that gets in the way when we produce TV shows or content. And we don’t stop and think about what the viewers want as opposed to what we want.
Ray: Our goal at The Basketball Writers and Basketball Intelligence is to enhance our readers’ appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of the game. And actually, what first caught my attention about your work is that your approach seems very similar to that. I appreciate that it isn’t about you; it’s about the viewer.
Jared: It has to be. You have to have an ego to get through the competition and reach a certain level, but you can’t make it about yourself.
Maybe this is unique to Turner, but most often I’m on TV with either a Hall of Famer or a multi-time All-Star, or somebody who at least otherwise has an accomplished basketball resume. I can certainly help complement what he or she has to say; I can help provide some more context and more perspective, and maybe just a fact here or there to make sure that we are in the right place.
But ultimately, the person sitting at home recognizes that Shaq is the one who played at the highest level and was one of the most decorated human beings on the planet. So he gets the spotlight because that’s who the viewers are tuning in for.
I respect those roles, while not diminishing mine. I understand the boundaries and balancing things out. If you try to compete with their spotlight, you’re going to look like a jerk. It is also important to ask them the right questions so that they are commenting on something that is going to be valuable to the viewer.
Ray: It is critical that there’s someone like you there to ask them the question that fans want answered.
Jared: It’s knowing who you’re working with. I don’t ask Shaq the same questions that I would ask Steve Smith or the same questions that I would ask Stan Van Gundy. I ask them different questions because of the angle they’re coming from. Another thing that is important is listening.
Before we anticipate what question we’re going to ask, we should listen to what’s being said. Listen to how the conversation is going to be able to follow up on something that requires a follow up because the first part of it didn’t make sense or you want to draw more out of them. Knowing who you’re conversing with and listening to what they’re saying can make or break a broadcast.
I approach my work with the idea that most viewers aren’t accidentally landing on NBA-TV. People are intentionally and consciously tuning in because they have a strong interest in the NBA, and I respect that fact.
I think that I have a good base understanding of what the NBA is and what the storylines are. So with that, I try my best to provide a little deeper perspective or context of a story. I’m okay with sometimes going a little deeper on NBA-TV than maybe I would be on TNT or if we were just on a general sports network. The people who are watching are people who either watch us on a regular basis or consume NBA content on a very regular basis.
Ray: Have you ever been, not necessarily from TNT, but from any direction, pressured to do hot takes?
Jared: Never at Turner because my role there is typically either as a host or a reporter. And there are very few times when I’m on and I don’t have an analyst with me. So, even when there are times that I’m on solo, my role doesn’t present that.
I’ve done radio in the past. For about five or six years I hosted a show on Sirius XM NBA radio, and that provided a little more space for me to do things like that. But even there, never once did I get a call or did a producer or an executive suggest or demand that I have that type of mentality or produce those type of comments.
Ray: Do you have any advice that you want to share for people who aspire to do what you do?
Jared: I love to pay it forward and engage with as many aspiring broadcasters as I can. I love having those conversations.
The first thing is: Don’t wait to get the job to start preparing for the job. Many of the people who tell me they want to be in X role… If they were approaching a news director or executive producer or a talent department, they wouldn’t even be allowed in the door because they don’t know the first thing about that particular subject, whether it’s college football or Major League Baseball or whatever it is.
If you truly want a job, don’t wait until that opportunity presents itself to be prepared for that job.
The second piece of advice is to consume as much media as possible, whether it’s traditional television, podcasts, reading newspapers, etc. Whatever it is, just consume yourself with everything and don’t limit it to just what you’re thinking.
I’m deep into the NBA but I make it my business for a lot of different reasons to watch local and national news every day. And I do it for a couple of reasons, including to break up the insanity in my brain of just thinking about basketball. I want to be educated about the world, obviously. But I also want to watch how different types of networks are presenting content to help me when I present content.
I identify things that I love and things that I don’t like as a viewer that other platforms are doing so that I know things that I want to do and don’t want to do when I’m on the air.
The last thing is to take jobs that aren’t necessarily exactly what you want. Rarely does anybody ever get their dream job right out of the gate.
But what I can do is put myself on a path to getting that job by recognizing that the job I have the opportunity to interview for (or put myself in consideration for) is going to put me in position for my next job. The question to ask is, “Will this job put me in front of the right people and help me develop the skill set to advance to the next place I want to be?”
If the answer is “yes”, then, even if it’s not your dream job, even if it doesn’t sound perfect or check all the boxes, it is likely to still be worth your while.
Want more great NBA broadcaster profiles? Don’t miss Ray’s interview with Brooklyn Nets announcer Sarah Kustok.
Ray is a co-Founder of TBW and frequent contributor. He has a B.A. from Yale University and J.D. from the University of Southern California and is the owner of Ray LeBov and Associates lobbying and consulting firm as well as Capitol Seminars. He is currently Executive Director of the Association for Professional Basketball Research (i.e. the world’s’ pre-eminent professional basketball historians organization) since 2010. He is the founder, publisher, curator and editor of Basketball Intelligence (BI), including a daily email of the best 20-25 NBA-related internet stories as well as original content and podcasts.