Jim Gray (sportscaster)
Gray at the Boardwalk Hall on June 4, 2011
Jim Gray is an American sportscaster. He is currently with Showtime, Fox, and Westwood One radio network. He has previously worked as a reporter, commentator, and interviewer with ESPN, NBC Sports and CBS Sports. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, reporter, producer. and executive producer of sports features and documentaries.
Gray started his career as a video tape editor and sports reporter in Denver at KBTV (now KUSA) the ABC affiliate, from 1977 to 1981. In 1981 Gray moved to Philadelphia to work for PRISM-TV broadcasting a sports studio show, and as a host and reporter for the 76ers and Phillies broadcasts until the end of 1983. During his time in Denver and Philadelphia, Gray also worked for ESPN as a free-lance reporter beginning in 1979, then was hired as the networks only full-time reporter working in Los Angeles from 1984 to 1987. Gray then moved to NBC Sports where his assignments included NFL Live, the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, and Boxing. He returned to NBC Sports in 1994 working on the NFL, NBA, MLB, Notre Dame Football, PGA Golf, as an interviewer and reporter, also working on the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, and 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and 2012 Summer Olympics in London (radio). From 1989 to 1994, Gray worked for CBS Sports as a reporter and interviewer for coverage of the NFL, NBA, NCAA, and Major League Baseball. He also worked on the NFL Today studio show, and the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, and the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer.
Gray began his career in boxing broadcasting for the closed circuit telecasts and satellite distribution for Top Rank and Kingvision, beginning in 1978, as a reporter and interviewer. He then covered the sport for ESPN SportsCenter, and NBC Sports. In 1992, Gray joined Showtime as the reporter for the Showtime Championship Boxing Series. In 1997, he won a National Emmy Award for individual achievement for his work on the Tyson-Holyfield fight.
Since 2000 Gray is the studio host for NFL Monday Night Football on the Westwood One Radio network as well as the Super Bowl and college basketball for the NCAA Final Four and National Championship. On Monday Night Football and the Super Bowl, Gray's studio partners for the pre-game and halftime have been Mike Ditka (2001-2009), Phil Simms (2004-2008), Don Shula (2006-2009), Larry Fitzgerald (2008-current), and Tom Brady (2009-current). Gray has also worked on the live radio broadcast coverage of The Masters for CBS Radio Sports and Westwood One since 1989.
Notable events covered and athletes interviewed
Gray has worked on many major sporting events including the live network broadcast of numerous Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Finals, NCAA Final Fours, Olympics, The Masters, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and World Boxing Title Fights. Gray has broken numerous sports stories and has scored a number of exclusive interviews with Muhammad Ali, John Elway, Julius Erving, Mike Tyson, Kobe Bryant, Joe Montana, Eric Dickerson, Carl Lewis, Michael Phelps, Ron Artest, Dennis Rodman, Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Barry Bonds, LeBron James and others.
Gray has won 12 National Emmy Awards and has three times been named the Sports Reporter of the Year by the American Sportscasters Association (ASA). He was awarded the Sports Broadcaster of the Year in 1997 by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA).
Outside of sports, Gray has interviewed U.S. Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, G.W. Bush, Obama, Trump and other world figures such as Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, U.S. Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and John Glenn. Gray has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Gray was named as one of the 50 Greatest Sports Broadcasters of All-Time by David Halberstam.
On February 5, 2017 in Houston, TX, Gray was the pregame, halftime, and postgame host, and live in game reporter for Super Bowl 51 on Westwood One Radio between the New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons. It marked the 20th Super Bowl that Gray has been on the live radio or television broadcast of the game, more than any other broadcaster in Super Bowl history. President Donald Trump was interviewed at halftime.
Gray was the Executive Producer of the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, "First Pitch", on President George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch at Game 3 of the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium a few weeks after the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001. The film was nominated for an Emmy.
Gray was the reporter on the air for several major sports events including the Malice at the Palace for the Pistons vs Pacers when Ron Artest went into the stands after a fan. Gray was also on the air for Showtime for the Tyson/Holyfield fight in 1997 in which Tyson bit off Holyfield's earlobe, interviewing the referee who disqualified Tyson, Mills Lane, and Tyson just moments after he bit Holyfield. The interview won an Emmy. Gray also reported on the Olympic bombing from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. In 1988, Gray was at the stadium and then the airport when Ben Johnson was disqualified for using steroids at the Seoul Olympics. His reporting won an Emmy for Journalism.
Gray has worked as a producer on the 1984 Olympic Games of Los Angeles on the Official Film, "16 Days of Glory", directed by Bud Greenspan. Gray has been a reporter and interviewer on the live television broadcast of the Olympic Games in 1988 (Summer,Seoul, NBC), 1992 (Winter, Albertville CBS,and Summer, Barcelona), 1994 (Winter, Lillehammer, CBS ), 1996 (Summer, Atlanta, NBC), 2000 (Summer, Sydney, NBC), 2008 (Summer, Beijing, NBC), and 2012 (Summer, London, NBC Radio/Westwood One) on the live radio broadcast as a commentator and interviewer. .
Gray broke the news in a live interview on ESPN with Rams running back, and single season rushing record holder, Eric Dickerson, on being traded from the Los Angeles Rams to the Indianapolis Colts. on Halloween 1987. That interview was hailed by ESPN anchor Tom Mees, as "the night that ESPN SportsCenter truly arrived and was born. We have now gone from a highlight service and interviews to a legitimate news gathering and breaking news operation."
On March 22, 1989, Gray got the exclusive and only television interview with NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, in Palm Springs, California, when he suddenly decided to retire.
On October 5, 1993, on CBS, during the White Sox vs Blue Jays playoff game, Gray reported during the game that Bulls minority owner Eddie Einhorn told him that Michael Jordan would retire from the NBA Chicago Bulls the next day. Jordan was in attendance at the game with Einhorn. Gray followed Jordan out of the stadium to the parking lot with a camera crew and Jordan acknowledged and confirmed to Gray that what Einhorn had told him was true, and that he would retire.
During game 4 of the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals, Gray interviewed Leonard Armato, Shaquille O'Neal's agent, while the game was going on with questions about the future of Shaquille O'Neal and then head coach Brian Hill. After a series of tough questions, Gray ended the interview by saying to Armato "try to enjoy the game now that you've been grilled!" The interview served as a platform for O'Neal and set the stage as a month later O'Neal left the Magic and signed with the Lakers.
During the 1997 NBA Finals, Gray interviewed Dennis Rodman during an NBA on NBC segment. After repeatedly questioning Rodman about his comments about the Mormon religion when (the Chicago Bulls were in Salt Lake City to play the Jazz during the Finals), Rodman finally had enough of the questions, walked off the interview set with tears in his eyes and removed the microphone without assistance. NBC showed the ending of the interview as it happened during the NBA Finals pre-game show.
On June 24, 2000 in Glasgow, Scotland, Gray did the interview with Mike Tyson after his swift knockout of Lou Savarese where Tyson proclaimed he "wanted to eat (Lennox Lewis's) children."
Gray has been known for his close relationship with Kobe Bryant, which showed in the immediate aftermath of Bryant's sexual assault case (the night when the news broke, Gray appeared on SportsCenter in defense of Bryant's character) and in several sideline interviews. It was Gray whom Bryant called to vent about teammate Shaquille O'Neal in October of that year (a phone call that started one of O'Neal and Bryant's worst disagreements).
Gray's interviews with maligned baseball player Barry Bonds in 2006 and 2007 were the only one-on-one interviews Bonds granted after breaking both Babe Ruth's and Hank Aaron's home run records. In both interviews, he denied using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.
On August 13, 2011, following the Abner Mares vs. Joseph Agbeko boxing match for the WBC Silver and IBF Bantamweight championships, Gray interviewed match referee Russell Mora and confronted him about how he allowed Mares to get away with numerous low blows throughout the match, including a left hook to Agbeko's cup during the 11th round, which Mora ruled as a knockdown even though the blow was clearly visible to him.
On May 7, 2015, Gray interviewed New England Patriot quarterback and 4 time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady at Salem State College, in Salem, MA., regarding Brady's involvement and the Patriots role in Deflategate. It was the same day that the NFL announced the results of the Wells Report. It is the only one-on-one interview that Brady has done on the subject.
The Pete Rose interview
The most notable interview of Gray's sportscasting career occurred with former baseball player Pete Rose. During Game 2 of the 1999 World Series, Rose was introduced as a member of the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. After the ceremony, Gray (who was covering the series for NBC) asked Rose about the Dowd Report's allegations that he had gambled on major league baseball games, which he repeatedly denied:
Jim Gray: Pete, let me ask you now. It seems as though there is an opening, the American public is very forgiving. Are you willing to show contrition, admit that you bet on baseball and make some sort of apology to that effect?
Pete Rose: Not at all, Jim. I'm not going to admit to something that didn't happen. I know you're getting tired of hearing me say that. But I appreciate the ovation. I appreciate the American fans voting me on the All-Century Team. I'm just a small part of a big deal tonight.
Gray: With the overwhelming evidence in that report, why not make that step...
Rose: No. This is too much of a festive night to worry about that because I don't know what evidence you're talking about. I mean, show it to me...
Gray: Well, the Dowd Report says- but we don't want to debate that, Pete.
Rose: Well, why not? Why do we want to believe everything he says?
Gray: You signed a paper acknowledging the ban. Why did you sign it if you didn't agree with it?
Rose: It also says I can apply for reinstatement after one year, if you remember correctly. In the press conference, as a matter of fact, my statement was "I can't wait for my little girl to be a year old so I can apply for reinstatement". At my press conference. So you forgot to add that clause that was in there.
Rose: No, and that kind of surprises me. It's only been two years, though, and he's got a lot of things on his mind. But I hope to some day.
Gray: Pete, it's been 10 years since you've been allowed on the field. Obviously, the approach that you have taken has not worked. Why not, at this point, take a different approach?
Rose: Well, when you say it hadn't worked, what do you exactly mean?
Gray: You're not allowed in baseball. You're not allowed to earn a living in the game you love. And you're not allowed to be in the Hall of Fame.
Rose: Well, I took that approach and that was to apply for reinstatement. I hope Bud Selig considers that and gives me an opportunity. I won't need a third chance. All I need is a second chance.
Gray: Pete, those who will hear this tonight will say you have been your own worst enemy and continue to be. How do you respond to that?
Rose: In what way are you talking about?
Gray: By not acknowledging what seems to be overwhelming evidence.
Rose: Yeah, I'm surprised you're bombarding me like this. I mean I'm doing an interview with you on a great night, a great occasion, a great ovation. Everybody seems to be in a good mood. And you're bringing up something that happened 10 years ago.
Gray: I'm bringing it up because I think people would like to see ... Pete, we've got to go, we've got a game.
Rose: This is a prosecutor's brief, not an interview, and I'm very surprised at you. I am, really.
After conducting the interview, Gray offered no apology for his line of questioning toward Rose:
I stand by it, and I think it was absolutely a proper line of questioning. . . I don't have an agenda against Pete Rose . . . Pete was the one who started asking me questions. I definitely wouldn't have gone (that) direction if he had backed off. My intent was to give Pete an opportunity to address issues that have kept him out of baseball. I thought he might have had a change of heart. . . . He hadn't had an opening in 10 years. . . . If I had let that go, all of you (reporters) would have had me on here today for a totally different reason.
However, after the heavy criticism heaped onto Gray and NBC, Gray did offer the following apology on-air prior to the start of Game 3:
(I) thought it was important to ask Pete Rose if this was the right moment for him to make an apology. If in doing so the interview went on too long and took some of the joy of the occasion, then I want to say to baseball fans everywhere that I am very sorry about this.
- Jim Gray: Tell us about that pitch.
- Chad Curtis: I can't do it. As a team, we kind of decided, because of what happened with Pete, we're not going to talk out here on the field.
- Frager, Ray (2008-07-16). "Your NBC Olympics lineup". Medium Well. The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on 2008-08-03.
- Martzke, Rudy (July 9, 2003). "In Bryant case, sportscasters urge no rush to judgment". USATODAY.com. USA Today.
- "Kobe critical of Shaq's leadership, The transcript of Kobe Bryant's interview with ESPN's Jim Gray". ESPN NBA. 28 October 2003.
- Kurtz, Howard (July 10, 2010). "Jim Gray's LeBron James interview draws criticism for its soft questioning". WASHINGTONPOST.com. Washington Post.
- "Top 10 Most Embarrassing TV/Radio Interview Moments, #5". Sports Illustrated. CNN. 5 August 2004.
- "Pete Rose Jim Gray interview 1999 ALL CENTURY TEAM full clip". YouTube. 14 April 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
- Brad Schultz (2005). "Pete Rose Transcript Jim Gray". Sports Media: Planning, Producing and Planning. Focal Press.
- Keeler, Sean (1999-10-26). "Gray offers no apology, defends his questioning". The Cincinnati Post. E. W. Scripps Company. Archived from the original on 2001-07-18.
- George Solomon; Dave Sheinin (27 October 1999). "Gray's Apology Is Not Enough for Players". Washington Post. p. D1.
- Darren Everson (27 October 1999). "Chad Shows No Curtis-y To Gray After Game-winner". New York Daily News.
- Ohm Youngmisuk (28 October 1999). "For Curtis, No Gray Area But Joe Says Snub Wasn't Team Effort". New York Daily News.