Profile: Philadelphia 76er’s Kate Scott is Calling the Shots
Kate Scott is making history
By Kate Morgan

The first time Kate Scott called a game, she kind of bombed.

It was the mid-2000s, not long after she’d graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and a producer she knew was working on high school football games for a small TV station.

“It was a local game of the week on a really low-key local station – almost like public television,” says Scott, now 38. The producer asked her to do the play-by-play, and she anxiously agreed.

“I was awful at it,” she laughs. “It’s funny listening back to those first games I called, because they’re so bad. But I loved it. It was as close to the emotions I used to experience as an athlete as I’d ever felt.”

Scott, a lifelong multi-sport athlete, missed the adrenaline, anxiety and pressure of being on the field. As a play-by-play announcer, she rediscovered that feeling.

“If you make a mistake you just keep rolling,” she says. “You’re talking to players and coaches before the game, you’re on the field, you’re on the court. This felt like the closest I could be to the games I loved without playing them.”

In the years since, Scott has called every major sport at the world’s highest levels and on the biggest networks in the country. She has done play-by-play announcing for hockey, soccer, minor and major league baseball and college football. She was the first woman to call a Golden State Warriors game and the first to call an NFL game on the radio. And in September, she made history again when the 76ers announced she’d be taking over as the team’s fulltime play-by-play announcer when Marc Zumoff retired after close to 3 decades behind the mic.

Around the same time, the Milwaukee Bucks announced they, too, had hired a woman – Lisa Byington – to the fulltime announcer role.

“It’s really great to be starting this journey at the same time,” Scott says, “because we can lean on each other.”

Byington and Scott are the first women to hold the title, not just in the NBA, but in any major men’s sport.

“I didn’t think a team would ever be willing to make that leap,” Scott says. “There’s a difference between, ‘Hey we’re having an all-female broadcast on International Women’s Day,’ and this. The soundtrack people have listened to for 27 years has been Marc Zumoff’s male voice. All of the sports we’ve watched our whole lives have been voiced by men.”

In fact, Scott says, when she was growing up, she didn’t realize there was room for women anywhere in pro sports.

“There were no professional women’s leagues when I was a kid,” she says, “and there were so few women doing sports media I didn’t think it was a possibility. I wanted to get into sports broadcasting after I started doing some TV and reporting in college. Women were doing sideline reporting at football games. It was like, ok, you get to be there, it’s live, seems fun. But I thought that was the ceiling for me.”

Even after she discovered her love for play-by-play announcing, Scott says she didn’t think there was a place for her in pro sports. “The big dream was the Olympics,” she says. And last year when she started calling sporting events for NBC, the network with the Olympic contract, “I knew I was getting closer, but I thought, ‘maybe in a couple years, maybe a winter Olympics.’”

Then, Scott’s job – and the entire sporting world – came to a crashing halt in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Like a lot of folks in sports broadcasting, a year ago I wasn’t sure if my career was over,” Scott says. “There were no sports. It was a really scary, trying time because I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get the chance to do this again. But I’ve been one of the lucky ones.”

When the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were rescheduled for 2021, “NBC called and said, ‘hey, we’re really interested in the growth you’ve made in the last few years, do you want to call men and women’s hoops at the Olympics?’ I said a lot of bad words, and then I said yes.”

Just as she was gearing up to fly to Japan, Scott got the job offer from the 76ers, capping off a truly whirlwind year.

“I was in Boston calling hockey in March, then flew back to call the Golden State Warriors,” she says. “I called some softball, then soccer for Fox. Then it was Olympic basketball, and college football was starting – then the Sixers called.”

You name it, Scott’s called it – a depth of experience that has made her a better announcer, she says. “Different sports require different things from you. Some are slower or faster than others, some have fewer or more players. I love the variety. It keeps me on my toes, I learn something different with each one. But in all these sports I’ve had to prove myself – because I’m a woman – again and again and again.”

Now, she’s working to prove herself to Philly fans, and she knows that’ll take hard work. When the team’s in town, Scott attends every practice she can. She’s constantly reading and learning about the team and city. “I’m watching games from the past to learn the history fans lived through, Googling important names in the history of the organization and going down rabbit holes to learn about them,” she says. “Really just immersing myself in all things Sixers.”

After all, that’s the only way to make it in this town, a place Scott hopes to stay for a long, long time.

“You come to Philly, and every person cares about every sport,” she says. “What better situation could I walk into? Whether it’s the Birds or Sixers or Flyers or Phils, it is a sports town. I am so excited to be here, and I know it’ll just take some time for me to learn the city and the fans, and for the fans to accept me, but I’ve had a great first couple of months.”

The next few promise to be just as exciting as the Sixers make headlines, not only for their dominant play early in the season, but also for their ongoing issues with Ben Simmons, the star player whose long absence from the court extended into November.

“I’m coming into a really intriguing situation,” is all Scott has to say about it, “and what more could you want? It’s a team that is good, that has potential to be great. They have a great coach, great leadership, and then…you’ve got some question marks.”

December 2021
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