Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame Welcomes Nine Industry Legends During Touching NYC Ceremony
Ackerman, Barrow, Collinsworth, Fletcher, Hellmuth, EJ, Joyce, Petitti, and Zachary are inducted
The sports-broadcasting industry came together in New York on Tuesday night to induct the 16th class of the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Nine legends from both in front of and behind the camera were inducted during an unforgettable, emotional ceremony at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel. Hosted by CBS Sports’ James Brown, this year’s event once again donated all table sales to the Sports Broadcasting Fund, which supports industry members in times of need.
This year’s class of inductees comprises Val Ackerman, Big East Conference commissioner and first president of the WNBA; Lance Barrow, former CBS Sports producer; Cris Collinsworth, NBC Sunday Night Football analyst; Tom Fletcher, inventor of the super-slo-mo camera and other innovations; Steve Hellmuth, former NBA EVP, media operations and technology; Ernie Johnson Jr., long-time NBA on TNT studio-show host; Andrea Joyce, leading sports reporter; Tony Petitti, Big Ten Conference commissioner and former TV-network executive; and Jeff Zachary, legendary camera operator.
Cris Collinsworth, the Familiar Football Analyst in Primetime
Hanging up the cleats after a 15-year playing career and moving directly into sports broadcasting can be quite daunting, but no one has transitioned as seamlessly as Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer Cris Collinsworth. Becoming synonymous with immense energy, the expertise of breaking down a play with precision, and the smoothest entrance to a broadcast in the business, the 17-time Sports Emmy Award winner — nine as game analyst, eight as studio analyst — is one of the most accomplished on-air talent in sports television.
The only NFL analyst other than John Madden to receive a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Event Analyst, Collinsworth has taken home the award nine times. He currently sits alongside Mike Tirico in the NBC Sunday Night Football announce booth. His career began in 1990 when he joined NBC Sports as a game analyst for NFL coverage and selected college-football broadcasts. In 2005, he entered the NFL on Fox broadcast booth alongside play-by-play announcer Joe Buck and former quarterback Troy Aikman to form the broadcaster’s lead broadcast team.
Val Ackerman, Basketball Pioneer, and Women’s-Sports Trailblazer
Few people in the history of sports business and media have built a more successful and impactful career on making the sports world better than she experienced it than Val Ackerman. Founding president of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). President of USA Basketball. An executive behind the iconic “Dream Team.” Commissioner of the Big East Conference. Ackerman’s life has taken her across the executive offices of her beloved game of basketball and forever reshaped the world of sports — for athletes, for fans, for television, for women, for all of us.
A member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Ackerman has served since 2013 as commissioner of the Big East Conference. She previously served as an attorney and senior executive at the NBA and, as founding president of the WNBA, helped lead the groundbreaking launch and the day-to-day operations in the league’s formative years. She has served as president of USA Basketball and as U.S. representative to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and advised various organizations on women’s sports strategies.
Tom Fletcher, a Passion for Production Innovation
Many familiar angles of sports coverage did not exist before Tom Fletcher: in NBA and big-time college-basketball coverage, for example, the ubiquitous “Above the Rim” (atop the shot clock) or remote-controlled “Slam Cam” (behind the glass) camera position. Coverage has come a long way since the days of the 1991 NBA Finals with a full-size Hot Head or the 1994 NBA All-Star game, which deployed an industrial security camera requiring two people to operate it.
Transforming sports production with such innovations as the super-slo-mo camera and smaller remote-controlled and RF cameras, Fletcher changed the nature of sports coverage by allowing cameras to be located to deliver maximum emotional impact. Tom and his father, Archie, started Fletcher Chicago in 1987, and the company now provides specialty cameras to NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL broadcasters throughout North America.
Andrea Joyce, the Resourceful Reporter
During a career that spans nearly 30 years on the national stage, Andrea Joyce has spent time at ESPN, CBS Sports, and now NBC Sports, building a reputation for solid reporting on a wide range of global and national sports events. Since 2000, she has been a reporter for NBC Sports Group. She has served in a variety of roles at 12 Olympic Games, including the past eight with NBC. She has served as a reporter for NBA on NBC and WNBA on NBC broadcasts.
Joyce debuted as a reporter for ESPN at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Summer Games and worked three Winter Games for CBS: 1992 in Albertville, France; 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway; and 1998 in Nagano, Japan. Since her first Games, in 1988, she has embraced the Games’ communal nature, which brings countries of the world together. An appreciation for sports, the tact to comprehend others’ situations, and the ability to grab the story without being inconsiderate or disrespectful has carried Joyce to the pinnacle of her profession.
Steve Hellmuth, NBA’s Technology Visionary
Firsts are always an important part of a Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame résumé, and Steve Hellmuth, recently retired EVP, operations and technology, NBA and former chairman of the SVG Advisory Board, oversaw his share of firsts. Under his guidance, the NBA became the first league to develop an advanced statistical system that drove a wide variety of services and to deliver live scores and statistics to the internet. In addition, the NBA was the first league to develop a centralized instant-replay system, to develop a digital archive, and to tackle new technologies — live streaming, 3D, VR, volumetric capture — in a meaningful way.
In a career spanning nearly 45 years, Hellmuth enjoyed working on a mix of production, live events, systems design, and technology. At the NBA, he developed statistical systems, directed facility construction, and created digital-media archives. Before joining the NBA, he spent two years as SVP/GM, Major League Baseball Productions, supervising the programming and production departments.
Jeff Zachary, King of the Steadicam
It isn’t very often that a child in front of the camera becomes enraptured by what is going on behind it, but that is what happened to Jeff Zachary, who, as a child, appeared in Armour hot-dog commercials. That youthful interest became a Hall of Fame career for Zachary, who is considered one of the all-time-great Steadicam operators.
The first person to bring Steadicam to NFL coverage and the winner of 11 Sports Emmys, he brought a new angle of coverage to countless events. Among the highlights of his 47-year career as a camera operator: Ali vs. Holmes 1980; FIFA World Cup Finals 1994; 26 NBA All-Star Games/Slam Dunk Contests; 12 Super Bowls; 15 Kentucky Derbys; 13 MLB All-Star Home Run Derbys; U.S. Open Golf; 36 years of ABC’s Monday Night Football, ESPN’s and NBC’s Sunday Night Football, Fox NFL, CBS NFL, TNT NFL; nine Presidential Inaugurations; four Olympics; 33 years of boxing; and three America’s Cups. Always an innovator, he introduced the RoverCam at CBS’s PGA Championship, providing a new perspective for sports coverage.
Tony Petitti, the Renaissance Man of Sports Media
In the storied history of sports broadcasting, few stories are as expansive as that of Tony Petitti’s career. In key roles overseeing programming and production, running TV networks on the local and national level, in Major League Baseball’s front office, in corporate America, and now as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, he has seemingly done it all in more than three decades in the business. And he has done it all while maintaining his status as one of the most respected and esteemed figures in the industry.
Prior to becoming Big Ten commissioner, Petitti served in senior executive roles for ABC, CBS, and NBC Sports. He helped create the Bowl Championship Series to determine college football’s national champion and joined Major League Baseball in 2008 to create, launch, and oversee programming at MLB Network before being promoted to the league’s chief operating officer.
Lance Barrow, Front-Bench Maestro on the Greens and the Gridiron
From the greens of Augusta National to the gridiron of Super Bowl Sunday, Lance Barrow has had an indelible impact not only on the CBS Sports legacy but on the entire sports-broadcasting industry. During more than 40 years at CBS Sports, he created some of the most memorable moments in sports-television history as coordinating/lead producer of CBS’s golf coverage and NFL coverage for two decades.
The 13-time Emmy Award winner started his career at CBS Sports as a spotter for Pat Summerall in 1976 and proceeded to produce the Masters, the PGA Championship, PGA TOUR golf, four Super Bowls, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Olympic Winter games, Daytona 500, and more.
Ernie Johnson Jr., Sportscasting’s Steady Studio Superman
Over the past 30 years, one studio show has cemented its place as the greatest in its class: TNT’s Inside the NBA. Although he would be the last to admit it, much of the program’s success reflects its smart, steady, and gifted host, Ernie Johnson Jr.: one of sports broadcasting’s great audience surrogates.
In addition to hosting Inside the NBA for 34 years, the six-time Sports Emmy Award winner has hosted studio coverage for TNT Sports and CBS’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship since 2011 and has been an integral part of MLB on TBS game and studio coverage since 2007. Throughout his storied career at TNT Sports, Johnson — son of former longtime Atlanta Braves radio and television commentator Ernie Johnson Sr. — has been a mainstay of TNT sports coverage from professional golf — PGA Championship, British Open, PGA Grand Slam — to NFL, Wimbledon, and Olympics in the early ’90s.
In one of the most memorable moments of the ceremony, Johnson’s longtime Inside the NBA cohorts Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kenny Smith surprised him on stage as he accepted his award.
Brandon Costa, Ken Kerschbaumer, and Kristian Hernandez contributed to this report.