Meghan McPeak is part of a club with few members: women who call play-by-play for the NBA.

While the Washington Wizards upended the Detroit Pistons, 102-97, in a preseason game last week, McPeak worked the game as the play-by-play announcer for the Monumental Sports Network. Though the local broadcast was seen only by those who had signed up for a membership for the Monumental Sports Network’s Web content and although it was just preseason, the significance of the moment was greater than the matchup.

Ahead of the game, McPeak said she felt “a little bit of nerves but that’s more the former player in me. It’s a game day. ... I still get the tingling sensation as I would as a player, but also from the standpoint that women don’t do this.”

Strides in NBA broadcasting

Few women predated McPeak in the realm of NBA broadcasting. On Valentine’s Day 1988, Leandra Reilly broke through that broadcast ceiling as the first when she called play-by-play for a New Jersey Nets-Philadelphia 76ers game. It’s only a recent development that women have made strides in NBA broadcasting.

Doris Burke, who was honored with the Curt Gowdy Media Award at this year’s Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame ceremonies, became the first full-time female color analyst for national NBA games. In 2016, Stephanie Ready and Ann Meyers Drysdale made history when they provided analysis for a Charlotte Hornets broadcast. Also last season, Sarah Kustok (Brooklyn Nets) and Kara Lawson (Washington Wizards) were hired as game analysts for regional broadcast networks.

Still, women have not been seen in the play-by-play seat — a fact not lost on McPeak’s senior producer for Wednesday night.

“I’ve been in sports producing for seven or 7½ years, and she is my first female play-by-play,” Chelsea Pflugh said. “And I’m pumped.

“I think Doris Burke and the all-female games that are happening now are a great thing, and everybody gets so excited about them and they’re shocked,” Pflugh said, mentioning the Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer pairing for NFL games. “I get mad that they’re shocked because it shouldn’t be a surprise that women can do it.”

‘The most dynamic and knowledgeable’

McPeak, who recently turned 31, spent the last three seasons calling games for the Raptors 905 in the G League. This upcoming G League season, McPeak and former NBA player Tony Massenburg will form the broadcast team for Capital City Go-Go games. A Canadian citizen and former collegiate point guard who played in Toronto, McPeak described her new play-by-play job as running the floor and setting up her broadcast teammate.

Meghan McPeak interviews G League President Malcolm Turner during a Toronto 905 broadcast. (Courtesy of Meghan McPeak)
Meghan McPeak interviews G League President Malcolm Turner during a Toronto 905 broadcast. (Courtesy of Meghan McPeak)

“I’m out there just tossing up alleys for Tony to throw down,” McPeak said. “It makes my life easier to just be that point guard and run the ship for things to run smoothly.”

It was this command that caught the eye of the Monumental Sports Network executives while searching for a play-by-play announcer. Caitlin Mangum, the director of content and programming for Monumental Sports Network, fell for McPeak’s purposeful speech and insight of the game.

“She really grabbed me in those first five seconds of watching her reel,” Mangum said.

Zach Leonsis, the son of Monumental Sports and Entertainment founder Ted Leonsis and the network’s general manager, felt that, out of almost 40 announcers who applied for the position, McPeak stood out.

“Ultimately, Meghan was the best because she was the most dynamic and knowledgeable candidate,” Leonsis said. “It’s as simple as that.”

“It’s fun for me because it allows me to, in a way, to still play. But I’m playing the game in a different way now,” McPeak said. “I could be having the worst day leading up to it … but as soon as that cue happens and the light goes on and that 48-minute clock starts to tick, everything’s forgotten.”

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