When LaChina Robinson stepped onto the basketball court for the first time as a teenager, it gave her a sense of belonging. What she didn’t realize then was that her love for the game, which she played through college, would fuel her lifelong passion for creating impactful change and paying it forward in the world of sports.
“I always say that playing basketball transcended not only my sports life but impacted my whole life and set the bar for what I could do in my future,” Robinson shares with ESSENCE.
The Alexandria, VA native, who grew up as one of 16 children and had reached a height of 6’4 by her mid-teens, says basketball opened her eyes to endless possibilities. “I understood that being tall can have its advantages, and that goes along with all the other intangibles that you learn in playing sports, like goal setting, communication, how to work in teams, and being in diverse groups of people,” she says.
When Robinson realized that her initial goal of playing professional basketball would not happen, she decided to pursue a career that would keep her connected to the sport she loved.
(Photo by Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)
Robinson started her career in athletic administration with Georgia Tech women’s basketball program, holding various roles, including director of basketball operations and special assistant to the head coach. She joined ESPN in 2009 as a college basketball analyst and reporter, and this spring marks her 15th season covering the WNBA. Robinson’s extensive work spans the sport’s major events, including the NCAA Tournament, Women’s Final Four, WNBA Playoffs, Finals, and Draft coverage. And Robinson has won numerous accolades and awards for her work as a host and sports analyst.
She says being a sports broadcaster is a dream role that started unintentionally when she took a leap of faith and made a career pivot.
“I was in my late 20s, and I felt like there was something else I was supposed to be doing around basketball. I jumped on the radio one day, just on a whim. I was asked to be an analyst for Georgia Tech, and I said sure. The minute I put on a headset, I fell in love, and I was like, ‘I would do this for free,’” she shared with an energy of excitement and vibrancy that could be felt through the screen during our conversation.
“In my mind, that’s what you want your career to be: something that wakes you up in the morning, with such purpose and such fulfillment that you would do it for free, but just happen to get paid for it,” Robinson adds.
But beyond her success in sports, Robinson says she longed to do more. She wanted to help other women, particularly Black women, reach their goals in the sports broadcasting industry, where they are significantly underrepresented.
(Photo by Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images
Despite gradual increases in the number of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) sports journalists, the number of BIPOC women reporters remains incredibly low, according to the most recent racial & gender report card from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport’s Sports Media. Industry-wide, 77.1 percent of sports reporters are white, while 11.8 percent are Black. More specifically, according to the report, Black women hold only 1.1 percent of sports reporting positions.
In 2016, Robinson co-founded Rising Media Stars, a shadowing program for young women of color interested in broadcasting careers. The Atlanta-based program provides one year of hands-on training, tools, and opportunities for women looking to start a career in sports media.
“Today, I feel like this is the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done in my life. I get such joy seeing other people realize their dreams; I have reached mine. So now it was like, ‘okay, how can I do this for other people?’ and it’s a matter of your network,” says Robinson.
There is so much passion and pride in her voice as she talks about some alumni of the program, like Andraya Carter, who is now an ESPN host, analyst, and reporter, and Zora Stephenson, who became the first woman to handle play-by-play coverage for a Milwaukee Bucks game in 2021. Stephenson is now the play-by-play voice for Peacock’s exclusive slate of Big Ten Women’s Basketball and as a sideline reporter for NBC Sports.
“I have gotten a chance to work with both of them on air. Andraya and I work in the studio together for the WNBA and ESPN, and then Zora and I have worked together on NBC broadcasts; we also covered the Beijing Olympics together. We never imagined that back when we got started. They were in our first class, and we would work together, but it just speaks to their level of talent and how quickly they’re rising in this business, and it just makes me so happy as a mentor to sit beside them and work with them,” Robinson shares.
Robinson and Carter are part of the WNBA Countdown on-air team, which is entirely led by Black women. When asked what it’s like to be able to sit next to other Black women to call basketball games and just do what she absolutely loves, this passionate sports broadcaster, mentor, and entrepreneur got emotional and fought back the tears.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s really a dream come true. The WNBA is a league of majority Black women who are amazing athletes. They’re moms, they’re business owners, they have vast philanthropic endeavors, and there’s so much depth to who they are. And to be able to cover them and amplify their stories, but to also give them representation as women of color is just an incredible feeling,” she says.
As she looks to the future, Robinson is incredibly excited about her role in helping propel other women forward in the industry.
“It is my responsibility to continue to use my voice and use my seat and in a position of power to speak to the change that needs to be made in women’s sports and broadcasting when it comes to the visibility of Black women,” Robinson says. “The biggest thing I can do is to show up and be excellent in who I am because when people see me, they may change how they see the capabilities of Black women. And that is so impactful, to be that example of excellence, so that someone behind me has an open door.
ESSENCE is highlighting the stories of Black women who are making a positive impact in the media industry. Some may be well-known, and others are just emerging, but the work they do brings important stories to us, be it on-screen, on the radio, on-stage and beyond. They make a difference in an industry where Black women are still underrepresented. These women are known for bringing stories to audiences globally. With Black Women In The News, we share theirs.