There are no coincidences in life.
While residing in Chicago, Illinois one summer day, I was assigned to my first Chicago Sky WNBA game. The first person I called was my sister sharing the assignment. Being Miami natives, she informed me Miami girls high school basketball legend Sylvia Fowles was selected on the team and currently a rookie.
In the 2012 season, I was assigned for the full season of writing along with scheduled play-by-play announcing. WNBA champion Ruth Riley was on the roster of the Sky’s team that season.
Riley was selected by the then Miami Sol as the fifth overall pick in the 2001 WNBA Draft. After Riley’s second season with the Sol, the franchise folded. The WNBA held a particular one-round dispersal draft, in which the remaining WNBA teams could select players from the Sol and from the Portland Fire, which had also folded. The Detroit Shock, by virtue of having the worst regular-season record in the WNBA in 2002, received the first pick in the dispersal draft and used it to select Riley.
She raised her game immediately, improving from her previous season totals in points, rebounds, blocked shots, and assists. The Shock, in an eye-opening turnaround, went from a 2002 season with the worst record in the WNBA (9-23) to a 2003 season with the best record (25-9) leading to the WNBA Championship. In the finals, the Shock defeated the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Sparks to win Detroit’s first WNBA title. Riley was named the MVP of the WNBA finals.
She added to her resume winning a second WNBA championship with the Shock in addition to an All-Star appearance. Riley was the first woman to be named MVP of both an NCAA and WNBA Championship team. Riley has also won two NWBL Titles, a EuroCup Championship, and was a member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team that captured the gold medal in Athens.
Fast forward to her tenure with the Sky; Riley was on the roster with the team for the one season I was fully assigned. There was not always dialogue, but the respect was there. Her career ended with the Atlanta Dream after 13 solid seasons.
I have been back in Miami for six years, fortunate enough to cover the Miami Heat while continually working with the WNBA in the summer seasons.
There are no coincidences.
Now “Riley Hunter,” no relation to Heat team president Pat Riley is back with the organization that was connected to the Sol.
The Heat announced they hired Riley Hunter to be the team’s TV Studio and Radio Analyst beginning this season. In her dual role, Riley Hunter will assume the radio analyst responsibilities for all HEAT home games and will serve as the television studio analyst for all HEAT road games on FOX Sports Sun. Riley Hunter will also appear during home pre, and post games shows on the team’s exclusive television partner.
“I am thrilled to re-join the Heat family as the newest member of their very talented and reputable broadcast team,” said Riley Hunter on a conference call. “As a rookie in 2001, Miami provided me the perfect foundation for a long and successful WNBA career, and I am incredibly excited to now embark on my NBA rookie broadcasting season back in South Florida where it all began.”
Riley Hunter becomes the first female analyst in the franchise’s 31 seasons. Julie Donaldson and Jill Martin previously worked as Heat broadcast hosts.
Riley Hunter is uniquely qualified for the role, given her extensive basketball experience and knowledge moreover serving as the first Vice President of the WNBA Players Association in nine of her 13 WNBA seasons.
“Since day one as a rookie here, I knew this organization was special, it has treated me like family,” Riley Hunter stated. “Taking care of everyone under the umbrella of the Heat family, I have experienced that even after moving on to different teams because Miami has been my home.”
“Exciting times as woman to have this opportunity, we are entering into an era where it is no longer a story to hire a woman,” Riley Hunter stated. “The perspectives, the values, and experience are what matters.”
Riley Hunter replaces John Crotty, who this season takes over as the television analyst for Tony Fiorentino. She makes her debut alongside Mike Inglis on the radio broadcast of Monday’s exhibition against the visiting Orlando Magic.
The hire was after NBA commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo to NBA teams expressing to hire women and improve workplaces after a Sports Illustrated article in February detailed a toxic work environment for women in the Dallas Mavericks franchise.
“Use this opportunity to make changes and create a dialogue within your organizations about workplace policies, procedures, and respectful conduct,” Silver wrote.
Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban was not personally involved in any of the incidents of sexual harassment and improper workplace conduct within the Mavericks’ organization. The investigation made clear that others within the organization were allowing an environment in which workplace misconduct was rampant.
Riley Hunter has previous broadcast experience in both television and radio roles. She has served as a TV and radio analyst for Notre Dame’s women’s basketball program in each season since 2002, covering several of their recent Final Four appearances. During her time in San Antonio, Riley spent time calling games for both the G-League affiliate team and the WNBA San Antonio Shock, while simultaneously serving as their general manager.
“Basketball, the game itself whether it is the WNBA or the NBA, the execution, the preparation, all of those lend to being a champion, I have been blessed to have that experience,” Riley Hunter stated.
There are no coincidences.
Riley Hunter is beginning on the last season for Dwyane Wade, who is expected to retire at the end of the season. Last season, Wade averaged 16.3 points on 44.3 percent shooting in the Heat’s first-round playoff elimination by the Philadelphia 76ers, scoring 28 points in Game 2 and 25 in Game 4.
“I’m lucky to catch the last year of Dwyane’s career,” Riley Hunter stated. “His legacy is so rich because of what he has been able to with his platform in sports. It is going to great to call the game and honor him the entire season.”
The 12-time All-Star has titled his final season “One Last Dance.” The beat goes on for me; the new hit for Ruth will be a new one for many young woman who she will inspire will hear her for years to come.