Sportscaster and Fox News contributor Jim Gray is set to receive the inaugural “Insight Media Award” during Enshrinement Weekend in late August for his achievements in sports reporting over the last 40 years.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame previewed the award in a press release on Friday and praised Gray for his unique style.
“The Insight Media Award honors an individual or organization that has consistently probed into salient issues and brought a unique, provoking and non-traditional perspective to fans, participants and consumers of sporting news,” they said. “This award honors an individual or organization that is courageous in the pursuit of challenging but imperative content and thereby offers a distinctive viewpoint.”
Gray, who is known for interviewing athletes such as boxer Mike Tyson and basketball stars Lebron James and Michael Jordan, spoke with Fox News about the award and said it felt surreal to be receiving it.
“It’s a great honor and I’m really just grateful and so appreciative of being able to have this happen and [am grateful] to the people of the Hall of Fame,” he said Saturday.
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“It makes you think of all the great athletes and coaches who allowed me to interview them thousands of times and to be able to see their achievement and excellence up close, and to be able to chronicle it and talk to them and get to know them — It’s almost an indescribable feeling of joy to be able to have this recognition,” he added.
Gray, who has interviewed every president since Richard Nixon, thanked those who’ve helped him throughout his career and said he would never have been able to reach such heights by himself.
“Nobody does anything in television and radio by themselves. Nobody,” he said.
“I’ve had a lot of help. Not only from all of the players and coaches and administrators in the NBA and the Final Fours, NCAA, but also all of the great broadcasters who I’ve worked with and been a part of their team — producers, directors, graphics, cameramen, researchers, everybody,” he Gray said.
He met his wife Frann through former Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly and said he owed a great deal of his personal happiness to the people he connected with on the job. He also expressed a particular fondness for his friend, the late Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash last month with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others.
“I think back to all the great friendships in basketball that have come from being able to cover these guys,” Gray continued. “Julius Erving. Chuck Daly introduced me to my wife. Julius became my best friend from my early days in Philadelphia — to the special relationships that I’ve had with Bill Walton over the years and Kobe Bryant, who let me interview him hundreds upon hundreds of times. It’s been an amazing journey.”
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Gray said he still keeps the photo from the last interview Byrant did with him, in his Los Angeles Lakers uniform.
“I got a picture on my desk of the last interview that Kobe Bryant ever did in his uniform,” he said. “And it says ‘from the first to the last — love you brother. Kobe 24.'”
When asked what his favorite moment in reporting was, Gray struggled to pick just one but listed many marquee moments, from Lebron’s first game to Jordan’s last.
He then recalled his admiration for the late sportscaster Curt Gowdy, whom the award is being given in honor of, and praised him as his childhood role model.
“I grew up in Denver. Curt Gowdy was probably the first voice in my head as a youngster, watching AFL games in Denver as a Bronco fan,” Gray said. “To win the Curt Gowdy award… That means a lot to me. Because it reflects to me, somebody who I just looked up to at a very early age — admired and respected. I always thought, ‘Wouldn’t’ that be great to be like Curt Gowdy.'”
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Gray has worked more than 25 NBA Finals, 20 NBA All-Star Games and more than 20 NCAA Final Fours. He has won 12 Emmys for his work.
The Insight Media Award will be presented to him during the weekend of Aug. 28-30.
Sportswriter and commentator Michael Wilbon and NBA play-by-play commentator Mike Breen will be receiving the Curt Gowdy Media Award on that same weekend.