It cost more money for Brian Windhorst to cover the Eastern Conference Finals than it did for him to go to Paris. As Windhorst put it, ESPN spends a lot of money on a lot of things.
While he understands the nature of the business and how the optics present themselves amidst mass layoffs from the company, Windhorst was provided with the unique opportunity to cover the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery live from Paris in the middle of the night.
“I thought it was an incredible, once-in-a-career opportunity,” Windhorst told Brandon Contes on the Awful Announcing podcast, regarding his interview with Victor Wembanyama following the NBA Draft Lottery. “And even if the interview wasn’t good, which kind of, how could it be? I literally had a 75-second window because we had to start a Western Conference Finals game… and Victor himself had to do this in the middle of the biggest moment of his life.
“The fact that we were able to get him to talk about those things within two minutes, I thought, was a great accomplishment. And I won’t let anybody put me off of it.”
And while there were just 75 seconds of airtime of his interview on The Worldwide Leader, it was so much more than that.
Shoutout to Brian Windhorst for flying all the way to France to do a 70-second interview at 2:30 a.m. pic.twitter.com/IgQ2QGj8rW
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) May 17, 2023
Windhorst had filed a 5,000-word story prior to the draft lottery and filmed separate interviews that ESPN has yet to air. Because this wasn’t the first time that Windhorst had made his way to France—he spent a week in Paris in January—he had already met so many influential people in the life of Wembanyama.
That relationship was already there and then some.
“The fact that I now have a basis of operations is invaluable with him,” Windhorst said. “I now know his youth coaches and stuff. That was all huge.”
Another invaluable piece of information is something that happened eight years ago when Wembanyama was just 11 years old. And yet this has nothing to do with Wembanyama, but a superstar from another sport. Believe it or not, Windhorst got the idea to interview Wembanyama simultaneously after the end of the lottery from the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery.
So, believe it or not, there’s a parallel between Wembanyama and Connor McDavid. Though, the Edmonton Oilers are not exactly the San Antonio Spurs of the NHL.
Windshort happened to be in Toronto, on the night of the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery. He is not a hockey fan and Windhorst will be the first to admit it, but he’ll never forget the broadcast associated with that year’s draft lottery. By chance, Windhorst happened to be a huge sports bar in Toronto during the lottery and the Maple Leafs had the fourth-highest odds of getting Connor McDavid, who he described as “like the Wembanyama of the 2010s for hockey.”
“It was a really big deal. It was a lottery that had been looked forward to for a long time,” Windhorst said.
Within 90 seconds of the draft lottery’s completion, McDavid is sitting on set with Canadian sports journalist Elliot Friedman in the TSN studio in Toronto. Friedman immediately told McDavid what he already knew, that he was going to be the draft’s No. 1 overall pick and that he would be headed to Edmonton. And he almost instantly asked for his thoughts.
Windhorst was blown away.
“And I always thought like, ‘Wow. What amazing television.’ This guy literally found out where he’s probably going to spend the most of, if not all of, his NHL career, and we’re getting his thoughts within 120 seconds,” Windhorst said.
Windhorst remembers nothing about the interview, but it always stuck with him.
“I always remembered that,” he added. “I always thought it was amazing.”
So, when the opportunity to interview Wembanyama directly after the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery presented itself and Windhorst saw how it was going to play out, he knew that ESPN was going to be able to get a generational prospect’s raw and genuine reaction in real-time.
[Photo Credit: ESPN]