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No matter who won the Finals, Jewish ‘NBA Countdown’ host Malika Andrews has become a star

The California native celebrated her bat mitzvah at Oakland’s Temple Sinai in 2008

(JTA) — As millions of basketball fans tune into ABC Monday night for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, they’ll see a Jewish star front and center — though she doesn’t play for the Boston Celtics or Dallas Mavericks.

Malika Andrews, 29, is the host of ABC’s “NBA Countdown” pregame show as well as ESPN’s marquee “NBA Today” program. The Oakland native and current denizen of Los Angeles has enjoyed a meteoric rise as a basketball reporter and TV personality since her start at ESPN in 2018.

Andrews, originally hired as a reporter for the network’s news website, was tapped as ESPN’s sideline reporter during the 2020 playoffs. The games that year were held in unusual circumstances: a quarantined “bubble” that was created in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Andrews was believed to be the youngest reporter to receive the assignment.

In May 2022, Andrews won the Sports Emmy for Outstanding Personality/Emerging On-Air Talent. The following month, she became the first woman to host the NBA Draft, a role she has since reprised annually.

Andrews was born into an interfaith and interracial family: her mother Caren, an art teacher, is white and Jewish; her father Mike, a personal trainer, is Black and not Jewish. Caren told J. The Jewish News of Northern California that Malika and her younger sister Kendra, who covers the Golden State Warriors for ESPN, both identify as Jewish.

Andrews, who has opened up about her childhood struggles with mental health and an eating disorder, studied communications at the University of Portland and went on to work at the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times before joining ESPN. Prior to attending college, Andrews also briefly worked in the San Francisco law firm of her Jewish grandfather.

At ESPN, Andrews succeeded fellow Jewish personality Mike “Greeny” Greenberg as host of “NBA Countdown.” In response to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency inquiry on Monday, ESPN said Andrews’ schedule was too packed amidst the Finals and next week’s NBA Draft for an interview.

She has not spoken publicly about her Jewish identity. But in late 2022, in the aftermath of NBA star Kyrie Irving’s antisemitism scandal, it came up when she interviewed Rabbi Erez Sherman, the senior rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and the host of the “Rabbi on the Sidelines” sports podcast, on “NBA Today.”

In the segment, Sherman referenced Andrews’ Jewish and Black identities, encouraging her to use her platform to help build bridges between the Jewish and Black communities.

“Wow, you need to tell that story,” Sherman told Andrews, who did not respond. “You need to get us together. You need to tell young people in Black communities, in Jewish communities. And by the way, I think it’s important, not all Jews look like me.”

Ilene Keys, the Andrews’ childhood cantor at Temple Sinai in Oakland, said Andrews’ tenacity was evident back in 2008 when, as an adolescent, she was preparing for an early appearance in front of a crowd.

“I knew back when we were studying for her bat mitzvah that she was a force to be reckoned with,” Keys told J. “I’d like to think that her connection to the Temple Sinai community helped to shape who she is and gave her the confidence to be the leader that she is today.”

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