Black History Month: Marc J. Spears goes from San Jose State to NBA Hall of Fame sports writer

Sports journalist Marc J. Spears was raised in San Jose and attended San Jose State before covering the NBA for nearly two decades. 

Spears says he’s known since 7th grade that he’d use his love of basketball to become a sportswriter. He says his family and people at San Jose State helped him achieve it. 

"If you can combine what you love most in life with what you do best in school, you can find a job that you’re happy with every day," Spears, a senior writer for ESPN's Andscape.  

After a brief stint on the San Jose State basketball team in the early 90s, Spears turned his passion for basketball and writing into an award-winning journalism career spanning nearly 30 years. Growing up in San Jose with his family, he says he was given a strong foundation in life and his career.

"I started going to Emmanuel Baptist Church, a predominantly Black Church in high school. My mom used to take me to her South Bay Black Nurses meetings at the Afro-American Center not too far from San Jose State. It was there that I started watching Eyes on the Prize to kill time while my mom was in these meetings," said Spears. 

Today, Spears is a Sr. Writer for ESPN’s Andscape, covering breaking NBA news. He also writes about African American athletes, including the intersection of race, sports, and culture. He’s covered 18 seasons of the NBA Finals and All-Star Games and worked for Yahoo! Sports before joining ESPN in 2016. In 2023, he was awarded the William Randolph Hearst Award for Journalism from his alma mater, San Jose State University. In the same year, one of his biggest dreams also came true.

"When I was a kid, I dreamed about being in the NBA as a player. I would watch the ceremony all the time. So, to get there as a writer, it’s crazy. My name is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, not far from Kobe Bryant, not far from Michael Jordan, not far from Bill Russell, not far from Larry Bird, but I’m in there!" said Spears. 

One of the most important people to help Spears achieve his dreams is former SJSU Journalism professor and Dept. Chair Bob Rucker, who remembers meeting Marc for the first time. 

"He said, Professor, I’m going to be a sportswriter and cover sports all across the United States.’ I wish students would do that more often. If they had that determination from day one, we could build on that, and that’s exactly what we did for Marc," said Rucker.  

Never too far away from home, Spears also works as a color analyst for San Jose State Men’s basketball games. He says at one time, he wasn’t welcomed as a player and was taken off the team.  

"I wrote about the lack of Black coaches in college basketball. The coach at the time didn’t like that. So, for me to still be here, talking about basketball in a gym I didn’t get to play in, and still getting love from the school. This school shows me a lot of love and has a lot of faith in me."

Spears says he still really loves his job and isn’t slowing down anytime soon. He’ll continue mentoring budding journalists, and he’s heading to Paris this summer to cover the Olympics.


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