Rachel Nichols is an American sports broadcaster with more than 25 years of experience as a TV host, reporter, and anchor. Known for her authentic and personable delivery, Rachel has been praised for being able to easily move between lighthearted, fun segments to complex topics and hard-hitting interviews.
The two-time Emmy Award winner’s illustrious career includes creating and hosting two television shows during her time with some of the most renowned media outlets in the industry. Rachel got her start with the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel at age 21, before moving on to the Washington Post, where she spent nearly a decade covering the NHL, NBA, baseball and football, as well as multiple Olympics and Grand Slams.
In 2004, Nichols moved on to ESPN for a nine-year run in which she appeared on some of the network’s most watched programs, like SportsCenter and NFL Countdown. She was also part of the network’s Monday Night Football broadcasts as a sideline reporter before making her next leap, to CNN and Turner Sports.
It was there she helped create and host her first self-titled show, Unguarded with Rachel Nichols, which aired weekly on CNN and CNN International to more than a billion viewers worldwide. At the same time, Rachel served as an integral part of TNT’s NBA broadcasts, as well as being a part of baseball and golf broadcasts for TBS, and Final Four broadcasts on CBS.
Through this period, Rachel gained notoriety for landing huge interviews with some of sports’ biggest stars: Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Derek Jeter, Wayne Gretzky, Mike Tyson and so many more. As future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade noted about Rachel in his recently-released memoir: “She’s always getting big interviews in the big moments because there’s a big-time respect factor. We as players know she’s going to ask the questions that matter, but more importantly, she’s going to treat each story with the nuance and care it deserves. She’s a true professional in every sense of the word.”
Nichols returned to ESPN in 2016 after pitching the network on The Jump, which Sports Illustrated would go on to call “TV’s smartest basketball show.” Nichols hosted the show daily while recruiting Hall of Famers like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Scottie Pippen, Tracy McGrady, and Paul Pierce to join her on set for an innovative mix of opinions, on-location reporting, and candid conversations. Anchoring The Jump also earned Rachel an Emmy nomination for “Best Host,” which made her only the second woman to earn that mark, amongst the more than 200 men nominated in the awards’ prestigious 42-year history.
Nichols was also a key part of ESPN’s premiere Saturday Night NBA package, first as the broadcast’s host and then as its sideline reporter, becoming a fixture during the NBA’s chaotic “Bubble” season.
Rachel has often been cited for her willingness to speak truth to power. She earned a Gracie Award for her hard-hitting interview with Floyd Mayweather on his record of domestic violence, and an Ed Block Courage Award for her public questioning of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Rachel grew up in Potomac, Maryland, and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She is married with two children, and currently resides in Los Angeles.
What’s one trend that excites you?
In sports, I love seeing the way sports teams are integrating tech, because one, I’m a giant tech nerd, but also because tech is helping athletes play at an even higher level (and letting us watch them at an even more elite level). NBA coaches now roam sidelines with iPads, so players can make strategy adjustments based off of video shot just minutes earlier. Football teams use ‘smart’ practice jerseys to monitor hydration and breathing, so players know when to rest, and when to go harder. Athletes’ motions are being mapped by lasers, so if the way a player runs puts more stress on, say, one knee, that can be discovered, spotted and corrected, before a knee injury ever even happens. Tech that keeps my favorite players on the field and out of the training room? Yes please.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive?
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Wired earbuds are better than wireless. I will take this to my grave.
What is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Again, coffee. It’s not just for mornings, folks.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your career?
I know this sounds basic, but it’s shocking how many people don’t do it: just try to outwork everyone else around you. You will learn more, succeed more, and show the people above you that you will not stop until you come through for them. In the end, a few of the people around you will work as hard as you do, and advance right alongside you. Most of them won’t.
What is one failure you had and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had tons of failures, and you overcome them by…understanding you’re gonna have tons of failures. Failures can freeze you when they feel like the end of the world, but contrary to several recent movies, the world has yet to end. And the more times you pick yourself up from a failure and try again, the less each individual instance stings. Too often, we talk about failure as a destination – as in, “that ended in failure.” But failure is only the end of the road if you stop moving forward. If you keep going, then it’s just something that happened to you along the way to your success.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A mug that has a sensor in it, so every time your coffee starts to cool off, it warms it back up for you. It’s brilliant. (Okay, maybe I have a problem.)
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Online transcription. You upload a piece of audio, and the web service transcribes it, either using a machine or a person. The machine usually make some mistakes, the way your phone can when you try voice texting your friend to meet you somewhere and instead your phone tells her to eat you somewhere. But the transcripts often take less than 5 minutes and depending on the length, can cost just a dollar or two. Picking the human transcriber is more expensive and can take a few hours, but it’s usually flawless. Great for a reporter transcribing an interview, or a student who finds it hard to take notes during a lecture, or if you want to prove to your buddy that he really did once plan to name his pit bull Gertrude.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Make Your Bed, by William McRaven. It’s short, to the point, and applies to everyone, plus the colorful examples McRaven gives from his career as a Navy SEAL are never boring. Also, I’m a huge believer in the power of making your bed every morning (even on weekends), so I’m pretty happy that’s where he chose to start.
What is your favorite quote?
“Sometimes it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of, who do the things no one can imagine.”
- Failure is just something that happened to you along the way to your success.
- Outwork everyone else around you to grow in your career
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.