WNBA legend Ruth Riley Hunter is set to begin her next chapter with the Miami Heat organization as their newest TV Studio and Radio Analyst. Drafted into the WNBA by the Miami Sol in 2001, Riley Hunter will now look to continue her successful professional career back where it originally began 17 years ago.
A 13-year veteran of the WNBA, Riley Hunter won two championships with the Detroit Shock (’03, ’06) and was the first player ever to be named the championship MVP of both an NCAA team (Notre Dame, ’01) and a WNBA team (2003). Riley Hunter also was a part of the 2004 Olympic team that won gold in Athens.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for me to return to a place that’s been home since I was drafted here in 2001, an organization that’s treated me like family, and a next step in my career that I’m really excited about,” Riley Hunter told media members last week.
After her playing days, Riley Hunter has been an analyst both in radio and broadcast operations for the Notre Dame’s women’s basketball program since 2002. During her time in San Antonio, she also called games for the NBA G League affiliate and San Antonio Stars (now relocated to Las Vegas) and served as the Stars’ general manager from 2016-17.
Most recently, she has served as the Global Director of Women’s Programs at the NBA Academy, helping grow youth basketball with clinics and facilities around the world.
WNBA.com joined Riley’s introductory conference call to discuss her transition from the court to the front office and now to the broadcast booth.
Did you ever imagine your rookie year that you would be in this position?
“Yes and no. Since Day 1 as a rookie here, I knew that this organization was special. It’s treated me like family and taken really good care of everyone under the umbrella of the Heat family. I experienced that even after I moved on to different teams because Miami has been my home, so it doesn’t surprise me that I’ve come back to an organization that’s treated me so well.”
What is it that has remained attractive to you about Miami?
“Well, when you get a ticket from South Bend, Indiana to South Beach, Miami, that’s usually a one-way ticket. Honestly, I made it my home. After my second year, I bought a place on South Beach; [there’s] a great community down here among the Heat family and in the Miami community at large. I felt at home. Even when I played at different places and organizations, I always came back during the offseason. It’s just something that felt like home and it has been home since 2001.”
How will you approach the emotions of calling/analyzing Dwyane Wade’s final season?
“I’m lucky to be here for Wade’s last season. I’ve been playing with him since his rookie year and on; we were in the Olympics together in 2004. He’s someone I’ve had great admiration for and I’ve followed throughout his career. His legacy is so rich, not just what he’s done in bringing championships to Miami, but because of what he’s been able to do with his platform in sports. I think this is going to be a great celebration of what he’s done and the people here in Miami have great affection for what Dwyane has done here for this city. It’s going to be great to call the games and honor him throughout the entire season.
How nice is it that it’s becoming more normal to have women as a part of the NBA game?
“It’s exciting times, to be a woman and have this opportunity — to be entering an era where it’s no longer a story to hire a woman, [where] the perspectives, values and experience is what matters. I think we’re right around the corner from that, with the likes of Becky Hammon with the Spurs and Kara Lawson with the Wizards paving the way.”
What does it mean to be a female broadcaster and represent the WNBA?
“The WNBA and NBA is all one family, as well. When you look at the NBA and talk about equality, the WNBA is a part of that conversation and you then you add the G League into that mix, it’s a pretty diverse and equal family. Kara (Lawson) has done a tremendous job; she was a great player and has worked her way into a position with the Wizards that she’s really excelling at. It’s exciting to see. You see women in the front office, you see them coaching, you see women now on the broadcasting side. … I think it’s because the game itself doesn’t know whether you’re a man or woman calling or playing it. When you’re doing it at the highest level, it doesn’t matter whether you’re female or male.”
How has playing in the WNBA shaped your career?
“I think the opportunity to play at the highest level in any capacity is going to shape you. For me, the league has really changed a lot throughout the years. I was blessed to compete in the WNBA, to compete in the Olympics, competing against the best players in the world and with them. Basketball, the game itself, whether it’s the WNBA or NBA, the execution, preparation — all that goes into being a champion — has been based off that experience.”
What’s your message to the next generation of young women that may want to pursue a career in sports broadcasting?
“I think there’s great opportunity. The future looks bright for any woman that wants to pursue a career. I think for any women, whether in broadcasting or whatever their aspirations are: dream big, work hard and find people that are going to be able to support you during your path and help you along the way. Surround yourself with great mentors and a support system — that’s my message to them. I’m looking forward to seeing more women in these positions in the future.”