Three ASU Alumni on the Air at Tokyo Olympics
Three Alabama State University alumni — Corey “Homicide” Williams, Kyle Montgomery and Phaidra Knight —are on-air commentators for one of the world’s major sporting events -- the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Despite a one-year delay due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the games, which aired on NBC and its affiliates, have still been referred to as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Knight, a World Rugby Hall of Famer who works as a Rugby Analyst for NBC Sports, ESPN and CBS Sports, gave voice to the women’s rugby games, while NFL Network anchor Montgomery and Australia’s NBL Commentator Williams covered the inaugural 3x3 basketball games, which are played on a half-court with one basket.
“The 3x3 is making its debut at the Olympics. So, we made history at the Olympics. How cool is that? It was an experience of a lifetime,” Williams said, adding he used that platform to break into pro basketball. “I’m internally grateful for the opportunity. I can’t wait for the Paris Olympics 2024.”
Williams picked up the nickname “Homicide” from playing the urban 3-on-3 game. “In New York, we give you a nickname based on your style of play. We say he’s killing them; he’s murdering them on the court. So, I got the nickname ‘Homicide’ because I committed basketball homicide on my opponents.”
Williams, who said he called 64 games in five days, was excited to find that there were two other ASU alumni broadcasting the games. “It’s amazing that three ASU alums found their way to the Olympics.”
The commentators said finding the details and the storylines have been crucial during the pandemic, as sports announcers have been calling games while not being present in the stadium. The Olympics, they said, was no different. Some Olympic broadcasters, like Montgomery and Knight, called their respective event from the confines of NBC’s broadcast production facility in Connecticut because of capacity restrictions in Japan.
“I’m used to being right up live on the actions…you can feel the energy; I can see the plays very clearly. So, you have to manufacture some energy to convey over the microphone when I’m looking at it on the screen. It’s different, more of a challenge,” Montgomery explained.
For Knight, calling the games wasn’t quite as challenging.
“We had a system in play that was seamless,” she said. “Rugby is a high-level, action-packed sport. The action is on the field. I thrive on what happens on the field and that dictates my excitement level. I noticed there were no crowds in the stands, but it didn’t impact my commentary one way or the other. It’s great to have fans, but the level of excitement generated by the game is plenty for me to define the mood of my commentary.”
Unlike Knight and Montgomery, Williams called the blow-by-blow plays on the ground in Tokyo.
“Working the Olympic Games is an opportunity to really bring the sounds of what the Tokyo Games are like on the ground and what it is like to be an athlete,” Williams emphasized. “It was different this time because there were no fans. You usually feed off the crowd, so it was different because you have to create the vibe.”
Olympians work their whole lives for this moment, the broadcasters said, and because of this, they and other announcers are more aware of the responsibility that they have in calling these games.
“They hire announcers that are going to be able to handle the responsibilities to do the research and know the stories about players and deliver a top-notch product. We need to be at our very best and give a Gold Medal performance. I felt the responsibility of stepping my game up and doing justice to these players who have worked their entire lives to get here,” Montgomery said.
Olympic commentators, Knight acknowledges, know the heavy responsibility of covering the amazing moments that athletes have trained for most of their lives.
“It was an honor and a privilege to call the Games… I felt I was able to present great stories about the sport of rugby and its players. I’m essentially the words that accompany an illustration in a book. So, how I tell the story, how I see it, how I analyze it is very critical to how the viewer understands it.”
The three alumni agreed that ASU prepared them for the successes that they have had in their careers.
“ASU helped me grow up into adulthood. I benefited from having some great professors. One instructor had a huge influence on me choosing TV over radio; I wanted to be a DJ. Alabama State holds a special spot in my heart because I met my wife, now ex, there and I have lifelong friends. I’m very thankful to Alabama State,” Montgomery said, who earned his communications degree from ASU. “I’m a proud alumnus.”
Williams holds dual degrees from ASU (criminal justice and science) and is thankful he attended what he calls a great HBCU like THE Alabama State University.
“Education is the key; that’s the foundation. Since I’ve left the University, I’ve had a 14-year pro basketball career. My foundation at ASU allowed me to move around the world in 15 countries and five continents. So, I’m very grateful for my time there. I hang my hat on having a degree from an HBCU; I wear it as a badge of honor. I had an opportunity to do something I love to do there – play basketball. Thank you, ASU,” Williams stated.
Knight, who also have dual degrees (political science and speech communications), describes her experience at ASU as supportive and enriching.
“There were many experiences that helped shape and influence my career and my time at Alabama State was one of them. One of the biggest things was the HBCU experience. … In my schooling throughout high school, I was in classes with mostly white kids... So, it was really cool to be immersed in a predominately black environment. That, in so many ways, helped me with connecting with my own identity. It added a perspective that I had not had that I still carry with me,” Knight explained.
Her speech classes, she said, “gave me an acute awareness of how I talk, what I say and how I say it. That has obviously transferred over directly into broadcast and my analyst work. So, it has a profound effect on the things that I do,” Knight said, adding ASU was also instrumental in her choice to go to law school.
More about the Broadcasters
Phaidra Knight, who is currently training to make her professional debut as a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, is the Women’s Sports Foundation President, a sports media talent, motivational speaker, entrepreneur and an attorney. She’s the first African American and eighth woman inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. She made three appearances in the Rugby World Cup and was named the USA Rugby Player of the Decade in 2010. She is the head coach of the Monroe College women’s rugby team in the Bronx, New York. Knight launched PSK Collective, a fusion of activewear and streetwear for girls and women, and she is also the founder of Peak Unleashed, a nonprofit for marginalized youth.
Corey Williams is a former street basketballer from The Bronx turned pro football player turned Aussie pro living in Melbourne. He is best known for his time spent in the Australian National Basketball League (NBL), earning the league's MVP honors in 2010 with the Townsville Crocodiles. He is also known for his on-screen analysis of the game of basketball. A product of the famed Rucker Park and a scholar of the game and global leagues, Williams has become Australian basketball’s most influential personality. He is part of the “NBL Overtime” show, which is shown on ESPN Australia and SBS On Demand with Liam Santamaria and Cam Luke.
Along with anchoring on the NFL News desk, Kyle Montgomery also contributes as a host for “NFL Now.” He also can be seen on Prime Ticket's Los Angeles Clippers”telecast as the Clippers Live pre-game and post-game host. During Clippers game telecasts, Montgomery often conducts player and coach interviews. Prior to arriving in Los Angeles, he anchored NBA TV's Atlanta-based flagship show, “NBA Gametime,” and hosted his own kids’ hoops show on Cartoon Network called “Run It Back.“ He is the former weekend sports anchor at Montgomery’s WSFA-TV News, and he also helped launch digital networks for the ACC and NBA.