Who Does Mina Kimes Think Is the Greatest NFL Player of All Time?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because she's a rising star football guru at ESPN.
By Joshua Eferighe
Award-winning journalist Mina Kimes sat for a revealing hourlong interview with OZY CEO and co-founder Carlos Watson for a recent episode of The Carlos Watson Show. You can listen to the full interview here and find the best cuts from their conversation below.
On Covering Sports
Carlos Watson: Is there a part of you that has either impostor syndrome or has concern that, “While I have studied it well, I don’t really, really know what it’s like to be Le’Veon Bell or to be Rob Gronkowski,” or whomever?
Mina Kimes: 100 percent. And for me, that awareness, I find, I have to both compartmentalize it so that it doesn’t inhibit my ability to be expressive and opinionated and be myself. I don’t want to be inhibited by this sense that whether a lot of people watching this who think, “Who’s she? Who does she think she is?” You can’t have that in your brain. But that said, I think it’s also important for me to be aware of the gaps in my knowledge. I do an NFL show where the two other analysts who are on with me are former players. And when a story comes up where I do feel like playing experience matters, I take a step back and I ask them, because I want to learn from them.
By that same token, I think I bring information to the table, perhaps, that they don’t always have. I mean, they’ll tell me, “Wow, I didn’t even know we could use those statistics for example,” or “I didn’t know that about X player.” And I think the importance of doing television or analysis as a team is recognizing much like an actual sports team who brings what strengths and weaknesses to the table and being cognizant of those while not letting them weigh you down, as I think sometimes when we’re underrepresented folks in certain fields, that feeling can weigh you down, and you don’t want it to do that.
CW: We have recently seen a number of broadcasters go from broadcaster to team management, right? To running teams, either coaches or in some cases, the front office. Is that something that you think you could do and would you want to do it?
MK: “No” is the short answer. I don’t know, maybe on the front-office side, perhaps I would have that ability, but I think I’m far from it at this point. And I also, I love my job. I love analyzing football. I like the ability to kind of take that 10,000-foot view of all 32 teams while so diving deep into particular players and matchups. I think I feel very confident in my preparation, the abilities, but I still have a really long way to go. And I hope I always feel that way, frankly, because if I don’t, then I’m probably not doing a good job.
CW: All right. Let’s do a little GOAT ranking here. In football, based on what, give me the three best football players of all time. And you can make it of all time, or even just the era that you feel like you have focused on. Who stands out to you? Who are three of the best NFL players of all time?
MK: Tom Brady, Jerry Rice. I feel like … it’s so hard to do three, but I will do three. Maybe LT. I feel bad if I don’t do a defensive player, but I want to say Jim Brown too. OK. Maybe I’ll say Jim Brown, but that’s all offense. That’s terrible.
CW: The only legitimate question is what a real person would do in a Super Bowl if they could have Tom Brady or Joe Montana? I know right now, because the era we’re in, everyone is saying Tom Brady. But if you really were the owner of the team or the coach of the team, and you really had one game and you really could only have one quarterback, would you take Tom Brady in his prime or would you take Joe Montana? Who would you …
MK: I would take Brady in his prime.
CW: I’m going to take you over to basketball. How strong are you? How strong is your basketball game?
MK: I love the NBA and we cover it a lot. So in addition to being an NFL analyst, I’m on other shows. We do like Around the Horn, Highly Questionable, First Take, where we talk a lot of college football and NBA as well. And not having a team like I do in Seattle actually makes it easier for me because I can just appreciate the game, root for the best matchups. I love LeBron. If you’re going to go to the GOAT conversation with me, it’s LeBron. Feel free to bring on the hate if you don’t agree.
CW: You’re going to say LeBron over Michael Jordan?
MK: Yeah, I’m a LeBron person.
CW: Are you just saying that to be controversial or do you really believe that?
MK: It’s an eras thing. Obviously, basketball is so different now. We all watched The Last Dance. Some of those guys that MJ was banging around with, you would not see in the NBA today. The competition was very different particularly in the east. I just think LeBron James is the most talented …
CW: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Are you trying to say the conversation was weaker?
CW: You definitely are on LeBron’s payroll. All right. We’re going to move on from that.
CW: Let’s talk about how you became a sports analyst. How did you enter that? If I had met you as a young person, were you like predestined to end up there?
MK: I love sports through my father. As I said, I inherited all of his interests, love watching football with him, but never thought I would work in sports. Certainly never thought I would be on TV talking about sports. And I was interested in writing so I became a journalist out of college, and I was a business journalist for years before ESPN hired me. I was an investigative reporter at Fortune magazine and then Bloomberg News and writing about businesses doing bad things, finance, that sort of thing. Getting yelled at by lawyers a lot. All the while my hobby was just watching an upsetting amount of football, but that was just my hobby until I started working at ESPN.
CW: And how did the ESPN … how did the big break come?
MK: I wrote a personal essay about watching football with my father and sort of how it connected us. And I also, despite being an ostensibly serious financial journalist, all of my social media was just dumb football content, like commentary memes on football. So Sony ESPN saw both of those things, editor reached out to me and said, “You are writing about business, but you seem to be obsessed with football. Is this something you consider?” So kind of made the quarter-life jump, switched fields. And I joined ESPN as a writer, not an analyst. As a writer in 2014.
CW: Mina, finish us up by talking to us about where you hope this all will go. No one knows for sure, and I’m sure part of you is just enjoying the journey, but if you do sit back sometimes and think a little bit about what you’d love to be true over the next five to 10 years, do you have a vision for that right now, about what would be great?
MK: So I’ve never had a five-year plan, and in some ways, I think that’s served me well, because my career has taken such a strange, winding path to get where I am. And I hope that in five years, I am doing something that I’m not even dreaming of right now. It’s such a cop-out weird answer, but I hope it’s something that transcends something that seems realistic to me at the moment. Going back to what I said to you earlier about how I hope young women are envisioning themselves in roles that are not currently occupied by women. I’m not young anymore, but I feel the same way. I hope I’m doing something that didn’t seem realistic to me at the time. And I love football. So more likely than not, that will be in football, but I don’t necessarily know exactly what it is.