DURHAM, N.C. – Jay Bilas doesn’t stop. He might be donning a sweater, but he may as well have a marathon vest on with the way he’s bouncing from place to place. He records an interview with a local TV station, answering questions about Duke’s chances in March, then hits the production meeting for this week’s College GameDay on ESPN. Next to come is recording a segment from Krzyzewskiville and taking in practice. And it’s only Friday.
During the production meeting, it’s the question of how to approach the Grayson Allen situation that gets brought up again.
“Is the Grayson Allen attention fair?” Jay Williams asks the room. “Why don’t we talk about it?”
“If he was at Duquesne would we be talking about it?” Rece Davis wonders.
“But he also wouldn’t have been preseason player of the year if he was at Duquesne,” Bilas responds.
Bilas is quick with one-liners, which makes him a perfect partner to Sean McDonough, your favorite broadcaster’s favorite broadcaster. But he also knows his hoops, from his time playing at Duke, his career overseas, his skills camp, and his longtime 20-plus years at ESPN.
So when he speaks – praise or otherwise – people listen.
“Nobody’s ever given me a phone call to dial down the praise,” Bilas says. “They only call when I’m being too critical. But we can’t ignore something because it’s uncomfortable. I get asked about Grayson Allen more than anything wherever I am.”
It’s no wonder the network’s top college basketball analyst keeps coming back to Young Jeezy. As almost a rallying cry, Bilas would tweet out “I gotta go to work,” and it wasn’t just a suggestion. He’s a card carrying member of the Rise and Grind brigade, up early to get in work at the law firm he still practices at in Charlotte, watching film, doing radio or TV spots, and traveling to the next game somewhere in America.
But why Jeezy?
“It’s hard edged and real,” Bilas says. “Although Jeezy and I come from different backgrounds, I can relate to his hustling journey to reach what he wants. And, he has some fun with it, too. I really enjoyed meeting him.”
Bilas went into his library and shared his Jeezy playlist with DIME, offering a little bit of insight behind each track.
1. “Standing Ovation,” Let’s Get It, Thug Motivation 101: “Psychopathic word play, schizophrenic flow. I guess it’s safe to say I got schizophrenic dough.”
Bilas: “For any broadcaster, your flow leads to your dough.”
2. “Go Crazy,” Let’s Get It, TM 101: “Switched hustles, been killin’ ‘em ever since. It pays to tell the truth, dog, it only makes sense.”
Bilas: “In our job, you have to give your straight opinion, whether some like it or not. I used to wear one team’s jersey. Now I cover all teams, and I owe the straight truth.”
3. “My ‘Hood,” Let’s Get It, TM 101: “Real recognize real, I suppose. I guess that’s why the gangstas be at all my shows.”
Bilas: “Real recognize real needs no explanation. And, the realest watch College GameDay, the show of record in college basketball.”
4. “Hustlaz Ambition,” The Recession: “Might not be the best, just know I plan to be. I refuse to let suckas win, but that’s just the man in me.”
Bilas: “There are a ton of great minds in this game, and so many of them work for ESPN. I’m just another soldier in a damn good army, just trying to be the best I can be.”
5. “Get Allot,” The Recession: “Maybe I’m too good, too ‘hood, low down, no good. I just keep it real, just like you should.”
Bilas: “No matter where we come from, Jersey, LA, Muscle Shoals, we’re all just trying to keep it real, and give the best we’ve got every day, every play. Hopefully, it shows to the viewers.”
6. “Ballin’,” The Real is Back: “Summer’s mine, winter, too. Poppin’ bottles in the club, that’s what winners do.”
Bilas: “We work hard, and we play hard. After we bring it on our broadcasts, we celebrate a job well done.”
7. “Woke Up,” It’s Tha World: “Grew up with bosses, learned from my losses. We really do this, we don’t just talk it.”
Bilas: “We’ve always had to answer to our bosses, and we’ve all had tough losses to overcome. But, this is what we do, and we don’t just talk the talk. We walk the walk, too.”
8. “Go Crazy,” Let’s Get it, TM 101: “You ain’t gotta like me, just respect my mind. And, this how I’m eatin’ now, so respect my grind.”
Bilas: “You can’t be worried about being liked in this job. You just have to worry about doing the best possible job.”
9. “Hypnotize,” The Inspiration: “Class in session, when I talk, they listen. But, you know how it goes, the real pay attention.”
Bilas: “We all tend to think our opinions and judgments are the be all and end all. But, everyone’s right to their opinion is important to protect. State your considered opinion, and let the viewer decide.”
10. “Bottom of the Map,” Let’s Get It, TM 101: “I’m on fire, the kid is out of control. Competition want me to stop, drop and roll.”
Bilas: “At the end of the day, I don’t lack for confidence on the air. Sorry.”