Touching on everything from golf, to rookie hazing, to career milestones, The Ringer’s new podcast, titled “Winging It,” gives fans an exclusive glimpse into the NBA — straight from the players themselves.
The podcast is headlined by Kent Bazemore and Vince Carter of the Atlanta Hawks and is co-hosted by Annie Finberg, the Hawks’ social media coordinator. Just five episodes in, “Winging It” has already featured a star-studded guest lineup, with appearances by Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala, Jeremy Lin, and Dirk Nowitzki.
“I love podcasting with players because it allows us to show a side of the guys people don’t get to see otherwise, with them not being on camera,” Finberg said.“The biggest thing for me is that it’s unfiltered,” Bazemore added. “Obviously, we have to watch what we say to a certain extent — like, we aren’t on there saying a ton of curse words or trying to ruffle a lot of feathers, but you speak what you feel.”
Finberg and Bazemore are no strangers to the podcast game. They were co-hosts of the “Road Trippin’ ATL“ podcast last season, along with Mike Muscala, so when the opportunity arose to co-host “Winging It” this year, they already had plenty of experience to build on.
“For me, I think [podcasting] is a great stepping stone for future opportunities,” Finberg said. “It prepares you for a lot of things, whether it’s interviews or more casual.”
Muscala was traded to the 76ers in the summer of 2018, so Finberg and Bazemore were in need of a new co-host for “Winging It.” Luckily for them, the oldest active player signed with the Hawks that same summer, with two decades of NBA experience under his belt. In other words, Carter was the ideal man for the job.
“With Vince Carter coming to Atlanta, we couldn’t think of a more perfect host,” Finberg said.The opportunity to interact with high-profile NBA players in a laid-back environment isn’t something Finberg takes for granted.
“Being able to sit and laugh with the guys is the best part,” she said. “I’m speaking to some of these guys who I’ve watched my entire life, like Vince Carter. He’s one of the best dunkers of all-time, so to be able to talk to him and see him as regular person and get to know these guys, whether they’re up-and-coming or very established, it’s cool.”
Podcasting is particularly well-liked among athletes because the casual setting allows them to feel at ease and speak more candidly than in a traditional interview setting, according to Finberg.
“They’re just sitting around with friends and myself, so they’re more comfortable to express themselves and be open and be more than an athlete,” she said.
That comfort was particularly evident in just the second episode, when Curry jokingly questioned whether astronauts had actually landed on the moon.
“I’d say with the ‘Winging It’ podcast that we’re a pretty laid-back vibe, so people feel fairly comfortable talking about anything,” Bazemore said. “We’ve got people on there talking about long-time conspiracies, so you’ve got to feel pretty comfortable in order to talk about that kind of stuff.”
“Winging It” isn’t the only podcast hosted by professional athletes — 76ers’ JJ Redick hosts his own show on The Ringer Podcast Network, as well — but Finberg explained how this new show differentiates itself.
“What sets us apart is all the different personalities and traits we bring,” she said. “I’m the quote unquote ‘normal person,’ and fans can connect with me. I’m allowing them insight into the players’ lives. Vince and Baze are different, but also similar, and they connect over humor, which is key for podcasts because, at the end of the day, everyone wants to relax and laugh.”
Carter and Bazemore’s distinct personalities and backgrounds bring a unique perspective to the show, Finberg said.“They have really different experiences,” she said. “Vince is obviously very broadcast-driven, so he brings that broadcast breakdown of things, and there’s no one better in the league to tell stories and share the life of NBA players. Vince really embodies that.”
“For me, it’s just more repetition,” Carter added, explaining how podcasting fits in with his post-playing career goals. “I’m continuing to learn and figure out some of the things that I like and don’t like as far as, do I want to call games in studio? Or do I want to do my own thing as far as podcasts, or do a podcast while doing some studio work, or working in the field? So, this is definitely just some practice.”
Bazemore’s path to the NBA couldn’t have been more different than Carter’s, so he offers an original outlook, as well.
“Kent brings an amazing perspective, from getting knocked down and getting back up at Old Dominion, then he didn’t get drafted, then he played in the D League,” Finberg said. “He’s proven that, as cheesy as it sounds, you can do what you set your mind to because he was determined.”
With the help of one-of-a-kind podcasts like “Winging It,” The Ringer Podcast Network has grown substantially over the last few years. The network has amassed an impressive following thanks to its 30 different podcasts that range in topics from sports to pop culture.
“The Ringer has been amazing,” Finberg said. “From the jump, they’ve been so helpful, and it’s an honor to be a part of it. The fact that Bill Simmons allowed us to jump in and give it a shot is a big blessing. They were open to us, and they’ve been supportive and helpful.”
Between The Ringer’s support and the popularity of Carter, Bazemore, and their guests, “Winging It” has found the recipe for podcast success.
Finberg’s job with the Hawks’ digital team may be to tell the stories of players from a team perspective, but she also recognizes the significance of giving players a platform to speak directly to their fans using the podcast formula.
“Teams try to tell stories, and so do media outlets, but it’s rare that a player has the opportunity to speak out about what he’s about and what he believes in,” she said. “It’s important that they continue to share their experiences. It makes them more personable and builds their fan base, and it gives them the opportunity to share with fans.”