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Collected Wisdom: ESPN broadcaster Adam Amin on his favorite call, his tough road to the top, and the origins of his name

[PHOTO PROVIDED BY ESPN]

Adam Amin

Age: 31

Residence: Chicago

From LeBron James buzzer-beaters, to back-to-back game-winning shots in the Women's Final Four, Adam Amin has been able to call some of the best finishes in sports in 2018 as a play-by-play voice for ESPN. He'll be calling the NCAA College Softball World Series in a few weeks in Oklahoma City for the fourth year.

Before then, Amin will team up with analyst Jon Barry to call Sunday's Eastern Conference finals Game 1 between Boston and Cleveland on ESPN Radio (2:30 p.m. CT, audio available on the ESPN App and ESPNRadio.com).

Amin has had quite a year, and quite the journey to the top of broadcasting:

My father immigrated from Pakistan. Forty years there, 40 years in the U.S. He came to the states in 1978 with his brother. He left my mom and my three brothers in Pakistan. He didn't have enough money to bring everybody over, but he wanted kind of the American dream-type story. He wanted a better life for the kids and the family.

He was an educated guy. The vice president of a bank in Karachi, Pakistan. But he wanted a better life, the opportunity for his kids to do more. He came over in '78, worked in a factory in Chicago for seven years before he had enough money to send back to get my mom (Zubeda) and my three brothers (Ismail, Abdullah, and Mustafa) here. A couple letters every couple of months was the only communication they had for a long time. They all came over in late '85 and I was born in late '86.

There wasn't any resentment from my brothers. I could tell it was tough on them and it took a while to reconnect with my dad. But my brothers are great — 17, 13 and nine years older than me. They were almost like other dads for me.

My brothers came up with my name. They all have really strong traditional Pakistani names, and they'd been going to school in the States for like a year before I was born. My mom wanted to name me after my dad when I was born and they were like ... ‘yeah, we're not doing that. We've gone to school in the states and they all make fun of our accents.' They went to school in the mid-80s in America, so it's like ‘why don't we make it a little easier on him?' So, I take pride in that.

I didn't know I wanted to do this until I got to college. I went to Valparaiso University in Indiana and started broadcasting there, really. I was like 18 when I started. I worked at the college radio station, WVUR, and really loved it and felt passionate about it and thought this is what I wanted to end up doing.

I ended up starting off in minor league baseball. In Gary, Indiana. After that I went to a very small town in Iowa — Spirit Lake, Iowa. I ended up going back to minor league baseball for a couple of seasons in Somerset, New Jersey. In the meantime, I was doing freelance work. I went back and worked for Valparaiso for a little while. I was doing Broadband TV, Division II basketball, Division II softball and high school football, just trying to get as many reps as possible.

Ian Eagle of CBS took me under his wing. Eventually I landed with his agent, who is still my agent to this day. I was 24 years old when ESPN called me in July of 2011 to come on full time.

I just started crying. It was pretty emotional, man. My agent told me and I didn't really hear much of what he said after he told me ESPN was hiring me full time. The work was in there and I put in the mileage for it, but there's a lot of things that have to go your way. You've gotta get some lucky bounces and you've got to get the right people in your corner.

My father, Mohammed, was the first phone call I made when I got the ESPN call. I called my dad and I was like ‘hey you get to watch your kid on TV.' He's a goofy guy, he was 80 when he passed. Really hard worker, but with me he was always goofy. So, he was like ‘so what?' And I was like ‘What do you mean so what?' ... ‘This is what was supposed to happen. This is how it was supposed to go. You worked hard for this and I knew it was gonna happen.' He was the most supportive guy. It was cool to be able to do this as long as I did while he was around.

For a while I wasn't sure I was in the right profession. I was kinda isolated (in Iowa). I was on my own and it was my first time really being away from home for work. In Iowa, I was 500 miles away from anywhere I had really known before. I was lonely, I probably drank too much. I didn't take care of myself physically, I didn't sleep and I was questioning myself constantly. ‘Am I doing the right thing? Am I in the right profession? Am I doing right by myself? Am I disappointing my family? Am I disappointing the people around me?' I had a couple of nights where I probably didn't take care of myself physically the way I should, whether it's drinking too much or whatever it may be.

I remember waking up the next day after one of these binges and just thinking to myself ‘What am I doing?' ‘There's a lot of people out there that wish they had a job, that wish they were doing something they're passionate about.' Regardless of the place, or level, or whatever, that's not important. It's part of the process, being a professional. If I couldn't understand that then, how was I going to understand that when I was lucky enough to get a job like this? It had nothing to do with the place, it had to do with my own my own mindset. For whatever reason you feel like you invest so much in something and it isn't panning out right away, you think these weird thoughts about it. I was glad I was able to pull out of that.

It's dumb to feel like the moment you're in is the last of your career. I was thinking about it last year when I did that Alabama-Clemson National Championship game after the 2016 season. I remember the night of the championship game was seven years to the day where I had one of those episodes. I just remembered thinking ‘look what could have happened if you didn't have some perspective at the time, if you didn't look ahead a little bit.'

The last six months I've been lucky to do some incredible games. We were there last Saturday when LeBron had the buzzer-beater in Game 3 against Toronto. That's my first NBA buzzer-beater. All these cool moments, it's insane, for you to feel like you get a chance to be a part of them in some way.

It's hard to top winning a national championship at the buzzer. That might be tops for a while. I did my first Women's Final Four in April, and Arike Ogunbowale from Notre Dame hits a game-winner against UConn with a second to go in the semis, and you're like ‘we'll there's no way we're going to top that.' Two nights later, there she is with a drifting, off-balance 3 in the corner to win a national championship at the buzzer. It's just impossible to feel like that's ever going to happen again. That's lighting in a bottle a couple of times.

As a broadcaster, I feel confident in those moments now. And I think the only way you get to feel confident in those moments is if you get to see them and you're lucky enough to be there and you're tested. Joe Tessitore, for instance, handling the last two National Championships on the homers call with me ... to me that's a big deal. You get to see your colleagues and see how they handle it. I watched Dave Pasch do all these buzzer-beaters over the last several years in college and the NBA. These guys know how to handle it. They feel confident in those moments, they lean on their instincts, and I finally had the opportunity to do that, to try to test out everything I've been trying to pick up over the course of the last 12 years of broadcasting, to finally get a chance to test it out and see if you're capable of it, and feeling like you are after actually being a part of it, that only gives you more confidence going forward.

Jumping from sport to sport makes you appreciate the job. Just how fun it is to be able to do college basketball, the NFL, college basketball, the Women's Final Four. I just came from the SEC softball tournament. I'll call the Women's College World Series in OKC in a couple of weeks. Just being able to all these different sports, work with all these different people and work with all these different coaches and players, you feel like you're a part of the tapestry of it all and it's cool to feel that connected to all these different avenues.

My family was really supportive. My dad died a couple of months ago, and he loved this job. We were as close as can be. Three weeks before the National Championship game, the Final Four, that's when he passed. It's like ... he would want me to go out and do something I enjoy. He wouldn't want me to mope around. So, I went back to work, and sure enough I got to be a part of one of the great runs of my career. Granted, without him here physically, but he would have wanted me to go on. I'm not the most spiritual or religious guy, but I'd like to think he had a hand in some of what's going on now.

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Erik Horne is in his fourth season on the Thunder beat. Horne joined The Oklahoman as a sports web editor/producer in September 2013 following a five-year stint at The Ardmoreite (Ardmore) – first... Read more ›

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