Bryant Gumbel will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award during the 44th Annual Sports Emmy Awards on May 22 in New York, The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced Tuesday.
Gumbel's career has spanned more than 50 years on NBC, CBS and HBO. He has hosted “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” on HBO since 1995. It has received 36 Sports Emmys.
“It’s very humbling. I’ve been a fortunate, lucky guy,” said Gumbel, who is the first Black journalist to receive the award. “It makes you stop and take stock. You take a look at the guys who I admire a great deal who received this award, people like Vin Scully, Jim McKay and Howard Cosell. You never want to put yourself in their company, but it's heady stuff.”
Gumbel started as the sports anchor at KNBC in Los Angeles before joining NBC Sports in the fall of 1975. He served as host of the network's NFL, baseball and NCAA Tournament coverage, including the famed 1979 title game between Magic Johnson's Michigan State and Larry Bird's Indiana State. He moved to NBC News in January 1982 to host the “Today” show, a role he had for 15 years.
Gumbel was the prime-time host of NBC's coverage of the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He was originally slated to be the prime-time host for the 1980 Moscow Games until the United States boycotted them.
In 1997, Gumbel went to CBS News to host his own prime-time program. He also had a stint as host of “The Early Show” before departing in 2002.
“Bryant has a storied career, from his start as a sportscaster in Los Angeles to five decades of celebrated work — every bit cementing him as an icon and trailblazer in sports and entertainment,” Adam Sharp, president and CEO of NATAS, said in a statement. “Bryant‘s incredible resume and many other projects has brought dramatic and human news and sports stories to life for audiences throughout his career, making him a clear front-runner for this distinct honor.”
The one story from “Real Sports” that still resonates for Gumbel is the 2003 feature and interview with Marcus Dixon, who received a 10-year prison sentence for having sex with an underage girl. Georgia's Supreme Court reversed the aggravated child molestation conviction but ruled that the statutory rape conviction would stand. Dixon had served the one-year sentence for that charge.
Dixon was a Black 18-year-old and one of the top football prospects in the state of Georgia when a 15-year-old girl, who was white, accused him of rape.
“I always point to that because it did everything one can ask in a story," Gumbel said. “It was compelling story, but it basically saved and changed a young man’s life. It also righted a wrong, and that’s about all you can expect to do when you are in a position like we are in. You try to find something where you can do some good and help somebody else.”
Gumbel did another profile of Dixon in 2021 when he was an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Rams. Dixon is now the defensive line coach with the Denver Broncos.
“I’ve always been a sports fan, but I’ve always been less interested in the scores than I was the story elements of sports,” the 74-year old Gumbel said of “Real Sports,” which airs monthly. “I’m overly selfish about it, but I’m enormously proud of it.”
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