Max McGee, like many young sports fans growing up, dreamt of being the person he watched on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” but never thought it could be a reality.
His dreams are coming true.
The WJZ-TV anchor will leave the station to join ESPN as an anchor for “SportsCenter” in a multiyear deal, The Baltimore Sun has learned.
“I used to think they were brand new episodes but in reality they were just reruns from the night before,” McGee said. “It was not just an accomplishment for myself but it’s a testament to all the work that the people around me put in as well.”
McGee, 31, is joining ESPN after spending three years at the Baltimore station, where he served as a news and sports anchor/reporter, covering the Ravens, Orioles, University of Maryland sports and breaking news.
McGee, who is from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and graduated from Temple University, worked at WMBF-TV in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, as an anchor/reporter before moving to Baltimore. He began his television career as a reporter and producer at KPLC-TV in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he shared an AP Award for best sportscast.
McGee said his path to ESPN was years in the making, as he always aspired to work for the network. In late October, McGee sent a LinkedIn message to Rob King, the senior vice president and editor-at-large for ESPN content, asking for an audition.
As McGee was preparing for an audition with CBS in New York, he received the “call of a lifetime” from ESPN.
“We quickly scheduled that audition and things kind of just took off from there,” he said. “I went up to audition I think on Dec. 8 and then a few days later I got the job.”
Television was a backup plan for McGee. He always wanted to be a baseball player, but grew to realize that wasn’t a likely scenario.
So McGee got involved in a TV club when he was in high school and told himself if he couldn’t play sports, he wanted to talk about it.
McGee didn’t think a job at ESPN was realistic until later in his career, saying “it’s something you have to build yourself up to.”
“When we start in TV, we all just want to start at ESPN,” he said. “But that’s just not how the television business works. You have to work your way up to that.”
Even though there wasn’t a particular person at ESPN that influenced him, McGee said he enjoyed watching Hannah Storm and Rich Eisen’s youthful exuberance on the air in the morning. He always admired the late broadcaster Stuart Scott’s punchlines and energetic persona.
“[Scott was] someone who looked like me on television,” McGee said. “There really wasn’t any black male anchors on TV at the time, but Stuart Scott was the main guy.”
McGee said his first year at WJZ in 2019 was a blur. In 2020, McGee was forced to improve individually as he had to adapt to covering news in addition to sports during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I felt like Baltimore really leaned on us and they leaned on me in particular to be reliable every single day,” he said. “And I relied on them to listen.”
McGee’s last day at WJZ will be Jan. 21. As he prepares for the next transition in his career, he thinks about how the last two years working in Baltimore have been a blessing.
“I love Baltimore,” McGee said. “This city is special.”