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Jackie MacMullan, whose determination and journalistic talent helped open the press box to countless other female sports reporters, will talk about succeeding in a male-dominated field at the Women Elected Municipal Officials luncheon during the MMA’s 41st Annual Meeting & Trade Show on Jan. 24.
Known particularly for her NBA coverage, MacMullan is one of the country’s most-respected sportswriters. She is an ESPN writer and on-air correspondent who made her name as a longtime sports reporter and columnist for The Boston Globe. She is the author of several books, including “Shaq Uncut: My Story” with Shaquille O’Neal, and “Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection,” with Geno Auriemma, longtime coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Connecticut.
MacMullan’s love of sports started with the street hockey games she played as a child in Westwood. Her entry into sports journalism grew out of frustration that her local newspaper didn’t cover girls’ sports. When MacMullan’s father made her call the paper, the editor offered her the girls’ sports beat, where she showed early talent.
MacMullan was hired by the Globe right out of college in 1982 and worked her way up to becoming the Boston Celtics beat reporter. She maintained her professionalism even when a linebacker hurled a hair dryer at her, a legendary basketball coach blew cigar smoke in her face, and various self-appointed bouncers blocked her post-game access to locker rooms.
“I wasn’t trying to break down barriers,” MacMullan told the 2016 graduating class at Lawrence Academy. “I was just trying to do my job.”
If these encounters made her cry, she would do it alone in her car. “And then, when I got back to work, I started trying to build my credibility, one story at a time.”
MacMullan avoided after-hours socializing with sports figures and tried to work harder than the competition. In her New Yorker interview, MacMullan quoted Celtics great Larry Bird as once telling her: “You always show up. They notice.”
MacMullan ultimately collaborated with Bird on two books: “Bird Watching: On Playing and Coaching the Game I Love,” and “When the Game Was Ours,” written with Bird and Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson.
She covered basketball for Sports Illustrated from 1995 to 2000, then returned to the Globe in 2002 as an associate editor and the paper’s first female sports columnist. She started working for ESPN in 2010 and is also a correspondent for WHDH-TV.
MacMullan was the first woman to win the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Media Award in 2010 and the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing earlier this year. She also won the Mary Garber Pioneer Award from the Association for Women in Sports Media.
In 2018, MacMullan co-edited “Basketball: A Love Story,” an oral history of the sport. She also gained attention for her five-part ESPN series last year about mental health in the NBA, getting sources to open up due to the trust she had built over the years.
MacMullan and her husband, Michael Boyle, raised a son and daughter in Westford, and her philanthropy earned her the 2009 Ron Burton Community Service Award. In 2017, she traveled to Rwanda as a board member of the Shooting Touch Foundation, which helps at-risk youth.