Jordan Robinson (16) is joining her passions for basketball and journalism in a way she never would’ve expected growing up. Robsinson is a freelance writer, host and podcaster based in Los Angeles, CA. She covers women’s basketball and pop culture, and their intersections. She is also a women’s college basketball host for The Pac-12 Network, and co-hosts a WNBA podcast called “Queens of the Court” for the WNBA and Audacy. 

It started with a DVD, a montage of plays and shots on the court, where Jordan (Ligons) Robinson (16) would tell you, she was the big fish. 

She was at the peak of her game, top in the city, senior in high school. She would tell you, “ball is life.”

When the senior season was coming to a close, Robinson knew this wouldn’t be the end for her. College was next and she was determined to play in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), DII. She was also set on going to school in San Diego and studying journalism. 

“I looked at San Diego as this dream place,” Robinson said. “My aunt and uncle and grandparents lived in San Diego, so I [realized], ‘This is perfect. I want to be in this area.’”

That’s where the DVD comes in.

“We made the DVD, wrote a cover letter and we were passing it out to schools,” Robinson said. “It was summer. The coach wasn’t there. We just dropped it off at Coach [Bill] Westphal’s mailbox and kept driving. Fingers crossed. I went on with my life.”

Robinson and her dad trekked their way down and back up the coast to home in Sacramento, stopping at other schools like Azusa Pacific University along the way, dropping off the DVD and hoping to land her a spot in the NAIA court. 

Robinson heard back from PLNU, and she scheduled a planned visit. And in that visit, she met Dean Nelson, Ph.D., director of the journalism program. She told him her dream to be a magazine editor, and Dean told her about the magazine editing class.

“That was music to my ears,” Robinson said. “He just told me everything that they were doing with the program.”

“I’m looking out into this ocean view and I’m like, ‘why would I not go here? This is the perfect place for me.’”

This perfect place, little did she know at the time, would help her achieve her exact dream. Though, the dream would change in her journey.

Robinson had found the ocean at PLNU but quickly realized it wasn’t all going to be smooth sailing. This was only the beginning and she was going from a senior year peak on the bluffs to the valley of freshman year. 

“Going to college was an eye-opening experience,” Robinson said. “I was coming from high school where people are chanting your name.” 

“And you got to college and you are a freshman and it’s so not awesome. You learn everything for the first time. I really struggled with that. I’m so glad I had journalism and my friends.”

Being on a new team of talented players meant she had less playing time than she was used to as a star player in high school. This is where Robinson had to decide whether she was going to sink or swim.

“I really had to lean on the fact that I am more than a basketball player,” Robinson said. “I am a captain. I am the biggest cheerleader for my teammates.”

“Just because I’m not filling up the stat sheet, that doesn’t diminish my worth as a person, as a student athlete, as a person who loves basketball. That took a lot.”

Robinson realized this meant she had to invest in more than just the sport. She zeroed into journalism while also showing up for practices and games. She joined the school newspaper, and even served as A&E editor. While at the school newspaper, she was more interested in writing about fashion and pop culture. She also wrote some hard news pieces when PLNU decided the institution would not allow marriages on campus.

But this foundation of basketball never really would leave her, though she would try to skirt around these roots for a while. 

“I realized I’m not going to play after college, and that’s okay, so what else can I bring to this life? Writing and journalism was a part of that.”

I realized I’m not going to play after college, and that’s okay, so what else can I bring to this life?” Robinson said. “Writing and journalism was a part of that.”

“Because basketball wasn’t doing super great, I didn’t want to write about basketball and sports. Fashion was a bit of escapism in that way.”

As she dove deeper into journalism, she recalled one class in particular that remains a vivid memory and surprisingly, it was not related to print journalism 

In a senior year class with professor Stephen Goforth, she was asked to make a podcast.

“I recorded in my car, and I was like I am never doing this again,” Robinson said. “I do not like the sound of my voice. I hated listening to it back in class, but it was a skill. Goforth said just try it. I kept that in the back of my mind.”

Though she didn’t know it then, this multimedia experience would become valuable in her future career, but right out of college Robinson stuck with the magazine dream, landing a magazine editing role early in her career. While editing and writing at the magazine, she realized that this magazine journalism was very different from what she did in school. This entailed more biased reporting than she had become accustomed to.

“Especially coming out of journalism school, I was so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, like ready to really tackle stories and do what I just learned,” Robinson said. “And [the Magazine] was like, this is our partner, write about them.”

“It crushed my journalism soul, and a little of my ethics were pushed as well.”

She stuck it out for a while but when a fact-checker job opened up at sports and pop culture website The Ringer, she thought it might be time to get back to her sports and hard-hitting journalism roots. Torn with the decision of leaving her stable editing job, she called Dean Nelson.

“I [said], ‘Dean, I think I want to do sports,”’ Robinson said. “‘You tried to tell me to do sports in college. I waved you off.’” 

“‘Now, I think I want to do it.’ He [said], ‘It’s perfect for you. Do it.”

This experience was akin to her freshman year. Robinson was starting over and in an environment that looked much different. It combined her passions, but she would have to learn to work with this new team, a team that was not all women like her college basketball crew.

“Being a woman in the sports journalism space, you’re immediately tested on how much you know,” Robinson said. “As a Black woman, on top of that, the respect doesn’t come automatically, even though I was a college basketball player and 90% of my male colleagues had never even been on a basketball court. I was still challenged.”

Robinson was undeterred. She brought waves of new ideas to the newsroom that didn’t diminish her basketball knowledge, unlike in college when she skirted basketball to focus on fashion writing. In fact, what she wanted to do was the work that celebrated all that she knew through her own lived experiences as a basketball player. Robinson was determined to establish space and coverage for the WNBA. No one else was going to do it. So she did.

“I am the only woman here,” Robinson remembers saying. “I am really the one interested in women’s basketball, and I know none of you can break down the game like I can and specifically have women’s basketball experience.” 

“I was told to fall in line and do the NBA, but I pushed that. You can’t be a sports website and not have women’s basketball, the WNBA.”

“I was told to fall in line and do the NBA, but I pushed that. You can’t be a sports website and not have women’s basketball, the WNBA.”

In the after hours of her fact checking job, she did interviews, researched and wrote stories about the WNBA. She wasn’t allowed to do this work while fact checking. She did this work unpaid. 

Her first feature on Napheesa Collier was the start, and from there she built up. But, apathy from The Ringer persisted. She knew it was time to change up the play. And so during her time at The Ringer, she started branching out, specifically into podcasting.

“I just wanted to learn everything about it because I saw how much money The Ringer was making off of podcasting, and I think that was a lightbulb moment for me to say okay this is where the sports industry is going,” Robinson said. “If I don’t get on this, I’m going to get left behind. That’s what really started that whole movement.” 

Her only experience with podcasting was the one podcast from Goforth’s class, so she joined a podcasting class at a junior college and started being a guest on established segments. 

One of her coworkers at The Ringer, Haley O’Shawnasee, got a job at Blue Wire, and she asked Robinson to help her out with the new podcast she was working on. Robinson joined for a practice recording. Nobody was supposed to see it.

“We talk about the Clippers. I’m just sitting back, relaxed,” Robinson said. “She called me two days later, ‘Okay I [was] just kidding. Everybody saw it, and they want you to be my co-host for the show.’”

“I felt so [in] over my head. She’s like ‘no, it’s fine. They want you to do it.’ That’s how The Spinsters got started.”

The Spinsters was a podcast about emerging events in the world of basketball, with a special focus on women and minorities in the sport. From there, Robinson just kept growing and expanding her coverage of sports, specifically women’s sports.

“Now to cover it full time, starting from that first feature, is really really cool,” Robinson said. “I use my difference, as a woman, as a Black woman, to say nobody can cover a league dominated by Black women better than me. So let me write this. And what were they going to say? No?”

“I use my difference, as a woman, as a Black woman, to say nobody can cover a league dominated by Black women better than me. So let me write this. And what were they going to say? No?”

Her experience has shown, they’ve said yes. She is now a freelancer, covering a variety of sports and athletes. But perhaps one of the most rewarding things in her journey is her coverage of student athletes.

“Knowing and having that experience of being a college athlete, I will always feel connected to them because I [can say], ‘I know what you’re going through,’” Robinson said. “Just being able to talk to them about what their interests are outside of their sport, I wish that people would’ve asked me more about that at that time instead of how many points do [I] score.” 

“I don’t really remember the points I scored. I remember those friendships and those memories that happened way more.”

And these memories weren’t without hardship along the way. While the general public is at home watching football on Thanksgiving or turning on the TV at night to watch a basketball game, Robinson is at work. And often, she’s on all the time. This past year, she was a host on PAC-12 Tailgate. She traveled four days a week for 13 weeks straight. She said there’s a key to this lifestyle that she learned from Olympian Alison Felix. 

“Felix just said in an interview, ‘There’s no such thing as balance; it’s harmony,’” Robinson said. “And I love that. The idea of this balance is that there’s this weight that has to be even. In some seasons, it’s not even, and that’s just the fact.”

While the career she’s in won’t be slowing down anytime soon, she said the joy has been getting to find the thread connecting all aspects of her life.

“The harmony is that I get to talk about basketball on TV, come home and talk about basketball with the love of my life, go play basketball and then talk about it again,” Robinson said. “That’s how everything is in harmony with each other.”

Although Robinson doesn’t ball on the court for national audiences like she might have thought she would as a kid, she’s found her own way of making the game part of her life. Ball is still life.

“Growing up in Sacramento as a WNBA fan, as a lover of the Monarchs, and now to cover it full time, this is a full circle moment,” Robinson said. “I only knew the Monarchs as this mystical goal. Ticha Penicheiro is my absolute favorite player. To have her number in my phone still freaks me out.”

“I didn’t know what she was like or why she started to play basketball as a kid. That fangirl in me is now how I report. I want to make sure little girls know she has a PB&J before her games, just like me. That [coverage] is what happens on the men’s side. Sometimes your fandom is connected to how much you know about those players. That’s what I want on the women’s side.”

Lainie Alfaro is a student at PLNU studying multimedia journalism. She's currently the marketing and research assistant at Viewpoint, and she was previously the editor in chief of The Point student newspaper.