The life of an NBA team PR person at All-Star weekend

By Jake Meister
Medill Reports

Whether Luka Doncic was behind the podium at the Rising Stars Media Day, All-Star Media Day or after the actual games, one man stood by his side as if his life depended on it.

It essentially does.

Scott Tomlin is the Director of Basketball Communications for the Dallas Mavericks. Anytime Doncic, the second-year Mavericks star, spoke with the media during All-Star weekend, Tomlin  was never too far away, and listened closely to ensure no conversation went in a direction that could tarnish the team’s or his young superstar’s reputation.

“He’s always with me,” Doncic said. “He’s a great guy, and always takes care of me. There’s a lot of media.”

Tomlin (left) stands by Doncic’s side at the 2020 NBA All-Star Media Day. (Jake Meister/MEDILL)

Seems simple enough, right? After all, Doncic has been playing professional basketball since he was 13-years-old.

But it is slightly more complicated than that. Picture yourself as the individual responsible for a 20-year-old NBA All-Star who happens to come from a country whose population is smaller than the size of Chicago.Then throw in about a 14-hour workday and having to constantly focus on every single word uttered out of another person’s mouth, hoping nothing goes awry. Add in that Doncic is in the running for the NBA’s MVP.

“I’d like to think I’m OK with it [work-life balance] but if you ask my wife she probably wouldn’t give you the same answer,” Tomlin said.

Despite all of this commotion, Tomlin has to keep his cool. The 15-year veteran of the Mavericks’ communications staff has grown to understand it is part of his job. While he might not be recording triple-doubles on a consistent basis, Tomlin is around sports for the same reason as many players.

“I don’t really feel like I have a job,”Tomlin said. “I feel like I’m actually in love with my work.”

For both Tomlin and Doncic, their All-Star break did not really start until Monday.

If you were to take a glance at the schedule for their four days in Chicago, you would find 20 mandatory NBA events needing their services ranging from media availabilities to the All-Star technology summit. This figure does not include attending meetings with sponsors such as the Jordan Brand and other personal commitments.

A look at Doncic and Tomlin’s schedule on Saturday of All-Star Weekend. (Tucker Grady/NBA)

Prior to the start of each season, Tomlin and his staff lead a media training session with the players to help them prepare for the variety of questions they might face each night. While he and Doncic did not have a word-for-word strategy of how to go about answering all of the questions he would take during the weekends’ events, the University of Kentucky graduate did point out a theme to the marquee set of days on the NBA regular season calendar.

“We discussed what is the depth and breath of this weekend,” Tomlin said. “It’s sort of a celebration of the league so it’s all typically very positive things, but it’s also a very large international event… Keeping him updated on just how busy he’s going to be I would say is probably the thing that we discussed the most leading up to this.”

Tomlin (far right) and Doncic walk to the locker room after the Rising Stars game. (Jake Meister/MEDILL)

As one of many emerging international superstars , Doncic carries extra attention due to the interest of readers in both his home country of Slovenia and in Spain. The 2019 Rookie of the Year played   for Real Madrid in the EuroLeague for four seasons, earning MVP honors in 2018.

“I couldn’t even tell you the capital of Slovenia, much less what their most popular magazine is when we drafted with Luka Doncic,” Tomlin said. “But you better believe I know it now [Ljubljana] and you better believe I know who their [the magazine] rights holder is, who their most popular newspaper is.”

When Medill Reports spoke with him prior to the Rising Stars game, Tomlin said that due to the demanding schedule the duo faced over the course of three days that he and Doncic would have missed lunch had it not been planned well in advance.

It was also part of the slim 40 minutes Tomlin had to decompress after the Rising Stars Media Day.

“That’s not good for anybody,” Tomlin said. “But those are the kinds of requests, the volume of requests, that come in.”

As Doncic continues to gain popularity across the league, Tomlin is already preparing him for what could come next should he continue to play at the level he has been at this season.

“I urge him a lot of times to watch and see how LeBron is doing things, how Giannis is doing things,” Tomlin said. “We watched the All-Star draft show when they were drafting their teams because that could be him next year.”

Photo at top: Tomlin takes a picture of Doncic answering questions to the media.  (Jake Meister/MEDILL)