Boardroom sat down with the NBA on TNT host to discuss his upcoming NFL Draft show with B/R, the exciting NBA Playoffs, how he sees Web3 and sports evolving in the future, and more.
Even if you don’t know Adam Lefkoe, you know Adam Lefkoe.
You can’t escape the superstar sports broadcaster these days, who is all over the place as he juggles preparation for the start of the NFL Draft on Thursday while also hosting one of the most popular media shows — NBA on TNT — during the heat of the postseason. This year’s draft is a bit more special, however, as Lefkoe is preparing to host his 10th B/R Gridiron NFL Draft Night show, set to stream exclusively on the B/R app and B/R YouTube channel on Thursday, April 27 at 8 p.m. ET.
Like NBA on TNT, Gridiron NFL Draft Night is unique in that it’s one of just a few shows to feature current NFL stars to provide real-time analysis with each pick. This year, he’ll be joined by active players Micah Parsons, AJ Brown, Kirk Cousins, and Calais Campbell.
Ahead of what is sure to be a busy weekend, Boardroom chopped it up with Adam Lefkoe to hear what he has to say about the NFL Draft, the NBA Playoffs, his Philadelphia sports fandom, the emerging world of Web3, and more.
GRIFFIN ADAMS: You really had to grind your way through the industry to get to where you’re at today. What’s driven you throughout the journey?
ADAM LEFKOE: The first thing that came to my mind when you said that was there’s this notion of self-belief. What I mean by that is I always thought that I could do it. And I always had people that were like, “Oh, you want to do sports TV?” And I would say, “Yeah, that’s what I want to do.” And so when you’re kind of on that journey — I think I did like five and a half years of local news — there’s a lot of moments where you’re like, “I don’t think I want to do this anymore.” But you realize what you’ve said to people. You’ve said, “No, this is what I want.” And so, that pressure that I put on myself and the notion that other people were expecting that out of me, that kind of kept me going.
There was a point in Louisville, Kentucky, where I thought I wanted to leave television and go into radio. There was a time when I thought that I wanted to become a feature producer and not be on-air. There were times at the early stages of Bleacher Report when I just didn’t know if I really enjoyed it, just because there’s always gonna be a moment of the grind — some combination of your personal life and work that you’re working a lot, but maybe it’s not fulfilling. It’s not hitting that creative bone in your body where you’re challenged and at the same time, you feel like people are even watching you. That was really tough in different parts, where it was like — you do all this work and then you get done, and then there’s no response. That’s when you realize, man, this is tough. But I think I’ve had a lot of really good family and friends in my corner that have always supported me and I think that I very early on kind of established — I’m doing this shit.
GA: Having to juggle time between your NFL show and NBA on TNT, do you prepare any differently for one show than the other?
AL: When I was doing the podcast with Chris Sims and then when it became The Lefkoe Show, I actually wanted to treat the NFL like the NBA. And I would argue, if you really do look back, myself and the producer, Josh Frick, when we started doing the Simms & Lefkoe Instagram handle, B/R Gridiron hit us up and they were like, “Can you explain to us what your philosophy is?” And it was all player-centric. It was all storyline-focused because a lot of NFL coverage — we thought — was very team-specific and fantasy-specific. And now, I look at the NFL and it’s very personality-driven, which is always what I thought the NBA was.
In terms of covering it, I think that as the host I need to know your team and I need to know truly what they’re going through and have the information. I can’t go on there and not know that Baker Mayfield is in line to be the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Bucs and how that might make Bucs fans feel. Or know the last time that three tight ends went in the first round of the NFL Draft.
So, I overprepare for NBA on TNT, the NFL Draft. … I treat ’em both the same. I treat ’em like an open-book test where I fill up with a lot of information, and let’s say I have 15 nuggets for every player. What I’ve learned over the years is that if I give out all 15, I’ve talked too much. And I have to be OK, maybe giving two, and I have to kind of know ahead of time what are the two that I value the most because I’m gonna want to hear from Renner, I’m gonna want to hear from Felder, I’m gonna want to hear from Parsons or Cousins or Calias Campbell, or AJ Brown. And so, I know in both situations, it’s not about me, but I need to prepare in case somebody says something or there’s an opportunity to kind of add some context.
GA: I really like the open book thing. Is that something that was passed down to you or something you developed over the years?
AL: The first time I realized that, I was working in Louisville, Kentucky, and we were covering the Breeders Cup. I prepared for two months and I had seven nuggets for every horse in every race. And then I went on TV and my hits each time were 30 seconds long and I got out one nugget. I realized that you have to understand the job that you’re preparing for and what is going to be asked of it.
The other thing that really made me understand prep was watching Ernie [Johnson] and seeing his sheets. I would ride with him, like a car with the talent team to an event and I would just see a stack of papers. I realized that he had all these notes and he might not get to ’em [all], but if Chuck said something, “Man, I wonder what the next three games are gonna be,” Ernie had to have that.
So, I started looking at what nuggets and notes he always had, or I’d watch him on TV and I would close my eyes and I would listen to what he said and I’d go, “Oh, he brought up their record when losing at halftime.” “Oh, he brought up their record when holding an opponent under 100.” And so what I started doing was: Any time he said a stat, I was like, “That’s an interesting one.” And they might not hold a team under 100. I may have looked up that, I may have spent five minutes finding that, and it was a complete waste of time, but if they did, that’s interesting.
Kind of listening to him and following the way he works really kind of showed me a roadmap map for the way to prepare.
GA: Ahead of hosting your NFL Draft show, how do you feel about this year’s class?
AL: I think for this draft, I think this: I think mock drafts are gonna be the most incorrect this year than they’ve ever been because I do not think anyone even knows the order of the quarterbacks. Usually, at least we have that and we know which teams want a quarterback. Secondly, every single one of the top quarterbacks has a huge flaw that teams are gonna have a hard time with. I believe that there are gonna be a number of the players — the rumor right now is that there’s 15, 16 players that have first-round grades for a lot of NFL teams, which means that there’s not a lot of super high-end guys. I think guys like Bijan Robinson, I think guys like Jalen Carter go a lot higher than people think.
And I actually believe that the quarterbacks are gonna fall a little bit and I think it’s gonna shock people. I just want to remind everybody of that 2018 draft when we had five first-round quarterbacks — four in the top 10 — and every one of them was seen as a lock. Lamar, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, and Sam Darnold. And right now we’re sitting here [and] Lamar Jackson can’t even get a contract; Josh Allen is the only one that’s kind of done it. And Baker and Sam Darnold, and Josh Rosen is not even in the league.
So, I think it’s a crapshoot and I, but I think that leads to a really fun night of after every pick sitting there and going, “What’s going on right now [hypothetically] with CJ Stroud?” I think that’ll be fun.
GA: The draft certainly won’t be short on the drama. What’s it like having NFL players join the show to help break down each pick in real time?
AL: Having active players on our draft show completely changed the experience last year. Reacting live to AJ Brown getting traded with Jason Kelce was truly a moment where I forgot I was on camera — and as an Eagles fan, we lost our minds. Realizing that the Eagles drafted Jason Kelce’s replacement and going, “Jason, what do you think of this pick?” And then realizing and going, “Oh man, I’m sorry.” It’s not just people breaking it down. There’s a human element to it.
The fact that we have Kirk Cousins on this draft and there are a number of draft analysts saying that with that No. 23 pick, there’s a chance the Vikings could go quarterback. That could be insane. The thing, though, is these guys are such professionals that they can handle any moment. But we had Cam Jordan come on, and when Kyle Pitts got drafted to the Falcons, he said he was gonna separate his head from his body. When Robert Griffin was on and Kellen Mond was drafted, he said he’s gonna replace Kirk Cousins. That was not a good take.
I think for a lot of these players, the thing that I get excited about, is Bleacher Report, the draft show has actually launched a few media careers. Jason Kelce was on last year, and now he has one of the most popular podcasts in the country. And that sort of was validation. RGIII got the job at ESPN like a week after he was on our draft show. It used to happen all the time where guys would come on our podcast and then the other networks would pick ’em up. So, it’s been very cool to see athletes look at our draft show and go, “This might be a launching pad for my broadcasting career.” I love helping out athletes like that. I love helping them with their second career and their second life and the good ones I’ll pour into. Because if you got it, man, not everyone has it.
GA: So speaking of your Eagles fandom, how are you feeling about the recent Jalen Hurts extension?
AL: I like to think about the contract that they gave to Carson Wentz and then how that turned the locker room inside out because they didn’t believe he was truly a leader. And then to see the reaction towards Jalen Hurts getting the contract and what that does to the rest of the franchise. I’m looking at the Giants right now and all they’re dealing with. Daniel Jones got a contract, Saquon [Barkley] didn’t — Saquon’s not coming to camp. You’re not seeing that in Philly. The Philly Eagles’ players are going nuts right now cause they love it.
The other thing is, is that Eagles fans need to appreciate the fact that Jeffrey Lurie is willing to pay guaranteed money. Year after year, they’re able to sign guys late in the offseason like James Bradbury, because he’s willing to go, I’ll guarantee this deal. I’ll guarantee Kelce’s deal. And to give so many guarantees to Jalen Hurts is freeing up salary cap year after year to where I think the Eagles might be one of the few teams with a big quarterback contract that can still put good players around him.
The thing that people don’t realize about NFL owners and owners, in general, is we’re starting to get to the point where it’s a family business. And a lot of these owners are the children of other owners. They do not have their own financial freedom. Their finances are the franchises. The Bengals — it’s gonna be tough signing Joe Burrow. The Cardinals, the Bidwill family.
What Jeffrey Lurie did, it’s a little bit like Steve Ballmer, Robert Kraft. The owners that are willing to spend money can then open it up to keep it going. And I mean, you’re seeing it in Buffalo. They gave Josh Allen that huge contract and then they lose their best linebacker and an offensive lineman. So, I was very pleasantly surprised and I’m thrilled they got it done before Herbert and Burrow got a contract.
GA: Is there a player you hope falls to the Eagles at No. 10?
AL: They are No. 10 and No. 30. So the fun pick is Bijan Robinson. The best player that I heard from some people that I trust, if he starts to fall a little bit, they might move up and get him is Jalen Carter, the defensive lineman from Georgia. And if you are putting him and Jordan Davis together for the next four years, that’s the position they care about the most. Those are the two that’ll probably make me the happiest.
Other positions, if a cornerback fell like a Christian Gonzalez — I don’t think he will — but that would make sense. If they went the [Peter] Skoronski kid out of Northwestern, the guard. And then, that depends on how many years Jason Kelce has left. If they know that Jason Kelce’s gonna play one more year and you draft a guard, and then next year you move Jergens to center, then you’re solidified for the next four years, that’s pretty good.
But I want to leave this draft with at least one pass rusher. I think it’s the one part of the Eagles, everyone says they’re deep. Brandon Graham is coming to the end. Fletcher Cox is coming to the end. Derek Barnett’s coming off of an injury and they lost Javon Hargrave. This is a team that had 70 sacks last year. They need another D-line.
GA: Alright, transitioning to the NBA here for a second. Don’t worry, we’ll get to our Sixers in a second, but before that, what have been your thoughts on the NBA Playoffs thus far? Feels like a lot has happened in such a short amount of time.
AL: I had to remind myself that last year, it was like a 20-point win and then it would be a 20-point win for the other team. And [this year] wasn’t great until towards the end, every single night, with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. We’re sitting there — the last shot, Trae Young hits a buzzer-beater in Boston. The Grizzlies-Lakers game goes to overtime and LeBron hits a three-quarter-court shot and it almost goes in at the buzzer. Minnesota-Denver came down to multiple buzzer-beaters. The only one that was a sweep was the Sixers. I mean, even the Suns-Clippers games, even though it was a 4-1 end, they were thrilling.
What really gets me excited is to see the young guys step up, that’s what I get excited about. I thought Anthony Edwards was phenomenal in that series. I love seeing Trae Young get trashed all year and then take it to a whole other level. Devin Booker and that Clipper series, averaging 37, 5, and 6. Incredible. De’Aaron Fox — hopefully he’s healthy with that finger — what he’s been like in the Warriors series. It gives me a lot of hope and excitement for the years to come. Jimmy Butler with 56 against the Bucks. I still think the Bucks are gonna make it a series just like I like the Warriors when they were down 0-2. I think Steve Kerr is 14-4 in Game 5s. He’s just — that’s a different level of a team.
I think the fact that we’re sitting here now and we still don’t have a real favorite The team that I thought was the favorite just lost to Atlanta at home. And Phoenix, you’re going, man, their bench isn’t that deep. So, every team kind of has a little bit of an Achilles heel. Bucks, Giannis is hurt. Sixers, Embiid is hurt. But they’re still battling through, so I have a feeling that it’s gonna be a really spicy conference finals and Finals.
GA: I said we’d get to the Sixers, so I’ll get to it: How you feelin’ about this year’s team?
AL: I’ve been negative all year. [laughs] I mean, they start off the year 0-2 and that’s sort of when I was like, I’m not putting my emotions into this team. I think the thing that scares me, other than the fact that Embiid is hurt, is that James Harden, when he drives is not the same guy. He’s not getting to the free-throw line. He’s not finishing around the basket. And I think that Nets team — Sure, you know, after the All-Star break with all those pieces, they fought really hard and they kept the six-seed over the Heat. They’re just not a good team. They’re not at the level of the Boston Celtics. And so I have gone into this year thinking I have zero expectation.
All I want is for Embiid towin the MVP. If they do anything, I am happy to be proved wrong. I remember when the Raptors won the championship and they beat us, but like, everyone would be like, could the Raptors do it? And I would just say no, because until you prove it to me. I’m happy being right six years in a row, and then maybe I’m wrong in the seventh year.
But the one thing I will say about the Sixers team that makes my heart full is that they finally have some dogs. PJ Tucker. Milton. Maxey. Paul Reed. We haven’t had guys like that. For a long time, we never got those loose rebounds, man. We never fight. And I said from the beginning, the reason I love PJ Tucker was I was tired of Embiid being the toughest dude on the team. I don’t think your star should be the guy that fights people. And now, I think they have a few other people that will fight people.
But in the end, I don’t get my emotions up for Doc Rivers or James Harden. They’re just, when all is said and done, we know what their book is gonna say about their playoff legacy. So, I hope they prove me wrong. It would be the No. 1 thing I’d love to be wrong about.
GA: Earlier, you mentioned Philly’s favorite team in the Boston Celtics as your potential title favorite. Do you still feel that way after their Game 5 loss?
AL: Yeah, because I think that they have four or five guys that can take people off the dribble. I think they have three or four deep at big man, especially when you include Grant Williams — you can throw him on Embiid and Giannis. But with Horford and Robert Williams being healthy, I think that they also have … they’ve all been there.
The one team that I keep thinking that people wrote off last week, and they’re back in vengeance are the Warriors because [Andrew] Wiggins is only to get more comfortable, and Klay [Thompson] and [Donte] DiVincenzo kind of coming into his own, and it is Steve Kerr and Steph Curry. That’s dangerous, man. I would lean Celtics right now, but the Suns and the Warriors are the other teams that I have circled as like — they could win it.
GA: Alright, pivoting again, this time to Web3. Walk us through your journey into the space and how it will evolve alongside sports moving forward.
AL: This really started during the pandemic. All of a sudden, Web3 exploded, and NFTs and all that. That’s when everybody got into it, right? I hit up my bosses and I was like, “If we’re doing anything on this, I’d love to be a part of it.” And they connected me with two guys, and we just had a meeting one day and I said, “Guys, the thing is everybody’s trying to make money off of this. I would just love for us to truly create utility and access because I’m hearing a lot of money grubbers out there.” And I would much rather it be something that is for the fans.
The thing I always thought: I was that sicko that would watch NBA on TNT until 1:45 in the morning on the East Coast. And I would know all the bits and I would know EJ’s Stat of the Night. So what I thought was, I would love to find a way to reward the people that are truly fans of the show. Last year, I went to the Western Conference Finals — I went to Dallas and I went to San Francisco for that Golden State-Dallas series. There are hundreds of people out there and they’re live. They’re getting to high-five Shaq and get an autograph from Barkley. What I thought was how cool would it be if the people that watched until 1:30 in the morning were the ones that got to come to something like this? I think that’s the future that we’re kind of thinking is when it’s All-Star Weekend, when it’s a conference finals, how can we give access to those people?
How can people collect moments, build up their wallets, and communicate with other fans of the show? And it’s not just Twitter, it’s not just a Reddit, but it’s its own private little safe space of NBA on TNT inside the NBA fans. And the thing that I’m excited about is when it gets to that level where we give access, where maybe you get to see the studio. Where maybe you get to come in, maybe we send you one of the rundowns autographed by people or a video from Candace Parker. To me, that is the future of all of this — how do we become the first show to really break down that fourth wall and communicate with the fans?
I’ve always thought that the NBA on TNT was revolutionary in the way that it listened. They were the first show that I ever saw that started putting tweets on TV. They were the first show where they would be talking about something, but then a fan would tweet something in and they’d just start talking about the fan. We’re not afraid to listen to our audience. And when I heard people talk about Web3 — which was all about open source, shared community — the ethos aligns, you know? I don’t really care if y’all make money; I don’t get paid any different. But in terms of connecting with the audience, that was the No. 1 thing that attracted me to doing something like this. I think it’s been fun. I think the audience and the community have been great.
GA: Last question here for you before letting you go. Obviously, we’re big sneaker people over at Boardroom. We always see you dropping heat on the set, so I’m curious: Have anything in store for the rest of the NBA Playoffs here?
AL: If you notice, the Tuesday show has a hole in the desk and the Thursday show does not. When we were coming up with it, I was like, “Hey guys, I wanna wear some fire kicks and I’d like for the audience to see it.” Because that’s part of our culture right now. I just did Pat McAfee’s show and he is like, “Man, we see you!” and “You got him on a box and everything.”
When I figure out what I’m gonna wear, I start with the sneakers. Because that’s how I get dressed when I go out. I figure out, hey, I wanna wear the Wotherspoons. I don’t pick a sweater: I ask myself what goes with those? One of the most fun things I do is I sit down with a few of my friends that are big sneakerheads or that work at different companies in that world, Stadium Goods designers and stuff like that, and we just come up with what 10 sneakers would we like to see?
We had a show on Valentine’s Day this year and I ended up rocking the Valentine’s Day Nike Dunks that came out this year. I was actually upset because I had two sneakers that I wanted to wear, but I could not get them in time. One of them was Joe Freshgoods’ “No Emotions Are Emotions,” which is like a Joe Freshgoods x New Balance collab, a red and pink one. Can’t find it anywhere. And the only one I could find was $8,000 and I was not about to pay that. And then the other one was the Strangelove Dunks. Anytime I was walking in Soho and anytime I pass a sneaker store, I just go in and I go to that back case where it’s always the expensive ones and they had ’em in there for like a really good price in my size. I didn’t realize how beautiful the material was. Because sometimes, man, the quality’s not that good, but the quality of that was so nice.
But one of my favorite parts of the year is sitting down in June with my friends and being like, what 10 kicks? My friend, Adam Kaufman — he works over at Stadium Goods — he was the one that pitched the Chinese New Year’s and I didn’t even really know about that shoe. And then just looking into it and looking at the history of that and then getting them in-hand and seeing them, and I was like, “Oh, this shoe was fire.”
What’s very funny is now that I’ve done this for three years in a row, I always buy them and I go, “Oh, I’ll sell it afterward.” And then I’ve just kept all of them. I don’t give any of them back. Once I get ’em, I can’t let go. It becomes a part of the rotation, but yeah, man, it’s the best.
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