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Podcast P: Is Paul George the Next Podcast King?

Shlomo Sprung
Written By:
Shlomo Sprung
Original Photography: Jeremiah Jhass

The COVID-19 pandemic famously shut down the NBA in 2020, and everyone had to figure out ways to endure some of the toughest times we’ve seen in a generation. For Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Paul George and millions around the world going through months of lockdowns, that meant gaming and streaming.

For months, George and his friends streamed Call of Duty to pass the time on a regular basis. Live from the stream, PG directly interacted with his fans in ways he never had before, answering questions and facilitating back-and-forth banter. What he didn’t know was how a simple coping mechanism would eventually inspire the launch of something huge.

“I wanted to give back to fans in a way that I didn’t know how to at that time,” George told Boardroom earlier this month in Dallas as he prepared to be a guest analyst on ESPN‘s NBA Countdown during the Finals. “I’m talking to my boys probably two, three hours out of the day anyway, so I was like, ‘what if we brought this on camera, just shot content, and put it out?'”

Now, four years after those initial livestreams, George has crossed over into the media space, leaving a mark on the industry and becoming your favorite hooper’s favorite podcaster.

From Streams to Streaming: The Evolution of ‘Podcast P’

The unanticipated success of that concept planted the initial seeds for what’s sprouted into Podcast P with Paul George, a weekly show presented by Wave Sports + Entertainment co-hosted with longtime friends Jackie Long and Dallas Rutherford.

After seeing incredible results with its first show, New Heights with Jason and Travis Kelce, Wave Sports + Entertainment Chief Content Officer Mack Sovereign wanted to expand into basketball. George was immediately at the top of Wave’s internal wish list, and there was mutual interest between Wave and George’s representatives at CAA.

“Everything we had seen and known of him, his charisma, his intelligence,” Sovereign told Boardroom, “it became even more obvious when we got a chance to meet him.”

In contrast, George, 34, described himself as pretty introverted and conceded that without the unique experience of the livestreams, he never would’ve come close to considering podcasting in the past. In envisioning how he wanted to differentiate his product in an incredibly crowded space, the Los Angeles native rooted his show in genuineness and authenticity, promoting an optimistic, even-keeled perspective.

While he became increasingly aware of his own strengths, he knew that the success of the move depended on bringing in the right talent.

Assembling the Squad

As he has been throughout his NBA career, George is always a natural playmaker. This intuition showed from the jump as he began to build out the concept. He worked alongside Wave to assemble a team that would help ensure his core values of creating a space that would enable people to safely get their points across without being shamed or shunned.

Initially, George and Wave shot two pilot episodes: One with a fellow big-name athlete, and another with Long and Rutherford. Things immediately clicked with his boys.

“The second we started rolling, it felt like we could go on forever,” George said. “When I was thinking about doing this and playing video games, those were the two guys I was on there with. It just felt right.”

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He first met Rutherford, whose day job is in mortgages, in high school, playing on a legendary Southern California Pump-N-Run AAU squad that also featured Klay Thompson. Not long thereafter, George met Long, an actor eight years PG’s senior. Long and Rutherford first met at George’s house, quickly bonding over their shared love of titles like CoD.

During the pandemic, George decided he wanted to start streaming and bought a camera and equipment to set things up.

“He’s live streaming, and I just was like we should do a podcast. Let’s just try it,” Rutherford told Boardroom. “We don’t have to put it out, but I think it would be fun.”

Fast-forward to the beginning of 2023, and discussions were getting more serious with Wave Sports + Entertainment and CAA. George asked Rutherford if he wanted to do a podcast despite having no formal training outside those pandemic streams. PG then called Long and asked if he’d join too.

“He was like, ‘I can’t just do it with Dallas. It’s going to be too serious and quiet,'” Long told Boardroom. “I said, ‘Look, I got you.’ I didn’t know money was involved. I didn’t know anything about podcasts. All I knew is my Black ass was on a strike from acting, and I was unemployed.”

“Me and Jackie had to go down and do a little interview [as all Wave talent is required to do],” Rutherford said. “Paul didn’t just give it to us, but it’s Paul’s brand and Paul’s platform, and he did right by at least making sure that we could do it. Sure enough, we got the job.”

Getting up Shots

Photo courtesy of Wave Sports + Entertainment

Podcast P premiered in 2023. The first episodes featured the co-hosts exclusively, building their chemistry and getting comfortable with the format. Karl-Anthony Towns stepped in as the first guest to commemorate the 10th episode that March.

“The chemistry was pretty evident from episode one,” Sovereign said. “All of us on our side were excited about the start. It’s definitely a testament to how quickly Jackie, Dallas, and PG gelled.”

George felt that he and his guests were a bit nervous during the first couple of episodes, but he figured out how to make them more comfortable over time.

“What I’ve done well was make myself vulnerable in the way I ask my questions by putting myself in those situations and being relatable to the guest,” George said. “That connection really goes a long way.”

In 20 years of friendship, Rutherford knew George was well-spoken and relatable, and it was up to him and Long to make sure PG was comfortable in a more public setting.

“When we’re playing video games, he’s not shy or introverted. He’s just himself,” Rutherford said. “So just being there makes him feel more comfortable because we’re just talking with friends, like how we do during gaming. We’re just bringing somebody else in and having a conversation.”

Like he would with teammates on the court, George quickly figured out how to best utilize his co-hosts’ strengths. He called Rutherford a perfectionist, who’s analytical, strategic, and well-thought-out with his answers. Meanwhile, Dallas will dive deep, find guests’ backstories, and discover nuggets and facts interviewers never brought up.

“Jackie is the comedic relief,” PG said. “He’s the one that actually makes the guests the most comfortable from the second they walk in. When there are low points or dead zones, he’s the one who keeps the conversation lit and going.”

Just like George prepares and watches tape of himself and his opponents, he’s also watched and learned from other media personalities and former players. From Stephen A. Smith‘s articulation to Chad Ochocinco’s ability to be funny by staying within himself and attributes in Ryan Clark, Brandon Marshall, Shannon Sharpe, Cam Newton, and others, he made sure to pay homage to those who’ve paved the way.

“I couldn’t do this and be comfortable if I hadn’t watched those guys and how they perform,” George said.

Plus, being directly on camera every week for the last 15 months has made it easier for George to try out new things off the court. Similar to the reps he gets in practice, his devout commitment to consistency with the pod has led to him to improve his confidence since its launch.

“He works tirelessly, managing being an incredible father and husband, playing All-Star level basketball, and hosting and running a top 10 podcast,” Justin Kaufman, one of George’s agents at CAA, told Boardroom. “He is constantly at work.”

Extending the Conversation

In separate conversations, both Long and Sovereign pointed to the June 2023 episode with the late, great Jerry West where everything in Podcast P started to really click. The interviews with West, Thompson, Draymond Green, and DeMar DeRozan helped put the podcast on a really strong trajectory, Sovereign said.

Last July, Charlotte Hornets wing Brandon Miller joined the pod to address a recent comment he’d made calling George his NBA GOAT, beginning a trend of sorts where young players say they want to emulate PG or strive to attain his career trajectory. George explained that on one hand, there’s an appreciation for the body of work and style of play he’s created for himself over a standout 14-year professional career.

“But then on the other side,” he continued, “it’s almost me shielding them from the hate that comes from me being their GOAT. The backlash of ‘Paul George is not the GOAT. He’s not better than this or that player. He doesn’t have a ring.’ But I’ve always thought I played the game the right way. I play to win. I play as hard as I can, and I love playing both ends. I’m one of the smoothest to do it.

“There’s a lot to be proud of, especially seeing the next generation finding something in my game that why want to add to theirs.”

This type of nuance is a welcome respite from sports talk’s pervasive, ceaseless hot-take debate culture. In 2024, that’s extended to women’s basketball, with college hoops, the WNBA, Caitlin Clark, and Angel Reese discussions even getting segments and air time on cable news as a political football of sorts. In conversations over the last few months with Juju Watkins, Cameron Brink, and Satou Sabally, George uses his platform to cover women’s basketball in a productive and substantive way.

Photo courtesy of Wave Sports + Entertainment

George said his older sister Teiosha is a reason he got into hoops in the first place, having been around the women’s game playing as long as he can remember. He loves where the W is going right now, growing the game organically with new personalities.

“Each woman is starting to come into their own and embrace who they are, and that’s what’s really making the game grow their stars on and off the court,” George said. “And the more we can highlight that and put that out, give them coverage, I’m all for it. We just want to uplift and spread positivity. And I think our pod has shown up.”

Photo courtesy of Wave Sports + Entertainment

It’s evident that Sovereign’s search to find a proper basketball counterpart to the Kelces’ New Heights worked out in a massive way. Since its launch on March 6, 2023, Podcast P has grown into a juggernaut with more than 30 million monthly views and 1.75 million followers across its social channels, including 725,000 on YouTube.

The common thread, according to Sovereign? How they’re able to demonstrate their true selves on camera, revealing the fundamentals of who they are and being comfortable demonstrating that on air.

“With Paul, that comes through that he is a very curious person, very generous in the way that he shares the space with his guests so that they can connect with him,” Sovereign said.

Stepping Beyond the Mic

“I can speak for all of us,” Long said. “None of us knew that this podcast was going to be anything. But the chemistry was there off the bat because it’s just us. The three of us didn’t start with guests. We’re like The Three Stooges, man.”

The trio’s bond has been forged over decades of gaming, trips, golf, and jet skiing. But it also took Wave Sports + Entertainment’s production and support staff time to develop a creative partnership that worked both behind and in front of the camera to bring these longstanding relationships to life.

And in just over a year of programming, the pod has found itself on various Best Of lists. Last July, Complex named it the NBA’s top-ranked player podcast. Less than nine months after its debut, the show was named one of the top 10 sports podcasts of 2023 in Spotify‘s annual Wrapped recap.

When he first saw the Complex ranking, George thought the top spot was a bit premature, more so for being a fresh voice than its accomplishments. But now that everything is in place at Podcast P, expectations are higher and plans are in motion to expand the show’s scale and scope. Long wants to take the show on the road to events like Summer League or film festivals for live shows that could include actors. Rutherford would like to see more crossover with sports and business, while Sovereign wants to explore areas beyond the NBA in ways that can bring in an audience while highlighting the hosts’ interests outside basketball.

For George, that’s always included his charitable work, led by the Paul George Foundation, which is dedicated to encouraging students to participate in STEM initiatives and pursue STEM careers. Proceeds from the annual PG13 Top Golf Classic went toward sending 30 students from LA and his hometown of Palmdale to last week’s Advanced Space Academy at NASA’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. It marked the 100th student to attend space camp thanks to the foundation’s program, which began in 2021.

Yet, ultimately, basketball will always come first for George, who has an opt-out in the final year of his Clippers contract that could make him the NBA’s most important unrestricted free agent on June 30. PG discussed his future, which includes some uncertainty, on the most recent Podcast P episode on June 19.

George answered 13 burning questions, using his platform to discuss free agency, the NBA Finals, and the most recent season on his own terms. George mentioned contributing to winning basketball and playing the right style rather than chasing a championship, among a litany of other subjects that are red meat for the internet’s large army of aggregators and clickbait content farms.

What we do know about George’s future is that Podcast P, forged through authentic, longstanding friendships with co-hosts who have been there through thick and thin, will remain a weekly constant in his life. There are still huge guests he’d love to have on the show, like Tiger Woods, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Will Smith, Kevin Hart, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, people George said have been huge influences on him and who he looks up to in trying to be better as a man.

In 10 years from now, who knows what’s in store for Paul George, considering what he’s built just from an activity to pass the time during pandemic lockdown.

“I’m doing more in media now, and the next step for me would be doing it live and with a bigger production,” George said. “I didn’t think I’d be here if I looked back 10 years ago. So I can’t rule anything out.

“I guess we’ll just have to see.”

Creative Director – Michelle Lukianovich
Interviewer – Andrea Masenda 
Producer – Audrey Blackmore
Senior Producer – Craig Newton
Writer – Shlomo Sprung
Story Editor – Griffin Adams
Photographer Jeremiah Jhass
Studio SpaceHeights District
Production Company – Toby Canning Films
Head of Video – Andrea Masenda
Head of Social – Yoni Mernick
Head of Editorial Operations – Bernadette Doykos
Talent Relations – Lorenzo McCloud
Web Developer – Brett Aiello
Head of Audience Development – Jonathan Wiener
VP, General Manager – Nate Loucks
CMO – Sarah Flynn
Co-Founders – Rich Kleiman & Kevin Durant

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Shlomo Sprung

Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.

About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.