ESPN Writer Meets Childhood Hero Thurl Bailey

Jan 27, 2024, 9:52 PM | Updated: Jan 29, 2024, 5:30 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – While seeing Thurl Bailey may be commonplace for Utah Jazz fans at the Delta Center, one ESPN writer finally got the opportunity to meet his childhood idol in Charlotte.

ESPN Senior Writer, and co-host Marty & McGee, Ryan McGee is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina where Bailey won the NCAA Title with the NC State Wolfpack in 1983.

“I grew up in Raleigh, had the poster of the Sports Illustrated cover in my room,” McGee said in a social media post.

Despite meeting several other players from the Wolfpack’s title run over the last 40 years, he’d never been introduced to Bailey.

That changed with the help of fellow ESPN employee Holly Rowe who also shares the Jazz television broadcast booth with Bailey.

McGee attended the Jazz’s 134-122 win over the Charlotte Hornets, and before the game, finally met his idol.

“I have worn 41 since I was 13 years old,” McGee told Bailey, who wore the number 41 jersey throughout this 12-year NBA career. “Church league, intramurals in college, because of you, you’re my guy.”

Bailey and Rowe posed for photos with McGee, and gifted the writer two signed basketball cards from his playing career.

Thurl Bailey’s Career With Jazz

The Jazz selected Bailey with the seventh pick of the 1983 Draft shortly after leading the Wolfpack to the NCAA Title.

As a rookie, Bailey started 54 games in 81 appearances and helped lead the Jazz to their first-ever trip to the postseason where they downed the Denver Nuggets in five games.


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In 708 games with the Jazz, Bailey averaged 14.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks while making 205 starts.

Bailey became the Jazz full-time television analyst alongside Craig Bolerjack in 2021.

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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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ESPN Writer Meets Childhood Hero Thurl Bailey