Chris Lees '98 - ESPN/NBC Sports

 

Several Curry graduates have been making names for themselves at ESPN (the Entertainment Sports Network), and Chris Lees '98 is continuing that tradition.

His story is unique in that his current role at "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" (based in Bristol, Connecticut) sort of "fell into his lap."  He was referred by fellow Curry College classmate, Matt Chant '99.  But to his credit, Lees took the opportunity and ran with it, and has become one of ESPN's leading NASCAR experts.

Ironically, when Lees began his career at ESPN, becoming the in-house NASCAR guru was far from what he envisioned, especially after he was awarded back-to-back Emmy Awards in 2003/2004 for his work on ESPN's iconic, 'Sports Center.'

"I used to help out with the motor sports segments when I was working on our flagship program, 'Sports Center', and the more I did it, the more I liked it, and eventually I became the go to guy on the subject," he recalled.

"It was only logical that in 2007, when ESPN got the contract to cover NASCAR, that I became a big part of that team."

Since then he has traveled the country covering the sport and in the process has become a huge racing fan.  He also gets to work out of ESPN's Los Angeles studios on occasion.  As the Production Researcher for NASCAR programming, Lees describes himself as a second producer.

"My job is to analyze racing statistics and turn them into storylines to present on the air," he explained.  "Those stories are not only shown on television, but they are also repurposed for ESPN.com, broadcast on ESPN radio and published in ESPN the Magazine."

A local kid from nearby West Roxbury, Massachusetts, Lees and his older brother would often listen to the student-produced rock and hip-hop shows on Curry College's award-winning flagship station, WMLN 91.5 FM back in the early 90s.  It was only fitting that Lees would eventually choose the school for its Communication program.

"I looked at other schools with Communication programs like Syracuse and Notre Dame, but after I visited Curry on Accepted Student Day, saw the radio station and met the folks who worked there, it was a no-brainer."

Before coming to Curry, Lees always considered himself a shy kid, but felt comfortable in the intimate Curry setting, which eventually would help him thrive.

"My favorite part of college was covering athletics for the radio station," he remembered.   "It really helped me with my confidence and I was able to fine tune my on-air skills."

Even though Lees was a commuter student, he was always on campus to attend classes, put in shifts at the radio station and hang out with the many friends he made during his time here.

And off campus he secured a prime internship at WEEI's 'The Big Show with Glen Ordway', currently the #1 sports radio talk show in the country.

Lees has worked with some of the biggest on-air personalities at ESPN, including Stuart Scott, Steve Levy, Scott Van Pelt and Neil Everett.  But someday he hopes to parlay that behind-the-scenes success into a show of his own, and revisit his on-air days from Curry.

"My dream would be to have my own NASCAR radio talk show for ESPN," he said.  "I can't see myself working anywhere else.  I make a good living and the benefits are incredible here."

Lees still keeps in touch with many of his fellow Curry alumni and pretty much every year, takes time out of his busy schedule to come back to the Curry campus and speak with students about his experiences at ESPN.

UPDATE: In the winter of 2013-2014, Chris Lees moved on from ESPN to take a position as Motorsports Researcher at NBC Sports.

 
 
 
 

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