Former Myrtle Beach anchor to be on ESPN’s SportsCenter

Max McGee never let his life’s bloopers get in the way of his dream.

From being on academic probation in community college to earning a job on ESPN’s flagship program, SportsCenter, the former Myrtle Beach news anchor is living a true underdog story.

ESPN recently announced that McGee, a former sports and news anchor for WMBF News, has been hired as an anchor on SportsCenter. He starts the job Monday, though his television debut likely will be a little further down the road.

“I’ve always thought I could do it. I just didn’t know when in my career I was going to do it,” McGee said. “Obviously I’m super honored to be able to call myself a SportsCenter anchor.”

‘It’s obviously a dream come true’

A native of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, McGee grew up playing primarily baseball while also dabbling in football and basketball.

“Baseball was my first love. I remember learning the ins and outs of it in the backyard with my dad and the backyards of different friends and going to Phillies games as a kid,” he said. “I was obsessed with the Baltimore Orioles and Cal Ripken Jr. as a 7-year-old. I remember when my dad drove the family down to Baltimore for the ‘97 ALCS between the Orioles and the Cleveland Indians. I’ll never forget walking into Camden Yards and seeing the bright lights and the smell of the grass and all of that. I was just mesmerized.

“If I couldn’t play baseball professionally I was certainly going to try to talk about it. I’ve got a pretty solid backup plan here.”

And like many kids who grew up playing sports, watching SportsCenter each day was a must.

“Before I went to school I would watch SportsCenter, whether it be the reruns from the night before or whether it be a live sportscast that morning,” he said. “I would watch them over and over again.”

McGee said he was a mere 7 years old when he first began dreaming of himself on the show.

“Watching Stuart Scott or Rich Eisen or Suzy Kolber and Hannah Storm, I knew that they were the best and I knew that I had a long road in front of me to join them in the same room,” he said. “It was a challenge I was always willing to reach. I wasn’t afraid of the hard work.”

Soon, McGee will have something in common with such names, though he says he’s just “a regular dude.”

“As another SportsCenter anchor said “You know, it’s just men in makeup,’” he said. “I’m just trying to stay humble and have as much humility as I can. It’s obviously a dream come true.”

However, the road to ESPN was a winding path.

‘They didn’t give up on me’

McGee graduated high school in 2008 and had the whole world in front of him.

Unfortunately, that’s when he learned that plans don’t always come to fruition right away.

After less than a year in community college, McGee found himself struggling to the point where he was “basically on academic probation.”

He wound up dropping out of college and working at Famous Dave’s BBQ. However, McGee decided he was going to give college another try and, little by little, he got back on track.

“I had to work my way back up so I took one class a semester, two classes, three classes just to take my time and get my grades back up,” he said. “And then my mom said ‘Why don’t you apply to Temple University?’ I’m like ‘I’m not getting into Temple. That’s like a genius school.’ I guess my mom’s intuition was right at the end. I remember running up the driveway with the acceptance package and the rest was history.”

Still, it would be more than a year after his spring 2015 college graduation that his broadcast career would begin.

“I don’t regret any single move because when I graduated college I felt like life had already punched me in the face with adversity. I was ready for anything that was going to come my way,” McGee said. “I didn’t mind that I had to wait 14 months after college to get my first television job in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I didn’t care where I had to go or what I had to be. I knew once I got my shot I was going to take advantage of it.”

McGee credits his parents, Tom and Sharon, and friends for keeping faith in him during the struggles and the accomplishments.

“It’s a testament to all the work my family and friends have done with me,” he said. “They didn’t give up on me and I don’t plan to let them down either. Without them, this doesn’t happen. I don’t go from academic probation in community college to ESPN without them.”

After leaving KPLC-TV in Louisiana, McGee came to Myrtle Beach to work for WMBF News. After leaving here, he served as a news and sports anchor for WJZ-TV, the CBS affiliate in Baltimore, Maryland the past three years.

Recently, though, his persistence with an ESPN dream provided a breakthrough.

‘I just want to be a team guy’

McGee said he’s been “bothering” ESPN brass for the last three or four years for an audition.

In October, 2021, he reached out to ESPN executive Rob King on LinkedIn. King referred McGee to another executive, who wound up arranging an audition in December.

The audition went well and McGee now is just days away from joining the ESPN staff in Bristol, Connecticut.

“When the announcements and all the articles started to come out and everything started to be released on social media, that’s when it really started to hit me,” he said. “[I] mainly [heard] from the people from my hometown. I got a text from someone the other day and he said that in some way it feels like they got the job too and they’re coming to Bristol, Connecticut with me. I didn’t expect that. I knew people would be super happy for me, but I didn’t know that I was going to take all of Cherry Hill, New Jersey and all of South Jersey and Myrtle Beach and all the stops that I’ve been … I didn’t think that those people would feel like they made it too.

“That makes me feel super special. I didn’t do it myself. I’m just a regular dude.”

McGee said he expects to be doing a lot of training and learning terminology early on. He said he doesn’t have a timetable for when he’ll first hit the screen.

“I’ll just basically be a sponge and be like a quarterback learning a whole new playbook because everyone’s newsroom is different, everyone’s production terminology is different,” he said. “I just want to learn as much as I can and hopefully hit the ground running.”

McGee will have a natural mentor at ESPN. Kelsey Riggs, formerly of WBTW-TV in Myrtle Beach, has been with ESPN for several years and now serves as a SportsCenter anchor herself.

McGee said they’ve gotten to know each other, chatting about their time in Myrtle Beach and more, and noted that Riggs has given him advice as he transitions to ESPN.

“Just keep your head down. Work hard. You know you’re going to get a lot of attention and exposure but don’t lose sight of why you’re actually here,” he said. “You came a long way to get to ESPN. Not everyone gets there. So it was just trying to keep the basics and keep the main thing the main thing as they say.”

McGee said the biggest difference with his new job versus the prior ones is that he’ll be in front of a national audience. He also said that ESPN has a wider range of resources that will allow him to perfect his craft rather than doing a little bit of everything like he did at smaller networks.

“I just want to fit it. That’s the bottom line,” he said. “I just want to go in and work hard with fresh start and fit in. I want to know everyone’s names from the janitor to the president, Jimmy Pitaro. I just want to be a team guy and do my best and be a professional.”

Many SportsCenter anchors have expanded their brand with catch phrases, such as the late Stuart Scott’s “cooler than the other side of the pillow” line. McGee, however, said that such lines aren’t something he’s planning out.

“The catch phrases and all the cool things anchors say, that stuff just comes to you in the heat of the moment. Being at a place at ESPN and on SportsCenter, they give you the leeway to pretty much say what you want with the format that they have,” he said. “It’s just shot sheets. Nothing’s really scripted in the highlights. It just kind of comes to you while you’re ad-living over video.

“If something clever were to pop up into my head, I’ll say it as long as it doesn’t violate FCC airwaves regulations,” he added with a laugh. “I’m not going to try to be anybody else but myself. They hired me to be Max McGee and I’m just going to be Max McGee and see where it takes me.”

McGee mentioned how fortunate he feels to be joining ESPN and credited producers and others he’s worked with at local stations for helping him get there.

And, of course, his parents for helping make a child’s dream come true.

“I was just like any other kid. If I couldn’t play sports I wanted to be able to talk about it. We talked about it in school as young kids, ‘Hey, did you see the last episode of SportsCenter when someone did this, made this play or this anchor did whatever.’ It was always the pinnacle of where everybody wanted to go,” McGee said. “I’m honored to be able to say I got there. Now, it’s one thing to get a job at ESPN, but it’s another challenge to stay there, so that’s the next thing I’ve got to do.”

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David Wetzel serves in both editor and reporter roles for The Sun News. An award-winning journalist, he has reported on all types of news, sports and features stories in over a decade as a member of the staff. Wetzel has won awards for sports column, feature and headline writing.