After Doug Christie's surprising departure from the Kings' broadcast booth to join Luke Walton's coaching staff earlier this summer, the team needed a new voice for the upcoming 82 game schedule. On Thursday morning, they announced Christie's replacement.
Kayte Christensen-Hunter, the longtime sideline reporter, as well as pre and postgame analyst, will step into the color analyst chair on the broadcast for the upcoming season. She will pair with Mark Jones and Kyle Draper, who split duties calling play-by-play during the regular season for the Kings.
"It's a whole different style of work than sideline reporting or the studio analyst job, and I kind of like it," Christensen-Hunter told NBC Sports California. "You don't have to tell a story, you let the game tell a story."
It's a new role and a new style of broadcasting for Christensen-Hunter, but she seems ready for the task at hand and both Jones and Draper are seasoned broadcasters, which should help with the transition.
“It’s about sinking your teeth into the game, the X’s and O’s and teaching and having fun,” Mark Jones said when reached for comment. “I’m looking forward to building chemistry with her.”
Jones has worked with plenty of different broadcasters during his nearly three decade career. He still calls nationally televised games for ESPN and his experience will help with Christensen-Hunter's transition.
Draper is scheduled to call around 30 games this season for the Kings as well. He and Christensen-Hunter have a solid rapport after spending the season working together in studio. The duo also called games together this summer at the California Classic.
"Kayte is one of the hardest working people I've come across in my broadcasting career," Draper told NBC Sports California. "It's clear how much she loves Sacramento and the Kings organization. I'm looking forward to working with her not he game broadcasts and documenting the many exciting plays the Kings are sure to have."
Christensen-Hunter has been a fixture in Sacramento for well over a decade. She started her broadcast career with House Party Live alongside Jim Kozimor with the Kings, as well as working as a sideline reporter during the Maloof era beginning with the 2006-07 season.
The duo of Kozimor and Christensen-Hunter have reconnected over the last few years on Kings pre and postgame coverage and have a long standing friendship.
“She is one of the best partners I have ever had and it has been fun watching her grow as a broadcaster,” Kozimor told NBC Sports California. "I think Kayte is going to crush it."
In 2010, Christensen-Hunter left Sacramento, but not for long. Following the sale of the Kings to the group led by Vivek Ranadivé in 2013, she returned to the franchise, where she has held a variety of roles over the past eight years.
According to Christensen-Hunter, there were highs and lows on the court that stand out, but one of her favorite moments came on a plane ride back from vacation when she picked up a newspaper and saw that the Kings were staying in Sacramento, instead of relocating following the 2012-13 season.
“It was seeing it in the paper and seeing that the Maloofs had sold the team and that the team was staying, and I’m like, I’m going back to Sacramento,” Christensen-Hunter told Jones during a sit-down interview. “And fast-forward, what is it, 7-8 years now and I have a dream job.”
Lead analyst jobs on NBA broadcasts don’t come up very often. In Sacramento, Jerry Reynolds held down the fort for nearly two decades before transitioning into retirement over the last few seasons.
The franchise thought they had found a long-term solution in Christie, but his want to return to the floor in a coaching capacity opened the door for Christensen-Hunter, who has certainly put in the work. When reached for comment, Christie gave his replacement a ringing endorsement.
“It’s awesome to see the Kings stay in the family and watch the growth of Kayte,” Christie told NBC Sports California. “She did an awesome job filling in last season and I’m sure she’ll be great in her new role. Her preparation is top-notch.”
During last season, Hunter-Christensen had a few opportunities to fill in on the broadcast, once due to a technical issue and a second time as part of Women’s Empowerment month. She has also called WNBA games in the past, as well as some women's college basketball.
She impressed during the small sample size and became the favorite for the position once Christie stepped away.
"When Doug made the transition to coaching, I let the Kings know, 'hey, I'm really serious about this, I would really like to be considered,'" Christensen-Hunter said. "I don't know what happened on their end, the process that they went through, but eventually I got the job offer and I instantly took it. There are no words for how excited and how happy I am."
Christensen-Hunter isn’t the first female analyst on an NBA broadcast, but she is one of a very few to currently hold a full-time position.
She’s proud to be at the forefront of the change that is currently taking place in professional sports and excited to be a role model for not only her own children but those watching around the country and beyond.
"I didn't grow up seeing women in this role, so I love thinking of the fact that I know this is different, I know this is changing and it's transitioning and there's more and more opportunities in sports, not just in basketball, but across the board for women," Christensen-Hunter said. "But I love the fact that my kids are going to see me on TV and not know that it was ever different. And that's really cool."
The former WNBA player turned broadcaster has a unique approach. She carved out a niche as a defensive-minded hustle player at the college and professional level. She studies the game like she did as a player and hopes to bring that approach to broadcast.
It's a new role and a new adventure, but Christensen-Hunter is passionate about the game and she already has a major attachment to the fanbase from her years of service in Sacramento.