If a television show is good, the fictional characters become a regular part of your life over the course of its duration. Podcasts take this idea to the next level; the real people behind them can actually break the fourth wall and interact with their listeners, allowing listeners to feel personally invested in every episode. No podcast does this more than Back to Back.
Back to Back is a podcast that has seen many lives and many incarnations. It started at ESPN with the TrueHoop podcast in 2015, but it temporarily left after ESPN cut 100 employees at the end of April 2017. Luckily for fans, it came back stronger than ever in early May 2017 as The Basketball Analogy.
In August 2017, its evil producer, Jade Hoye, decided to quit his job at ESPN to venture out on his own, which meant fans once again had to say goodbye to the podcast. But they weren’t left to sulk for long. That October, Jade, along with fan favorites Zach Harper, Big Wos, Black Tray, Mariano Bivins, Amin Elhassan and Tom Haberstroh, officially launched The Basketball Friends, under the Leverage the Chat Network, marking the first time the podcast had ever been independent of ESPN. However, they recently decided to part ways with that network and go completely independent. They re-named the podcast, yet again, to Back to Back and launched a Patreon page where fans can financially support the show.
Before I get too far into talking about why I love this podcast, I want to make it clear that you don’t have to love the NBA, or even basketball in general, to enjoy this podcast. In fact, Back to Back is a show that, in reality, may or may not be about the game of basketball.
Back to Back does its best to strike the perfect balance of basketball talk and having fun. They opt for a free-flowing discussion-style format that takes the listening experience to a new level. It honestly makes you feel like you’re eavesdropping on a group of your friends after a game of pickup basketball. The camaraderie between the main crew, and even the guests they bring on, is evident in each and every episode and often makes me wish I could just be a small part of each recording session.
Even though I started listening for the basketball analysis and insider stories they share, the most memorable moments for me always seem to come from a random story someone decided to share or a funny one-liner that turned into a full-on conversation about something completely off-topic. A classic example of this is Jade sharing that he had eaten an edible while they were recording an episode. Ever since then, Jade eating edibles is a joke that is referenced a least once a week, if not more.
Sticking with the “not about basketball” part of the podcast, my favorite part of Back to Back every week is without a doubt “The Friday Mailbag” episode. The Friday episode is usually about 2 hours long and very rarely focuses on basketball. In fact, if you send in a question about basketball, chances are it won’t be answered; if it is brought up, it won’t be taken seriously. Each mailbag episode always features a couple of key elements: Jade’s international guest callers, Jade stalling for time as he brings on his guests, TV Talk with Mama Hoye, Anthony Mayes’ introduction (which usually comes about halfway through that episode), Black Tray’s shoutouts, and, most importantly, dings. The Friday Mailbag is a must listen as soon as it’s dropped.
While they do tend to focus on fun and entertainment, they aren’t afraid to tackle the more serious issues that arise both in basketball and the country. They’ve had serious discussions about the national anthem protests, #MeToo, cultural appropriation and more. Because the crew is made up of people from all different backgrounds, these discussions usually have me thinking about the issues in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.
But what truly makes this podcast special is the community that Back to Back (and all of its previous iterations) has created. I’ve never seen a group of people interact so easily online, without having ever met in person, more than the listeners of this podcast. Although I’m more of a lurker than an active participant, I’m always astonished at what I see. There is never any hatred; just a lot of jokes, fun, love and of course, basketball talk. Shoutouts to Jade and the rest of the Back to Back crew for fostering such a welcome space within the world of basketball Twitter.
All in all, Back to Back is must listen for me every day. It’s the only podcast I would ever pay anything for (and do pay for! Shoutout to Patreon). It’s also the only podcast I find myself truly laughing out loud over, multiple times an episode, even if I’m listening in public. Whether you are a fan of basketball or you just like to laugh, I know you’ll finish listening to each episode with a smile on your face if you give it a chance.
You can listen to Back to Back on ApplePodcasts. If you like what you hear, feel free to support the podcast on Patreon and get access to some exclusive content. You can also follow each member of the main crew on Twitter: Jade Hoye, Zach Harper, Big Wos, Black Tray, Mariano Bivins, Amin Elhassan and Tom Haberstroh.