Fred Hickman, a longtime and award-winning sports broadcaster whose decades-long career at a number of notable media outlets includes helping to pioneer an NBA news TV show that has since become a top-rated program, has died, according to reports. He was 66 years old.
Hickman’s death on Wednesday was reported by the New York Post and confirmed on social media through some of his former colleagues in sports media and other journalists.
No cause of death was announced.
Hickman’s impressive career spanned 45 years and garnered him multiple accolades, including a pair of CableACE Awards that honored excellence in cable broadcasting. He also snagged a coveted Emmy Award in 2004 that recognized his outstanding work in New York sports media.
While that was relatively recent, if you were even remotely familiar with sports media in the 1980s, Hickman’s face was ubiquitous.
Rising from a humble start at a small radio station in Iowa in 1977, Hickman ultimately went on to join the then-fledgling Turner Broadcasting System cable network owned by media mogul Ted Turner. It was at the Turner-owned CNN where Hickman first became a household name to sports fans across the U.S.
Hickman seized the opportunity and in 1980 began co-hosting the show, “CNN Sports Tonight,” where he and fellow host Nick Charles, notably developed an inimitable on-camera chemistry that immediately endeared them to sports enthusiasts.
During his time at Turner, Hickman was also among the first hosts of “Inside the NBA,” which debuted in 1989. The show has gone on to become rebranded as “Inside the NBA presented by Kia” and stars basketball legends Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley and is hosted by Hickman’s longtime successor, Ernie Johnson, who was also at Turner during the network’s infancy.
Hickman covered other sports, but he was mainly known for his coverage of professional basketball.
That includes the time he was scrutinized for being the only member of the sports media voting on the NBA’s MVP award who did not cast a ballot for Shaquille O’Neal in 2000. Instead, Hickman voted for Allen Iverson, whose Philadelphia 76ers ultimately lost to O’Neal’s Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals that year. Hickman’s vote is the only reason O’Neal did not become the first NBA MVP to win the award unanimously.
O’Neal was particularly angry at Hickman and called him names, as the Basketball Network recalled in an article published earlier this year.
Hickman said people wanted to kill him because of that one fateful vote.
“It was crazy,” Hickman said at the time. “I got death threats.”
O’Neal was reportedly still upset with Hickman as recently as 2019.
“I hate him. I don’t need to talk to him. There’s nothing to apologize about because he destroyed history being a (expletive),” O’Neal told Fox News that year.
Following stints at the YES Network covering New York City sports, ESPN, Fox Sports and several local news networks, Hickman joined the Black News Channel (BNC) in 2019 as a managing editor and anchor.
Working for BNC seemed to be something Hickman was proud of. Not only is it the most recent position listed on his LinkedIn page but he also links to its website on his Twitter bio and lists it on his Instagram.
Born on Oct. 17, 1956, Hickman moved from his hometown of Springfield, Illinois to Coe College, a liberal arts university in Iowa. He earned his bachelor of science in sociology in 1978 before diving head-first into an illustrious career in media.
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