Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

Going coastal: Holmes finds home in LA at ESPN

By Colton Pouncy
Class of 2017

Baxter Holmes remembers sitting in math class during his sophomore year of high school, casually paying attention to the lesson being taught that day, when a visitor knocked on the door and walked into the room.
It was the sports editor of a local weekly newspaper, looking for students to contribute to high school sports coverage.
Holmes, who had never written a newspaper story before, was intrigued by the offer. Growing up in Tuskahoma, Oklahoma— which Holmes, who’s Native American, has described as “the Choctaw Capital of Oklahoma” — sports were social currency. People followed high school sports religiously, and it was a common topic of discussion among his peers and citizens. He covered one team for the local paper.
Eventually, he was covering nearly every sport at his high school for various papers around the area.
“I quickly fell in love with it,” Holmes said. “I didn’t really have a career goal or an idea of what I wanted to do with my life before that, but I really found that that was something I wanted to do.”
For Holmes, it was the start of a budding career in the industry. He’s since developed into one of the best NBA writers.
Holmes attended the University of Oklahoma to broaden his skills in journalism. As an upperclassman, he applied for the Sports Journalism Institute and was accepted as part of the 2007 class, interning at the Salt Lake Tribune.
“My time with Leon Carter, Greg Lee and Sandy Rosenbush and the folks at the Institute was great,” Holmes said. “It was a really, really important summer in my career, for sure.”
Holmes traded in small-town life for a career that’s brought him to both coasts, telling compelling stories of athletes in two of the biggest sports markets.
H e interned at the Boston Globe, where Lee worked as an editor, during the summer of 2008. He covered the Red Sox, Patriots and the Celtics’ NBA Finals victory over the Lakers. After graduation, Holmes worked for the Los Angeles Times’ metro desk, before eventually switching to the sports desk, where he wrote sidebars and features on Los Angeles colleges, MLB and NBA teams.
After a few years in Los Angeles, Holmes received a job offer from the Boston Globe to cover the Celtics full-time, and he returned to a familiar city. He spent parts of two seasons on the Celtics beat before heading back to Los Angeles to become ESPN’s Lakers beat writer, the job he holds today.
Holmes provides analysis, stories and insight for all things Lakers.
He also contributes to ESPN’s national NBA coverage and is always plotting out his next big feature. Recently, he wrote about the NBA’s growing obsession with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and profiled D’Angelo Russell’s love for his dogs.
“Anything that seems a little off or a little interesting, I try to chip away a little bit to see if there’s something more there,” Holmes said. “Maybe there’s a whole backstory there or maybe there’s nothing, but I like to know. I enjoy the idea of trying to give behind-the-scenes stories to readers about people they don’t have a connection to.”
While Holmes’ rise through the NBA ranks has been meteoric, he appreciates all the opportunities he’s been given along the way.
Including the very first one.
“When I look back, I think of that first moment when that editor knocked on my classroom door,” Holmes said. “That set everything in motion.”