By: Nima Ghazai
You might have heard him on the radio filling in on ESPN 710. You might have even read one of his articles on ESPN.com earlier in the day. If you follow any sort of sports in Southern California, odds are you have heard of one of the hardest working, most versatile and profusely ubiquitous reporters, writers and media hosts in the business, Arash Markazi.
Growing up having a passion for sports, Markazi knew early on that he wanted to pursue a career in sports journalism. “I always loved sports and was a Lakers basketball fan during the ‘Showtime’ era. I played basketball, but knew I wasn’t going to grow very tall. However, I did love to write as I had entered journalism workshops in high school, and so, during that phase of life, I realized that there was a career in sports journalism that combines the two passions I have.”
While many of his high school classmates were still trying to figure out where to attend college, Markazi got one of his starts in sports early as a radio call-screener for XTRA Sports 1150 AM. “I remember driving out there asking if there was anything I could do, not even to get high school credit, but because it was such a joy to be in the same studio as people like legendary host Ben Maller,” he recalls.
After high school, Markazi attended the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University and then the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, where he was a regular contributor to the school’s daily paper, the Daily Trojan. “Going to USC was great because USC football was one of the top programs [in the nation], and so you’d have writers from all over the country covering the game and it was cool to pick their brains,” recalls Markazi fondly.
“I [learned to tell] a story regardless of the game and try to give the reader something they’re not going to get by reading the box score.”
Upon graduation from USC, Markazi was hired by Sports Illustrated and relocated to New York. He left for ESPN when they launched their Los Angeles studios in 2009. Markazi now has the LA sports scene covered, whether it’s being on the road with the NBA’s Clippers and going to their home games and practices, to covering their cross-town rivals, the Lakers. He also covers Kings hockey, and UCLA and USC across multiple sports.
When not writing, Markazi fills in as a radio co-host on ESPN 710 AM. He also is on the board of directors of late famed sportswriter Jim Murray’s Memorial Foundation. Having grown up idolizing Murray, Markazi is now part of a board that oversees the foundation’s annual awards, of which Markazi himself is a past recipient. “We pick the judges who read the response essays sent in from across the country by college students. From there, we put on a symposium and fly out the winners,” says Markazi. “The coolest part is being able to continue his legacy so that he’s not forgotten.”
But life has not always been unforgettable for Markazi. In 2001, while serving as sports editor for USC’s Daily Trojan he was diagnosed with non-Hodgskins lymphoma. Four years later, he was diagnosed with the same cancer again while working in New York. “It changes your perspective… even more so the second time around because you get through it the first time and you think it’s a one-time hiccup. The second time shows you how fragile life is and you learn to live in the moment.”
One would assume the toughest article Markazi would have to write would be one covering a championship game or one on a short deadline. However, none of those would compare to writing about Justin Allen, a player on the ASU men’s basketball team who was diagnosed with non-Hodgskin’s lymphoma. “I had to call his parents and talk to them – the mom’s crying and I’m thinking to myself, ‘this is exactly why I didn’t get into news, but into sports, so I wouldn’t have to cover something like this,’” Markazi remembers. “The interesting part was that six months after the article, I was diagnosed with the same illness. I had already done the research for the interview and because of that I have this connection with Justin where we’re friends to this day. A story that was super hard to get through helped me get through a difficult part of my life.”
While having covered every major sporting event, what makes Markazi most proud is being an influence to young Iranians striving to carve their own niche in sports. “To have a lot of young Iranians come up to me and say that they want to be a sports journalist makes me so proud that I can’t even put into words because it’s something they’ve chosen,” says Markazi. “Iranians are great sports fans, so I do hope there are a lot of kids that will pursue it if it’s something they love.
“Even seeing a player like Texas Rangers professional baseball player Yu Darvish – who is half-Persian – become of the one greatest pitchers in the game, makes you wonder if you can do that and it gives you the hope of being able to do so as well. So if I’m online 10 years from now and there are a couple of Iranian sports reporters covering a couple of Iranian pro athletes, I’d be so proud.”
“I get to do what I love, and any time you get to do that is special. I don’t take for granted the fact I wake up and my job is to cover sports.”
Cover Photos By: Jennifer Cerros (main image, solo shot), Jon SooHoo (Markazi & Vin Scully), Andy Bernstein (Markazi & Chris Paul)