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Few people on earth travel as often as professional athletes. With On the Road, the GQ Sports Travel Questionnaire, they’re weighing in on everything from room service to flying comfortably to their favorite chain restaurants.

To be a modern NBA reporter is to be intimately familiar with life on the road, which means not just the radiant sunshine of LA and Miami but also less glamorous locales like Milwaukee and Denver. Malika Andrews, one of the faces of ESPN’s NBA coverage, has gone everywhere from the pandemic bubble to post-championship champagne celebrations.

With so much back and forth across the country—sometimes at the drop of a hat—Andrews likes to be as prepared as possible. A self-described planner, she names as an essential travel resource for her on-the-go lifestyle. Once she’s actually checked in, her eyes go directly to the window, where she often employs one of the NBA’s trademark sleepytime moves.

Let’s start with this. Where do you actually live? Where are you spending most of your time during the season?

I live in the ESPN NBA studios in Los Angeles. [laughing] I actually keep a pillow and blanket in a little corner nook by my desk in case I need to catch a 20-minute nap. I do spend most of my time in the greater LA area, and I try to see every team as they come through here. I’m only usually bopping around once-ish a month, and then it really ramps up in the postseason.

During the playoffs, is it annoying or stressful to have your travel scheduled based on who wins? It’s completely out of your control!

The only thing about that is questioning how I need to pack. I’m such a carry-on girl. I fold my socks and put them inside my shoes. I’m a professional packer. Lay out all the outfits. Lay out all the extra pairs of workout pants, just to encourage myself to work out, even though I usually don’t. I’m very much a planned packer, and then I play Tetris to fit everything in. My sister [ESPN reporter Kendra Andrews] is an over-packer. She has a whole suitcase just for shoes.

When I’m teetering on the edge of needing to check a bag if the series goes long enough, that’s when sometimes I feel a little bit uneasy. Other than that, I find it exciting! You’re going to pretty cool cities, and going to wherever the story is has always been exciting for me. This is what I was hoping my life would look like. When you’re hoping and dreaming about something for so long and then you finally get it, you have to remind yourself to be grateful, even in the midst of the next red eye you’re taking.

Andrews interviewing LeBron James after the Lakers won the In-Season Tournament

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Do you still enjoy traveling?

Yes, 99.9% of the time. The only time I don’t is when it’s delayed or I’m delayed, as in full-speed running for a plane. I still find a bit of thrill in bouncing around and going to different cities. I lived in Milwaukee and covered the Bucks, so it’s always fun to go back there and see the people I started in this industry with. My best friend lives in New York City. My parents live in Northern California. I have friends in Texas. I get to maintain all of these friendships with people that I maybe wouldn’t get to see as often [in a different line of work]. In a world where we’re texting all the time, I actually get to have dinner with these people. There’s something special about that.

How many NBA arenas have you been to?

I was counting this the other day! There’s still a couple I have not been to, but I think I’m up to 26. I haven’t been to the Magic’s arena, but I’ve been to the city of Orlando because I lived in the bubble for 107 days. Four months, 107 days. We counted every single one of those days and took a Wilt photo with a piece of paper that said 107.

Have you had any travel-related disasters?

One time I was in Milwaukee and got a call that I needed to be in Toronto the next day. I wasn’t planning to go there, so my passport was at home in Chicago. I had to drive two hours after the game back to Chicago—you’re done writing around midnight—and got the passport. The flight was at 5 or 5:30, really early. I got to the airport, running through O’Hare. I was going to make it! I was through the line and the TSA agent was like, “This is the wrong airport.” I needed to be at Midway. So, I missed that flight.

The sinking feeling in my stomach…I was so upset with myself. I put in all the effort, was going to make it, and O’Hare is farther away!

What are your favorite NBA cities?

I like going to San Francisco because it’s home. But my favorites are New York—I love Madison Square Garden. I really love the food scene in Toronto. The theme for me is going back home. It’s funny, some of my colleagues will be like, Ugh, we’re going back to Milwaukee. I kinda like it there! That’s where I started! Oh, we have to go to Portland. I kinda like it! I went to college there.

I can imagine people don’t love Milwaukee in February.

Uhh, yeah. Giannis [Antetokounmpo] was in LA a few months ago and I went to see him at shootaround. We were joking around about not seeing each other much anymore. I was like, “No, I see you when you come to LA!” He was like, “No, no. You have to come to Milwaukee, and it has to be the middle of January. That’s how I’ll know you still care about your roots.”

Article written by Matthew Roberson #GQ