Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx are putting the spotlight on the diverse journeys of Black women across sports—from the veteran athletes, to up-and-coming stars, coaches, executives and more—in the series, Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.
Khristina Williams has always been a basketball fan. Growing up in Harlem, she witnessed the making of a basketball superstar in Shannon Bobbitt, who eventually went on to play in the WNBA for the Los Angeles Spark, Indiana Fever and Washington Mystics. "She was just the best at what she did. I was like, 'okay, she can do it, I can do it,'" Williams says.
Determined to play, Williams petitioned her the boys basketball coach at her middle school to create a girls team—and with a year of persistent asking, her request was fulfilled. After playing for several years in middle school, her talent did the talking when Williams walked onto the girls varsity team at a prestigious performing arts school nearby known as LaGuardia High School. It was there that Williams was able to drill down and perfect her skills on the court, joining serval other girls leagues along the way.
Leaning into her performing arts background, Williams chose to double major in journalism and theater during her enrollment at City University of New York-Hunter, leaving little time for recreational activities. Still, basketball was never far from her mind. After graduating, she began working in media and learning the ins and outs of marketing and post-production. Armed with years of media experience and millennial intuition, she set out to create a platform dedicated to covering women's basketball. She needed a bit of direction to begin since nothing of the type existed at the time; only 4% of sports coverage is allotted to women's sports.
"There were no women's work pages at the time regarding content creation. I started picking the brains of people who run the biggest sports pages,” Williams says. “How did they start? How could I do the thing that they were doing and cover women's basketball in an equitable way?"
Williams founded Girls Talk Sports TV in 2018, a digital platform for all things women's basketball, allowing her to combine her passion for storytelling with the sport. At the time of launch, Girls Talks Sports TV had a small audience of five followers. Rather than be discouraged, she tapped into her network of college classmates, former colleagues, and industry professionals like Arielle Chambers, and Sharon Bond, COO at Dyckman Basketball, to help boost the new brand. Taking her mission to heart, she put her all into reporting every women's sport in the tri-state area, eventually earning credentials to cover New York Liberty games.
A year after its inception, Williams rebranded Girls Talk Sports, positioning herself as the face of the brand. "I laid out my mission to give women visibility, voice, and value. I stepped into the forefront of my brand as well," she says.
The attention she garnered was welcome, establishing Girls Talk Sports TV as a reliable, authentic storyteller. Since its inception, Girls Talk Sports TV has become the 'go-to' source for all women's basketball-related news, often going as to beat more established outlets to break news—which speaks volumes about Williams' dedication to storytelling, her passion for basketball and the trust her sources have in her, as well as her commitment to being a catalyst for change. Her hard work was honored when she was named a Forbes 30 Under 30 and Hashtag Sports' Creators of Color honoree in 2021 and, most recently, a 2022 Forbes Queens of Culture honoree.
As a news breaker, Williams is constantly on the move, checking stats and league schedules, booking photographers, creating content and managing confidential sources. Her sources trust her implicitly to report the information they've entrusted to her correctly. And she has never let them down, as evidenced by a recent interaction she had with Connecticut Suns Courtney Williams's agent.
"[The] agent calls me and [says], 'let's go live right now. I'm going to make my statement on Girls Talk Sports TV.’ We set up lights and a camera. And we did it. It was the most talked about interview that entire week,” Williams says.
In addition her responsibilities at Girls Talk Sports TV, Williams finds time to give back by mentoring young kids, both through the Close the Gap Foundation, committed to "empowering first-gen, low-income,” and Greenwich House Girls Basketball league. Working alongside youth is where Williams can see the most tangible and deeply satisfying impact of her work. "Just seeing how the coverage of the league has grown and how young girls are now tuning in to all of that," says Williams of her mentoring experience. "It's so good to be able to be a small piece of the coverage that is making a change for those young girls." Her mentoring experience has been twofold, as her mentees have inspired her as well, teaching have more confidence and trust in herself, she says.
Even with all of her credentials, experience and awards, Williams’s work increasing access to the sports industry for Black women is not over. Building community on and off social media is a critical component of her strategy to expand opportunities.
"Over 80% of the [WNBA] league is Black women. I think that we need to have people in those positions to reflect and look like those who are playing in the league. That's how the best stories get told." says Williams, "I'm one of the only Black women breaking news in the WNBA space."
In the last year and a half, Williams has become a trusted voice in women's sports. And still, she works every day to make her journey more accessible for others.
"People know my name. I've worked to get into that position where people consider me one of the big dogs in the industry,” she says. "Every day, I'm still having to prove myself. I know that the hits that I take now will make it easier for the next woman coming behind me, for the next Black woman who wants to break the news in the WNBA space."
Danielle Bryant is a contributor for Empower Onyx, a diverse multi-channel platform celebrating the stories and transformative power of sports for Black women and girls.