Slam Dunk Career

by | Jul 7, 2023 | People, Sports

Childhood roots on Topsail Island led Megan Zipfel to UNCW then out West, where she’s a rising star in NBA communications.

Megan Zipfel has been connected to Topsail since the age of 3, when her father, Patrick, purchased a home in the area as a retreat from their main Pennsylvania residence.

“From the minute I would be off school in June, we would go to Topsail and stay in the beach house until almost the end of August,” says Zipfel, recounting her summers.  Although she spent the majority of the year up North, Zipfel says, “It almost felt like I grew up in Topsail.”

After all, Topsail is where met her current best friend, whose family purchased the house across the street from theirs. And Topsail is where she had her first job at the retro-inspired burger and milkshake spot Island Delights. Despite the dual residences, one thing remained a constant as Zipfel grew up — basketball.

Jazz Basketball Megan Zepfel

“My dad’s a single dad, and we bonded over the fact that we both love [basketball],” she says. “I found that love because of our conversations that started when I was a kid.”

Once Zipfel finished high school in Pennsylvania, her sights were set on coastal living thanks to her cherished summers, and she decided to attend UNC Wilmington, where she majored in communications.

While she grew up with a love of sports, Zipfel credits a sports journalism professor whose class she took during her senior year for clinching her path.

“There’s a whole other field to sports other than just the athletes on the court or the reporters in front of the camera,” she says. “There’s so much that goes into it from the radio broadcasters to the beat writers. [There’s a] little bit of everything.”

Jazz Basketball Coach and Megan Zepfel

During her junior year of college, Zipfel snagged a coveted internship with the NBA Summer League, and they flew her out to Las Vegas for a month. She did everything from working with agents to escorting players to their seats. Waking up around 6 am every day, reporting to the arena before 7 am and working with the teams until around 10:30 pm every night, Zipfel recalls that by the time she got back to her hotel room, it was time to sleep and start everything all over again the next day. But buoyed by her love of the sport, the long hours were hardly a dealbreaker.

“For me, that experience was just incredible because I was in this environment of like-minded people who also love sports and specifically, basketball,” Zipfel says.

It was during that event that she ended up hitting it off with the executive NBA Summer League co-founders Warren LeGarie and Albert Hall, who connected Zipfel with the PR director of the Los Angeles Clippers. Zipfel assisted the Clippers at NBA Summer League the following year. She also worked with ESPN and assisted with the Sacramento Kings and Damien Lillard’s press conferences.

Megan Zepfel Topsail NC

After another internship with HallPass Media, Zipfel got the call of her dreams — an offer from the Utah Jazz to be an assistant for their PR department. In that role, Zipfel assists with all media opportunities for the coaching staff and players, including assisting with team press conferences, media interviews and social media campaigns. After less than three months in that position, Zipfel was promoted to an expanded full-time coordinator role, which includes managing all public relations for the Salt Lake City Stars (the Jazz’s G League affiliate team) while also coordinating Jazz media efforts.

While game days are some of her favorites, she loves the spontaneity of the job. “No day is the same,” she says.

As her career progresses, one thing is certain, Zipfel has found her passion. In the future, she sees herself working her way up within the basketball communication space, becoming a go-to point person and chief decision-maker, whether it’s with the NBA or as a media relations director at a prominent basketball college or university.

“I foresee myself working in basketball in any capacity,” she says.

Jazz Megan Zepfel

Although — for the time being — she’s traded the salty shores of Topsail for the snow-capped mountains of Salt Lake City (where the NBA All-Star Game took place in February) to pursue her dreams, she comes back to the island as often as she can.

When asked what her favorite thing about Topsail is, she laughs before admitting, “Everything. That is my happy place.”

But some highlights are walking the pier with her childhood best friend, grabbing Shaka Taco, reading a book on the beach and going to Surf City Coffee.

“I love how friendly everyone is in Topsail,” she says. “It’s just that awesome small-town environment that I feel like I’ve grown up in.”

About the author

Kathryn Greene

Kathryn Greene

As a lifelong Southerner (with the exception of five years living in New York City), I spent many summers enjoying North Carolina’s beautiful beaches and coastline. Since receiving my bachelor’s degree from the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia, I have been a freelance lifestyle and travel writer. My work has been published by national and regional print and online publications including TripSavvy, Culture Trip, Southern Bride and Edible Manhattan. When I am not writing articles, I am either at work on my upcoming thriller novel, studying wine to become a Level 1 sommelier, or my favorite activity of all — spending time at the beach with my feet in the sand and a drink in my hand.