TNT's Allie LaForce on Staying 'Ready for Anything' on NBA Sideline and Telling LeBron James 'No' (Exclusive)

"You have to be ready at any moment for something to happen that you're not prepared for, and it's always the one thing that you're not," LaForce tells PEOPLE of sideline reporting

Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty

When the NBA Eastern Conference Finals begin Wednesday night on TNT, sideline reporter Allie LaForce will be on the call for what she describes as the "most chaotic, unknown, unpredictable" time of the year.

LaForce, 34, tells PEOPLE there's "nothing like" the exhilaration of covering a conference finals matchup, especially when stars like Jimmy Butler and Jayson Tatum are playing.

Growing up on a dairy farm in Ohio, LaForce's mother owned a modeling agency and her aunt Connie was a varsity basketball coach. "So the model-coach combo is why I'm covering basketball on TV," she says.

Later, she fell in love with sideline reporting and was quickly hired by Sports Town Ohio. From there, her career "skyrocketed," and she landed on TNT.

Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty

LaForce loves the rush of live television, especially in the fast-paced world of the NBA. "I feel like I live for being live, that's the exciting part," she says. "Nothing's predictable. No matter how much you prep, you can't guarantee a report or an outcome or a situation and you're living by the moment."

"You have to be ready at any moment for something to happen that you're not prepared for, and it's always the one thing that you're not," she adds.

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One thing the TNT reporter is used to, however, is rubbing shoulders with legends like LeBron James, LaForce's fellow Ohio native who brought Cleveland its first championship in 2016.

Tyler Ross/NBAE via Getty
Tyler Ross/NBAE via Getty

"It was so funny because when LeBron left Cleveland the first time, I was angry, and when he came back and won the championship, I was like, bowing down to him and thanking him for his greatness."

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Now that the NBA superstar is a Los Angeles Laker, LaForce still lets him know who she's rooting for at the final buzzer. "Even when he's a Laker, he still says, 'Hey, what's up, Allie.' I'm like, 'No, Cleveland rocks,' and he always kind of gives me a look, but I still to this day, want to thank him for bringing us a championship."

Her fandom arguably makes LaForce the perfect person to host the sidelines for fans watching at home.

David Dow/NBAE via Getty
David Dow/NBAE via Getty

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"I think the athletes understand that you're proud to root for your hometown," she says. "So I think as long as you cover the game in an unbiased way, there's not an issue. Once the game starts, as long as you can separate yourself and your fandom, then it's fine."

The Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics tips off on Wednesday at 8:30 E.T. on TNT.

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