Nolan Elingburg ’11 G’12 hits his stride as storyteller for Duke men’s basketball

The Elon alumnus, who was recently nominated for a pair of Emmys, shines a light on stories both on and off the court for one of the world’s best-known sports teams.

While Nolan Elingburg’s typical day at the office includes plenty of slam dunks, jump shots and alley-oops, he’s also found that some of the most important stories in basketball unfold off the court.

As senior producer and editor for the Blue Devil Network, the Elon graduate captures the highlights and achievements of one of the world’s most recognizable sports brands. Along the way, he’s shown that compelling stories in basketball often come from the intersection of the sport and the lives of the athletes who play it.

That was certainly the case for a video Elingburg produced about former Duke guards Tre and Tyus Jones and their mother, Debbie, in her battle with breast cancer.

“They’re all such special people, and it’s been an honor to tell their story,” said Elingburg, who earned a degree in broadcast journalism and a graduate degree in interactive media from Elon. “They are so clutch in so many moments, and they always deliver on the court. It all ties together when you realize, ‘Oh wow, their mom beat cancer. They get that toughness from her.’”

The project brought Elingburg his first Emmy nomination from the Midsouth Regional Emmy Chapter, along with colleagues David Bradley and Stephen Ochoa. The trio received a second nomination for the popular Duke Blue Planet series. Elingburg credits their success to the work of his colleagues and the support of the entire Duke program, including head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“We’ve had tremendous buy-in from Coach K and his coaching staff over the years,” Elingburg said. “They recognize the importance of what we do, especially when it comes to recruiting. These nominations are a testament to the strength of our entire program.”

His work at Duke brought another unique opportunity in 2019 when he and wife Danielle Bliss revealed the gender of their first child. To share the news, Elingburg produced a special video starring former Duke player Zion Williamson. In the video, Williamson performs a high-flying slam dunk with a basketball that releases blue confetti as it crashes through the hoop. It quickly went viral, with national news outlets sharing the footage. The clip appeared on USA Today, Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, FOX News, CNN and other outlets.

Staring in the gender-reveal video was Duke basketball and NBA str Zion Williamson.

While Elingburg’s career so far has its roots in basketball, his lifelong connection to sports started with baseball. He is named for Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan and carried on a family tradition by playing the sport while growing up. During his college days, Elingburg took the mound as a pitcher for Elon Club Baseball.

“Every Elingburg has played baseball going back for forever, and my parents were definitely a big influence on me wanting to play sports when I was growing up,” he said.

When he began taking classes in Elon’s School of Communications, Elingburg found fertile ground to tie his love of sports to his interest in storytelling. He grew under the mentorship of faculty members like Dan Haygood, professor of strategic communications.

“I learned a lot from Dan. Outside of his classes, coming to grad school at Elon was the thing that set me up for success and helped me figure out what I wanted to do for a career,” Elingburg said. “I’m grateful to the whole communications and iMedia family. They are the best of the best.”

Elingburg repays his gratitude by taking on the role of active alumnus. In recent years, he joined the Elon LEADS Campaign regional committee for Raleigh and served on the Young Alumni Council.

“It’s an honor to be asked to be a part of those committees. It’s a great way to stay updated on Elon and try to get people to feel the same way about Elon that I do,” he said. He also makes annual gifts to the university, supporting men’s basketball and the Phoenix Club.

What’s next for Elingburg? He’ll continue to capture the title aspirations of Duke men’s basketball. He predicts some exciting months ahead, as longtime head Coach Krzyzewski finishes out his final season before retirement. Coach K will then hand over the reins to Jon Scheyer, associate head coach and former Duke player, and Elingburg will be there to capture it all from the sidelines.

“It’s going to be a special year, for sure,” Elingburg said. “It already has been.”