His sportscasting career started while attending Syracuse University, as an announcer for the Syracuse Blazers minor hockey team. His career as a professional began as play-by-play announcer for the Spirits of St. Louis of the American Basketball Association, followed by a stint with KMOX radio in St. Louis. Costas later did play-by-play for Chicago Bulls broadcasts on WGN-TV during the 1979-1980 season. He was briefly employed by the CBS network prior to joining NBC Sports in 1980.Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association. He is extensively quoted on many topics, and the book includes his reflections of ABA life during his tenure as radio voice of the Spirits of St. Louis.
Costas has been fairly outspoken about his disdain for Major League Baseball instituting a wild card. Costas believes that it diminishes the significance of winning a divisional championship. He prefers a system in which winning the wild card puts a team at some sort of disadvantage, as opposed to on an equal level with teams by which they were outplayed over a 162 game season. Or, as explained in his book Fair Ball, have only the three division winners in each league go to the postseason, with the team with the best record receiving a bye into the League Championship Series. Once, on the air on HBO's Inside the NFL, he mentioned that the NFL regular season counted for something, but baseball's was beginning to lose significance.
He was selected as the Dick Schaap Award for Outstanding Journalism recipient in 2004.
In 2006, Costas was also awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Loyola College in Maryland.
On April 19, 2007, while at the Iowa Cubs vs. Albuquerque Isotopes Pacific Coast League baseball game, Costas was made an honorary member of the Iowa Cubs Video Production Team during a brief induction ceremony in the Principal Park pressbox.
He is a Honorary Trustee of Webster University, a private college located in Webster Groves, MO. He is a frequent supporter of the school, to include numerous radio commercials.
I think it is now overwhelmingly evident, if you're honest about it, even if you're a conservative Republican, if you're honest about it, this is a failed administration. And no honest conservative would say that George W. Bush was among the 500 most qualified people to be President of the United States. That's not based on political leaning. If a liberal, and I tend to be liberal, disagrees with a conservative, they can still respect that person's competence and the integrity of their point of view.
He went on to say that, although a liberal, he has voted for some Republicans in the past.
He has been an in-studio host of National Football League coverage and play-by-play man for the NBA and for Major League Baseball. Costas has teamed with Isiah Thomas and Doug Collins for basketball telecasts (from 1997-2000) and Tony Kubek (from 1983-1989), Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker (from 1994-2000) for baseball telecasts. Before becoming the studio host for The NFL on NBC in 1984, Costas did play-by-play with analyst Bob Trumpy for NFL games.
During the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Opening Ceremonies, Costas' remarks on the China Team's possible drug use caused an uproar among the American Chinese and international communities. Thousands of dollars were raised to purchase ads in the Washington Post and Sunday New York Times, featuring an image of the head of a statue of Apollo and read: "Costas Poisoned Olympic Spirit, Public Protests NBC." However, Costas' comments were made subsequent to the suspension of Chinese coach Zhou Ming after seven of his swimmers were caught using steroids in 1994. Further evidence of Chinese athletes' drug use came in 1997 when Australian authorities confiscated 13 vials of Somatropin, a human growth hormone, from the bag of Chinese swimmer Yuan Yuan upon her arrival for the 1997 World Swimming Championships. At the World Championships, four Chinese swimmers tested positive for the banned substance Triamterene, a diuretic used to dilute urine samples in order to mask the presence of anabolic steroids. Including these failed drug tests, 27 Chinese swimmers were caught using performance enhancing drugs from 1990 through 1997; more than the rest of the world combined.
While broadcasting Game 4 of the 1988 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics on NBC, Costas angered many members of the Dodgers (especially the team's manager, Tommy Lasorda) by commenting that the team quite possibly had the weakest-hitting lineup in World Series history. Later, after the Dodgers had won Game 4 (en route to a 4–1 series victory), Lasorda sarcastically suggested that the MVP of the 1988 World Series should be Bob Costas.
Besides calling the 1989 American League Championship Series for NBC, Costas also filled-in for a suddenly ill Vin Scully (who had come down with laryngitis.) for Game 2 of the 1989 National League Championship Series. Game 2 of the NLCS occurred on Thursday, October 5, which was an off day for the ALCS. NBC then decided to fly Costas from Toronto to Chicago to substitute for Scully on Thursday night. Afterwards, Costas flew back to Toronto, where he resumed work on the ALCS the next night.
Bob Costas anchored NBC's pre and post-game for NFL broadcasts and the pre and post-game shows for numerous World Series and Major League Baseball All-Star Games during the 1980s (the first being for the 1982 World Series). Costas didn't get a shot at doing play-by-play (as the games on NBC were previously called by Vin Scully) for an All-Star Game until 1994 and a World Series until 1995 (when NBC split the coverage with ABC). It wasn't until 1997 when Costas finally got the chance to do play-by-play for a World Series from start to finish. Costas ended up winning a Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality, Play-by-Play.
While this, in essence, ended his active role on the NBA on NBC program (by this point, Hannah Storm and Ahmad Rashad had replaced Costas on studio anchoring duties), Costas would return to do play-by-play for selected playoff games. Costas also anchored NBC's NBA Finals coverage in 2002, which was their last to date.
Costas is nicknamed "Rapping Roberto" by New York Daily News sports media columnist Bob Raissman. Al Michaels also called him "Rapping Roberto" during the telecast between the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants on September 10, 2006, in response to Costas calling him "Alfalfa.
In 2002, Costas began a stint as co-host of HBO's long running series Inside the NFL. Costas remained host of Inside the NFL through the end of the 2007 NFL season. He hosted the show with Cris Collinsworth and former NFL legends Dan Marino and Cris Carter. The program aired each week during the NFL season.
In 2005, On the Record with Bob Costas was revamped to become Costas Now, a monthly show that would focus more on sports and air year-round in a 9 p.m. ET/PT time slot. Costas Now is more akin to HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
On August 18, 2005, Costas refused to host a Larry King Live episode where the subject was missing teen Natalee Holloway. Costas said he had no hard feelings about the subject, but that he was uncomfortable with it.
Apart from his normal sportscasting duties, Costas also announced periodic dogsled and elevator races on Late Night with David Letterman.
Costas once appeared on the television program NewsRadio as himself. He hosted an award show and later had some humorous encounters with the crew of WNYX. Costas also once appeared as a guest on the faux talkshow cartoon Space Ghost Coast to Coast.
Costas appeared as himself along with his rival/counterpart Al Michaels (who now works for NBC) from ABC in the movie BASEketball. Costas also appeared as himself in the movie Pootie Tang where he remarks that he saw "the longest damn clip ever".
In a supposed effort to fulfill a deal he made on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, as coverage of a game resumed he sipped a glass of pink lemonade and said "Ah, that's restaurant quality lemonade."
Costas is very loosely associated with the Dave, Shelly, and Chainsaw morning show of San Diego, California, and has been known to appear frequently on that show, where, due to one of the show's in-jokes, some of the show's hosts (as well as many San Diego residents) know Costas, belovedly, as the "King of Doucheville." He also appeared in Dave, Shelly, and Chainsaw's motion picture The JK Conspiracy.
Jim Rome considers Costas to be one of the most intelligent people he's interviewed on The Jim Rome Show. One of the more famous callers to the show, 'Jeff in Richmond', often refers to Costas as his "good friend and colleague". Costas has good-naturedly mentioned his bemusement regarding the hoopla that has come from all this.
In 2002, Costas was the keynote speaker for the opening ceremonies of the 25th Empire State Games held in Syracuse, New York.
On October 18, 2007, Costas appeared along with former Baseball Commissioner, Fay Vincent at Williams College for "A Conversation About Sports" moderated by Will Dudley, Associate Professor of Philosophy.
On June 13, 2008, Costas appeared the MSNBC's commercial-free special coverage of Remembering Tim Russert (1950~2008), as a colleague of the host (of that broadcast), Keith Olbermann. He tributed Russert as a person who loved sports and athletes, with mentioning Russert's love of Yogi Berra.