3 GREAT STORIES: Starring the NBA, Zach Lowe, & honks

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

Trading places: Warriors’ Harrison Barnes investigates Marcus Thompson’s Oakland roots (5/22/16, The Mercury News): Amidst the sea of coverage of the NBA playoffs, this NBA story — which has zero to do with the playoffs — stands out.

Marcus Thompson II is a writer for the San Jose Mercury News. Harrison Barnes is a starting forward for the Golden State Warriors. For one afternoon, they switch roles … to poignant results.

The premise: Barnes wants to learn more about Thompson’s roots, specifically the neighborhood in Oakland where Thompson grew up. In those days, Thompson says, Sobrante Park was a rough neighborhood, and the writer recounts anecdotes from his childhood in a way that makes him feel emotionally vulnerable.

This article is all kinds of powerful. But so is the accompanying 10-minute video, made by Thompson and Courtney Cronin, that follows Thompson and Barnes on their tour of Sobrante Park. Kudos to all involved.

Zach Lowe is America’s best sports writer (5/20/16, Slate): How did I hear about the Thompson-Barnes switch-up?

I listened to Thompson’s appearance on the Lowe Post podcast, hosted by ESPN senior basketball writer Zach Lowe.

I have touted Lowe’s talents many times in this space, and I’m not the only who has noticed.

Slate’s Josh Levin wrote this article last week, and while it certainly serves as a paean to Lowe, it also gives a wonderful overview of why Lowe deserves such praise. Levin fills the piece with examples while often taking a step back to analyze why Lowe’s work is so necessary:

His columns are basketball tutorials, articles that draw on stats, video cut-ups, and interviews with players and coaches to teach you how the sport works. Lowe’s prose is clear, but it isn’t dry; his writing crackles with a kind of conspiratorial glee, like he can’t wait to share all the cool stuff he’s just figured out. Lowe’s pieces and podcasts help the rest of us become better basketball consumers, and they make watching the NBA more fun. If you don’t read him and listen to him, you should: Zach Lowe is America’s best sports writer.

What the beep!? Colorado’s yellow honk house phenomenon (5/23/16, KDVR-TV): Let’s take a break from the NBA to talk about the seemingly furthest possible subject from professional basketball: a house in Colorado at which people drive by and honk their horns.

This joyously oddball feature comes from KDVR-TV reporter Kevin Torres and photojournalist Michael Driver. They bring us to Maysville, Colorado, three hours southwest of Denver, to find a man who lives in a fabled home called the “Yellow Honk House”.

In a way, Torres’ and Driver’s story is entirely similar to Barnes’ and Thompson’s piece above. They both involve finding and highlighting the hidden stories in overlooked communities, and they both succeed by noticing the human side of everyday life.

Have a suggestion for “3 Great Stories of the Week”? E-mail me at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com.

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com. You can also follow Matt on Facebook and Twitter.

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