3 GREAT STORIES: The NBA Finals, and innovation in sports coverage (Part 2)

Every week, I will 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.

This year’s NBA Finals have been outstanding.

How? Let me count the ways.

  1. Two great teams: the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs
  2. The individual stars (LeBron James, Tony Parker, Dwayne Wade, Tim Duncan, and more!) with legacies on the line
  3. The role players stepping up and performing wondrous feats of strength
  4. The seemingly endless number of storylines popping up every night
  5. The series’ complete lack of predictability

Simply put, the Heat and Spurs have given us a classic NBA Finals so far.

They have also compelled the sport’s numerous journalists and bloggers to step up their game.

With great moments come great opportunities for innovative and memorable journalism. I already used this space last week to show how sports coverage has both improved and diversified with the advent of the Web. The great work continued this past week, so I decided to provide an encore of great — and inventive — reporting of this year’s NBA Finals.

Experience LeBron James’ block on Tiago Splitter in 24 different ways (6/10/13, TheScore.com): If you are even a casual sports fan, you probably saw what has fast become one of the most famous blocked shots in NBA history.

Click on the link to this story, and you can immerse yourself in LeBron James’ famous block.

People always talk about how, in today’s media landscape, we have so many options that we do not really unify over big moments anymore. But the diverse landscape also allows us to magnify those moments. This article from The Score’s basketball blog, The Basketball Jones, exemplifies this by compiling the various photos, videos, and angles of James’ block into one mammoth, defining blog entry.

The Basketball Jones Podcast, Episode 1004 (6/14/13, The Basketball Jones): Speaking of the Basketball Jones, their podcast has become a master class of how to cover a sport, provide insightful commentary, keep it loose, stay web-savvy, and present it all in a slick format.

Lofty praise? I have been listening to NBA podcasts for six years, and I have not found one that gives me anything close to the enjoyment I get from The Jones.

I first discovered this then-upstart podcast during the 2008 NBA playoffs; it was based out of Toronto (not exactly an NBA hotbed) and consisted of two guys, hosts J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas. I enjoyed their laid-back, quirky discussion of the previous night’s games, and I stuck with them as they grew into a much more polished production. The show now features up to seven voices and always manages to hit the big web memes of the day along with recaps of the actual games.

Mostly, though, The Jones thrives on the tremendous rapport between its hosts. Skeets, Melas, and the rest of the crew have a chemistry that rivals the folks of TNT’s Inside The NBA; they simply showcase that chemistry — and their basketball acumen — in a far less formal setting.

Career Arc: Tim Duncan (6/11/13, Grantland): Among the handful of web sites spearheading change in NBA coverage, the Grantland network features the Web’s biggest star: ESPN’s Bill Simmons (formerly The Sports Guy).

Simmons writes far less frequently now and leaves the day-to-day heavy lifting to a bevy of terrific writers — in the case of this sport, usually Zach Lowe — but every now and then he drops one of his classic colossal sports bombs.

I don’t use the word “bomb” to describe the content; Simmons does not usually break any big stories. I use “bomb” to describe his word count.

To wit, check out this week’s Career Arc story about Tim Duncan, where Simmons offers a year-by-year breakdown of the legendary Spurs forward. Simmons does not miss a moment, and he uses this opportunity to give an early Christmas present to his hard-core NBA fans.

Much like the other entries here, this one could not have existed 15 years ago. A newspaper — heck, even a magazine — would have no room for an article this size.

Ultimately, the landscape today allows us to appreciate great moments more fully when they happen — and not just with sports. But in this case, such a terrific series of basketball will not be lost to history; it will be enjoyed and absorbed in the present.

RELATED: 3 GREAT STORIES: The NBA Finals, and innovation in sports coverage

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

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