bill kennedy

3 GREAT STORIES: Best of 2016, written edition

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.

The tradition continues.

Every December, I look back at my “3 Great Stories” posts from the past year and decide on which stories, I feel, rose above the rest.

I often find I enjoy the stories the second time almost as much as the first.

I will post my three favorite audio/video stories of the year next week. This week, without further ado, I present my three favorite written pieces of 2016 — and an honorable mention — along with what I wrote about them back then, with minor edits for clarity:

HM) Brotherhood (3/23/16, Bleacher Report): Early on in “Brotherhood”, Howard Beck’s infinitely engrossing long-form story about the friendship between two basketball superstars, one of those stars makes a poignant statement.

“In our sport, or sports in general, everyone wants instant oatmeal,” says LeBron James. “Put it in the microwave, hit 30 seconds, you got a meal. Sometimes, no matter how great you are, it doesn’t happen like that.”

Now replace “sports” with “journalism”. In this era, many audiences — and news bosses — demand “instant oatmeal” from journalists, seeking and investing in clickbait and easy answers over more layered, complicated work.

Stories like this prove what one can get by waiting for a splendid meal.

Beck presents a fascinating portrait of two players — James and Carmelo Anthony — whose friendship and rivalry have provided a powerful undercurrent to the NBA’s past dozen years. This piece made headlines for a different “instant oatmeal” quote, where James muses how he would love to, one day, join forces with Anthony. But that quote comes at the end. The rest is a beautiful blend of smile-worthy memories, did-you-know-that stories, and revealing quotes from two of the league’s best.


3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Bill Kennedy, ethics, & hip-hop

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.

The official coming-out party (10/12/16, ESPN): Rarely have I seen a story whose tone is set immediately by its opening photo.

But upon clicking on the above link, you will be confronted with not words but a full-screen snapshot of a recent Pride Parade — with one figure on a float towering above the crowd, in both height and happiness.

He is Bill Kennedy, an NBA referee who came out last winter after a player described him with a homophobic slur.

As you scroll down, you will find 7,000+ words from versatile ESPN scribe Kevin Arnovitz, who provides some of the site’s best analysis and, in this case, a compelling portrait. He fills his profile of Kennedy with revealing anecdotes and morsels. He describes Kennedy’s complicated existence as a gay man in a high-profile job, constantly monitoring who among his colleagues and connections knew of his sexual orientation.

Arnovitz deserves credit for a masterful story. But it starts with that first photo, taken by David Dow, which displays Kennedy’s newfound comfort and happiness better than any word.