nba

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.

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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.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring violins, cheat codes, & Cuba

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.

Only in Indiana: The Awakening (4/6/16, WTHR-TV): One of the best storytelling tandems in local news just produced a gem.

Reporter Kevin Rader and photographer Steve Rhodes always craft powerful, joyous stories for WTHR-TV’s “Only in Indiana” segment. In this case, they turn their gaze to a young boy named Elias, blind and deaf since birth, and his “awakening” with a musical instrument.

To say much more would mean spoiling a truly beautiful piece. Rader offers tender narration while Rhodes provides his usual exquisite editing; I have profiled these two before, and I have no doubt I will mention them again in this space before too long.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring Team Ortho, Kyle Korver, & laughter

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.

Running for a cause? (11/12/15, KARE-TV): One of the hardest jobs in reporting for television? Making investigative stories look good.

TV stories are often built around moments, and with many pieces, one finds those moments naturally and visually. Investigative journalists must produce those moments informationally and confrontationally — a much tougher task in a visual medium.

In this piece, KARE 11’s A.J. Lagoe and Steve Eckert show how it’s done.

Uncovering deception and monetary misuse from a local non-profit, the duo layers this story with “Didja see that?” moments. Eckert edits nicely the sequence that shows the misuse of funds over several years, and Lagoe leaves the viewer with a jaw-dropper through his final revelation and confrontation with the man behind the non-profit.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring DeAndre, Elsa, & Chattanooga

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.

DeAndre Jordan’s round trip (7/14/15, ESPN.com): Last week I smothered praise upon Grantland NBA writer Zach Lowe for landing such a huge interview in the wake of DeAndre Jordan re-signing with the Clippers.

And while Lowe’s interview remains a great get, two of his colleagues at ESPN came through this week with what will go down as the definitive story behind Jordan’s big decision.

Ramona Shelburne and Tim McMahon, who cover the Clippers and Mavericks, respectively, used all their source-power to put together a day-by-day chronicle of what went on behind the scenes. Jordan signed with the Mavs, had second thoughts, met with coaches and teammates from the Clippers, and set off a frenzy of social media activity that had the whole basketball-following world ablaze. Shelburne and McMahon talk to nearly every key player in this story (with the notable exception of Jordan himself, who has yet to say much), and they produce a tremendous read.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring the World Cup, the Awl, & DeAndre Jordan

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.

J.J. Redick on the DeAndre Jordan saga (7/10/15, The Lowe Post): Here is why I love Zach Lowe.

The biggest story in sports this week involved the out-of-season NBA: free agent DeAndre Jordan, after agreeing to leave the L.A. Clippers for the Dallas Mavericks, changing his mind and going back to Los Angeles to sign with the Clippers. The story was shrouded in secrecy, with even the best NBA reporters relying on off-the-record sources and anonymous information to provide the background of how it all happened.

And then there’s Lowe, who gets one of Jordan’s teammates to GO ON A PODCAST AND TALK ABOUT IT FOR 30 MINUTES. This interview is tremendous: Clippers guard J.J. Redick gives just about every detail one could want about how his team got Jordan to change his mind. Redick himself is a forthright interview, at times enthusiastic to give Lowe the play-by-play.

Again, this is why Lowe is such a prodigious reporter. Not only does he break down the game better than virtually anyone, he also makes the most of his connections. In this case, much like last week’s 1-on-1 with the newly minted coach of the NBA champs, Lowe lands an interview to delight any basketball fan.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring ATL, Mad Men, & a new heart

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.

If we win again, we’ll be one again (4/21/15, Bitter Southerner): This one falls under the category of, “I only heard about it this week, but it actually came out nearly a month ago, but that’s OK, because it’s wonderful.”

Leave it to the Bitter Southerner to bring forth a beautifully written article from a veteran journalist about the changing landscape of Atlanta sports. Ray Glier discusses how, as baseball’s Braves prepare to move out of the city and into the nearest suburbs, basketball’s Hawks have seen a renaissance this year, on the court and in the stands.

Glier wrote all this before the Hawks advanced to the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history, and his prose, in retrospect, seems all the more prescient. Glier blends the right amount of lofty wordplay and contextual background, while the web site’s Gregory Miller provides magnetic photos.

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3 GREAT STORIES: On Baltimore, baseball, & sci-fi hoops

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.

Mondawmin Monday (4/27/15, WBFF-TV): There have been numerous stories and reports from Baltimore this week, some instructive and some less so, about the protests and riots surrounding the death of Freddie Gray.

So much of the images and video have arrived as a stream — stations providing non-stop coverage and constant immediacy, which absolutely has its place in situations like this. But this story, from FOX 45 Baltimore’s Kathleen Cairns and Jed Gamber, shows the power of editing and context.

Given time — and a four-block radius — to document Monday’s action, reporter Cairns and photographer Gamber find themselves in the midst of smoking tear gas, a burning car, and numerous protesters and police. They capture it all with a sense of poignancy and objectivity; Gamber shoots and edits some powerful moments, and Cairns shows wise restraint with her script, stepping back and simply connecting the dots of those aforementioned moments.

This is one of the most haunting, powerful stories I have seen this year.

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3 GREAT STORIES: Starring the NBA Finals and Iraq

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.

It’s no secret: I love professional basketball.

And I soak in the NBA Finals.

I continue to be heartened by the amount of quality coverage that results from the world’s greatest sporting events. Here are two examples from last week, as well as a shattering photo gallery from the Big Picture:

Spurs make Heat’s Big Three look obsolete in Finals rout (6/16/14, SI.com): Sports commentators and writers are nothing if not prolific.

They can create storylines, react (and often overreact) to results, and draw larger themes from individual examples.

But so few actually do it very well.

Michael Rosenberg has penned some of the strongest analysis of this year’s NBA playoffs, and he does so again here following Game 5 of the Finals, where the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat to win this year’s championship, 4 games to 1.

Rosenberg wisely chooses to look ahead as much as he looks back, comparing the impending free agency of Miami’s star players with their similar summer of 2010, when LeBron James first joined the team. He adds personality and flair but never oversells his points. He simply provides proper analysis of an oft-analyzed franchise. (more…)

Breen and Emrick are play-by-play’s finest

On the list of those who influence the outcome of major sporting events, Mike Breen and Mike Emrick rank low.

In fact, they don’t affect the outcome at all.

But they absolutely affect the enjoyment.

This is my favorite time of year of sports. Early June marks the championship rounds for the NBA and NHL, where Breen and Emrick, respectively, are the main play-by-play voices on TV.

They are both sportscasting icons.

But they operate in distinct ways, and each is the perfect broadcaster for his sport. (more…)