Lee Jenkins Rumors
U&M: I want to get into your writing process a little bit — from the point you decide on a story, what’s the standard time duration you need/want for research, gathering quotes/stories and ultimately writing the piece? Jenkins: It really depends. How much do I get from the primary subject? That really tells the story. If you have someone like Kobe or LeBron it helps because they are excellent historians regarding the game and their own careers. Once I did a story on JaVale McGee and that was different. He was in the media and getting killed for doing all these stupid things so I wanted to know: who is this guy? We set up the interview and it was the most painful interview I’ve ever done. It was maybe three minutes long. He said maybe 1-2 words for every answer, so sometimes the primary subject doesn’t give the story. His Mother was incredible however. I talked to her for maybe 1-2 hours and she made the story. So, you have to find that strong voice. I don’t care much about quotes — I want the story. Start with a broad canvas and narrow it down as you go.
Jenkins: Thanks so much for saying that; that story is from a while back so I appreciate that. My favorites aren’t the big ones honestly. Probably my feature on Patrick Beverley and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — those are stories I’m really proud of. Those guys aren’t stars so when I pitched the story to my editor/s, I really had to fight for them. The MKG story might be my favorite. It stands out because it was at a time when his shot was an abomination and I found out he had struggled with a bit of a speech impediment. I was curious, could there be a link between the two? He doesn’t do a lot of TV because of the challenges with his speech, but he had a lot to say and it was really cool to see him realize that the two were linked.
Charania, a senior at Loyola University Chicago who turned 22 in April, is one of the most prolific NBA news breakers today. “Every time he breaks a story,” says Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins, “I sit there and look at Twitter and envision him in, like, junior year chemistry, sort of tuning out the professor and getting a text from a major agent about a story that’s going down.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Jenkins traveled to Las Vegas. He met with Mr. James on Thursday night before writing the essay with him. Mr. Jenkins emailed the essay to his editors around mid-morning on Friday. “Everyone reading it was learning the news for the first time,” Mr. Stone said. The magazine, which introduced a top-to-bottom redesign of its website last month, alerted its technology team that a big story would soon publish. That way they’d be prepared for the extra traffic. They weren’t told, however, what the big scoop was about.
Only about six Sports Illustrated staffers saw the piece before it went live, according to Mr. Stone, who had worried it would somehow leak. “I can’t tell you how stressful the last 24 hours were,” he said. “There were a lot of smart, good reporters pursuing this story.” “We’re going to sleep well tonight,” Mr. Fichtenbaum added.
Editors didn’t tell their business-side counterparts about the scoop ahead of time. “The reason we got this story, I think, is because Lebron’s team trusted us not to turn it into a circus,” Mr. Stone explained. “So to parlay it into a commercial endeavor ahead of time would have been inappropriate.”