Storyline: Media Hirings

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After a 17-season career that began with the Nets in 2001, Jefferson is launching his broadcasting career with the YES Network this season, working primarily as a game analyst. “I’ve been doing little different things” said Jefferson. “I’ve done podcasts. I’ve done some radio stuff. But I’d never called a game before, and when the Nets signed me I really thought I’d be in studio more than games, and (YES producer) Frank (DiGraci) had a different idea.”

What has it been like working at The Athletic vs more traditional outlets? Sam Amick: I’ve enjoyed it a great deal, and it only gets better now that I’m starting to figure out how our readers are different – i.e. more demanding, in a good way – than the mainstream audience. It had been a few years since writing for the most passionate fans was the top priority, and that part has been fantastic. I love the direct relationship with the reader. It’s more akin to my time covering the Kings at The Sacramento Bee again.

House of Highlights’ Omar Raja is getting his own talk show. Turner’s Bleacher Report, which bought House of Highlights Instagram in 2015, is producing a monthly live talk show for Twitter. Premiering on Oct. 25, “The House of Highlights Show” will run about 75 minutes per episode and will be co-hosted by CJ Toledano, a creative director on Bleacher Report’s social content team and former writer for Conan O’Brien’s late-night show.

Michael Lee: My time at Yahoo produced some valuable lessons for which I’m grateful and I know I’m better for the experience. I also know that I’m more determined to thrive here at The Athletic, where finding great stories is not only encouraged but expected. Throughout my recruitment process, the editors and writers with whom I spoke shared how much they enjoy the working environment at The Athletic. More than once, I heard, “This is the best job I’ve ever had.”

Yahoo was where you really made your name. Both emotionally and professionally, can you talk about everything that went into the decision to move to The Athletic, and what led up to it? Shams Charania: I’ve always tried to be so focused on the work, so it was definitely interesting in talking to Yahoo and everyone else that became involved in the process. But just throughout it all, I got the best sense from The Athletic and Stadium about their hunger and their desire to cover the league at a really high level. Both platforms are really developing and growing, and I see myself the same way. I’m still developing. I’m still growing. So to be able to involve myself with that made all the sense in the world.

Josh Robbins: In 1997, years after becoming a successful lawyer, Jeff took his motorcycle out on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Maryland and crashed. Alcohol wasn’t involved. He just lost control of his Harley. He died that night. He was 33 years old. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I try not to think about him much. Please don’t misunderstand me; I love him and would do anything to bring him back. But I still feel angry about his death, about how he should have lived another 50 years, about the hell he put our parents, our older brother, Jon, and me through. What a senseless loss.

Josh Robbins: I was 23 when he died. At the time, I was working at a think tank in D.C. and studying to take the LSAT. Going to law school was the safe thing to do. But Jeff’s death made me reevaluate everything, including my career choice. Becoming an attorney didn’t excite me. Becoming a journalist did. If life can be so short, as Jeff’s was, I figured I should spend it doing something I regarded as special. So I tried. I scrapped my law school plans and instead went to journalism school. I eventually landed at a great outlet, the Orlando Sentinel, surrounded by reporters and editors who mentored me.

Sam Amick: Anyone​ who has​ started​ a new job​ knows that the​ well wishes​ are​ one of the highlights. Congrats!​ Best of luck!​​ You’ll kill it! But on the night of September 6th, as I was making the transition from USA TODAY Sports to The Athletic and word was starting to spread throughout our industry, there was one text message that stood out among the rest. “Word on the street (is) you headed to The Athletic… my sources have alerted me,” it read.

But there was also this, a rambling and angry internal email Cleveland.com editor Chris Quinn sent to his employees on Saturday, Sept.15, on the topic of The Athletic, which seems like one of those emails you should leave in the drafts folder for a day or two and then delete after you’ve cooled down. Enjoy [sic]: I want to say a word about The Athletic, which suddenly seems frantic to raid our staff because of its inability to groom talented sportswriters on its own. Most of you know Joe Vardon is headed there, and they do not appear to be finished in their recruiting efforts. This has the feeling of desperation to me. As I’ve mentioned since this thing started, it’s financial model is not sound. In the print days, the Daily tried it. In the digital era, Patch tried it. Each time someone tries it, an investor kicks in a huge amount of money to get the thing launched but because the financial model is so unsound, it always fails. If you could sustain an experienced staff on digital subscription revenue alone, we’d have gone that way a long time ago. To produce the kind of content we produce takes more than digital subscribers.

As the Athletic makes this sprint to hire away the best sportswriters in the land, I worry about how lives will be affected. Their recruiting effort is rushed. You get a couple of days to decide and then the offer is gone. The pressure is intense. Think about that. What responsible employer does that? When we recruit, we give people all the time they need to work out the details and consider how a job change might affect their lives and their families. Our intention is to build a lasting relationship, and you don’t do that with a breathless offer that forces people into a corner. Doing what the Athletic does is desperate and uncaring.

Tony Jones: With The Athletic, my day-to-day duties won’t be dissimilar to my previous responsibilities with The Salt Lake Tribune. I will cover the Utah Jazz and the NBA like a blanket. I will take you inside a team at an exciting time, a time where the Jazz are expected to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference. A time where the Jazz boast the likes of star guard Donovan Mitchell, and star center Rudy Gobert, who is the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

Jason Quick: But to be honest, I nearly walked away from the profession this summer. Much has changed over the years. The media landscape today is a tricky one. I’ve had to deal with the click-bait mentality of one organization, and the pom-pom waving of another. And it seems like some are more interested in being friends with players than telling the real story. But just as I was entertaining thoughts of opening a bar, or applying at the postal service, The Athletic presented this opportunity. Frankly, it’s a writer’s dream: find the best stories and execute.

Brett Dawson: Westbrook, as it turned out, was open and introspective that day in Phoenix. He talked about the narrative that teammates don’t enjoy playing with him, disputing it and wondering rhetorically why it’s a subject broached so often with him and so rarely with other stars. His initial warning was classic Westbrook. But the interview — and the story that sprang from it — was emblematic of the kind of work I most enjoy, the kind I’m hoping to do more of now that I’m covering the Thunder for The Athletic.

How did you make the decision to leave Turner and join The Athletic? David Aldridge: We’ve been talking for a few weeks more formally. At the same time, I was very seriously contemplating going back to Turner. I love that place. . . . They made an incredibly fair offer. It was a very tough decision, but it was an opportunity to be in on the ground floor of something here, to have some real say in coverage and personnel, to be home more. And the fact that the D.C. sports community has really matured over the last 10 years, I think all those things came together at the same time and made it worth taking the leap of faith that this thing can work and be successful.

Last week, Andrew Marchand of the Post reported that several TV outlets were interested in hiring Richard Jefferson as a game analysts, listing YES, ESPN and the Clippers as the top three. Now, league sources tell NetsDaily that unless RJ gets an offer to play another year, he will be joining the YES Network, doing both game analysis and studio work on broadcasts of Nets games, The move to the broadcast booth comes a decade after he was traded to the Bucks for Yi Jianlian. Jefferson, 38, has since played with the Spurs, Warriors, Jazz, Mavericks, Cavaliers and Nuggets, winning an NBA championship with Cleveland two years ago. He joined the Cavs broadcast teams in the playoffs last season, his first broadcasting gig.

David Aldridge: So why make the move now? First, and foremost, I’ve been missing too much of my family’s collective life. My wife and I have two sons, who are growing up way too fast. And I don’t want to keep missing plays and concerts and baseball games. I’ll still miss some of them, but not as many. I’ll hopefully be able to take my wife out more than once or twice a month. There will be a lot of long days and nights, and a lot of games to attend in town, but when the games are over, I’ll go home, not to a hotel. Second, I’m a man in love with words. Even though I’ve primarily been a television reporter for the last two decades, I still often refer to myself as a writer who appears on TV. My voice comes from my writing. Believe me: I understand the power of television. It produces emotional, visceral reactions.

Shams Charania: My first real passions in life were basketball and writing, and I hoped to combine that with my love for the NBA and the ins and outs of the league. I loved the NBA and playing basketball, so I had to find my route to stay around the game. Writing about it was that route. I grew up roaming the websites of RealGM and HoopsHype for the latest rumors. Whether it was driving to Milwaukee or nearby Indianapolis in high school, I always wanted to challenge myself and find interesting topics to write about. It was more than just the news items that interested me. It was the behind-the-scenes stories, the rise and fall of players, the teams and people in the league that fascinated me and pushed me to pursue the career. The subjects around the NBA are intriguing and I am proud of the relationships I have formed over the years in this field because it showed me the respect and openness of many of them.

There is an opening in the Fox Sports broadcast booth right now next to Ralph Lawler, and a lot of people on Twitter and Reddit have mentioned your name. Are you throwing your name in the hat? Does the position interest you? Corey Maggette: *Laughs* Honestly, that’s up to Fox and up to the Clippers. I’m humbled by them and fans even trying to consider me for that position. I think for me, in my step in my life and career, it would be a great position. I just got to make sure it kind of fits with the family dynamic. For me, I think it’s more about my kids. Being able to see them more. When those opportunities come up, sometimes you miss out on those other opportunities with your family. Who knows? Who knows what will happen. It could be a great job and to work with a legend like Ralph Lawler would be amazing. We’ll see happens this upcoming year.

Scott Agness: I’m​ excited to​ join​ the talented​ group of writers​ at The​ Athletic​ where they put it​ best: “Fall in​​ love with the sports page again.” Over the last year, I found myself visiting here more and more often. When your attention and money is valued over company metrics, everyone wins. As anyone who follows me knows, I’m all about a good deal. And here at The Athletic, I believe you easily get more than you pay for. During a time when national publications are cutting back and sports departments are trimming down, The Athletic is pushing ahead and giving readers value for their subscription.

Potential suitors lined up like NBA teams courting a franchise player. Charania spoke with ESPN, Turner Sports, Facebook, and NBC Sports, in addition to Yahoo, but the competition wasn’t particularly close. Early on, his heart was set on a joint agreement with The Athletic, a subscription-based sportswriting platform, and Stadium, which hails itself as the cord-cutter’s sports network. Two forward-thinking media companies that really wanted him, an opportunity to develop his writing and on-camera abilities—it struck him as a perfect fit, so he didn’t seriously consider other offers.

You’re only 24—how did someone so young become an NBA news breaking machine? Shams Charania: I realized that I needed to fulfill my passion for the NBA in ways other than playing, and I always loved writing and the behind-the-scenes aspect of the league, so I combined both. I began writing for my high school newspaper as a junior and started a Bulls blog on ChicagoNow, a subsidiary of the Chicago Tribune, where I would write several stories/recaps/analysis articles per day. I began reporting on 10-day deals, too. After some reps under my belt as my senior year began, I reached out to RealGM.com and was fortunate to forge a relationship with them. I started covering games during my senior year, driving up to Milwaukee for Bucks games, which was an important experience. My first Las Vegas Summer League, in 2013, was also a critical moment, allowing me to put faces to names and meet new people. It’s always been about continuing to push and looking long-term with every relationship—and trying to take something from those whom I admire to paint my own picture. There also are a lot of high-character and open-minded people in the industry who gave me a chance.

Shams Charania: I am excited to announce I am joining The Athletic and Stadium as the lead Senior NBA Insider/Writer and Analyst later this month. I am so grateful and honored to have spent the past three years at Yahoo. I’m appreciative to have been part of The Vertical and the tremendous staff, top to bottom. Thank you to all of the Yahoo Sports executives, editors Johnny Ludden and Joe Garza and the rest of the group. Now, I am so pumped and thrilled for this next journey and challenge. I’m excited to join the talented people at both The Athletic and Stadium, two places with tremendous enthusiasm, opportunity for growth and determination to cover the league. Both are hungry and ready. So am I.

The Action Network announced today that it has signed Rob Perez, aka @World_Wide_Wob, to a multi-year deal as a Senior NBA Producer. In addition to the massively popular videos Perez regularly creates, he will also be writing, podcasting, contributing content to The Action Network social platforms and developing new programming. “I’m excited to be joining The Action Network team and am thoroughly impressed with what they’ve put together in such a short amount of time,” Perez said. “They get it. I don’t even know how to define what ‘it’ is, but you know when someone has it. Parlay this with their belief in my crazy vision, and I have no doubt we’ll be doing something game-changing soon.”


Charania, just 24, will be deciding on a new home soon. Just a year out of college, Charania has made a name for himself by challenging Wojnarowski, now at ESPN, on the NBA transaction beat. Charania will be bringing his more than 360,000 Twitter followers to a new destination soon. He has had talks with ESPN, though the network has a large stable of NBA insiders, including Ramona Shelburne, Chris Haynes and Dave McMenamin, among others, so a fit seems unlikely. NBC Sports Regional Networks and The Athletic are two known places with interest. Yahoo, according to one source, is looking to replace Charania, so, memo to NBA insiders: Send your résumés.

So if Yahoo doesn’t retain Charania, where could he wind up? ESPN could basically end the NBA scoop game by reuniting Wojnarowski and Charania in Bristol. […] Turner/NBA TV/Bleacher Report could try to make a bigger impact in terms of competing with ESPN. Charania worked on Turner’s team-centric Final Four telecast that included his alma mater, Loyola. The Athletic, the two-plus-year-old subscription site that has raised $20 million, could try to build an NBA vertical around Charania the way it has with Ken Rosenthal on baseball.

Jeff Goodman is leaving ESPN and joining the upstart Stadium, The Big Lead has learned from a person with direct knowledge of the news. Unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter, the person requested anonymity. Goodman and an ESPN spokesperson declined to comment. Goodman has signed a multi-year deal with Stadium, which started as a streaming platform and is making a big financial commitment toward an editorial push. Former ESPN college football reporter Brett McMurphy will also be joining Stadium, as Richard Deitsch reported in late April.

Marking FloSports’ entry into the NBA, Thorpe will lead the development of in-depth written content, which challenges the way fans see the sport. He will provide premium NBA content for the remainder of the 2018 season and postseason. Thorpe joins FloHoops with 30 years of experience in basketball as an esteemed and widely recognized NBA analyst and published author. Starting his career as an inner-city high school coach in the late 1980s, Thorpe progressed to training more than 75 NBA players, including All-Stars, lottery picks, and record setters, as well as more than 100 professional players in Europe.
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November 20, 2018 | 3:19 am EST Update
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