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SBD/November 16, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies
Catching Up With Yahoo Sports NBA Writer Adrian Wojnarowski
Published November 16, 2011
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The Miracle of St. Anthony: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball's Most Improbable Dynasty,"a N.Y. Times best-seller. During SBJ/SBD's Sports Media & Technology conference last week, Wojnarowski took time to discuss his start in sports journalism and all things NBA lockout.
Hometown: Bristol, Conn.
Favorite basketball website (besides Yahoo): The Basketball Jones
Favorite App: BlackBerry Messenger (better with sources, as messages don’t show up in phone records)
Book on your nightstand: “Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain” by David Eagleman
Best NBA venue: Market Square Arena
Best Twitter follow: @RussBengtson
Q: How did you get your start in journalism?
Wojnarowski: Always wanted to do sports. I got a job at the Hartford Courant when I was in high school. Answering phones, doing food runs for guys, running roundups on high school games and slowly got some bylines. So in high school, I was getting bylines in the Courant, which was unbelievable for me at that age. I was just hooked. It was all I ever wanted to do. It was just a tremendous education. There were so many great writers and editors. ... Then at St. Bonaventure, I was on the college newspaper with guys like Mike Vaccaro from the N.Y Post, (former Sporting News Editor-In-Chief) Jeff D’Alessio. Really just some tremendous guys at such a small school. I was really lucky.
Q: Hypothetically, you’re at dinner with NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter. What do you want to say to them?
Wojnarowski: I can assure you that neither guy would invite me to dinner. The two of them have less control over these talks than they ever have. Especially Stern. He’s being driven by his owners. He does not have the impact as commissioner that he once had. The owners are the ones who are driving this lockout, not him.
Q: Do you think the lockout can be resolved in time to salvage this season? If so, when?
Wojnarowski: Yes, I do. But I’m out of the prediction business with this thing. It takes on a life of its own. But you’ll now see the sides continue to splinter. ... It will be harder and harder to get a broad consensus to get a deal. The owners have gotten everything. It’s like they won by 30 points and they’re gonna keep the press on and do chin-ups on the rim. It’s really on them right now as to where this thing goes.
Q: What kind of damage would a canceled season do to the NBA’s popularity with fans?
Wojnarowski: It would be devastating. Especially to a sport that has engaged the casual fan over the last few years with great storylines. I think the diehards would return, like they did in hockey. But I don’t think hockey has that casual, broad appeal like the NBA. You see it in their TV ratings. … Their ascension over these last few years has been through these broad, great storylines. To shut down for the year, I don’t know how they get that back, especially in this marketplace and economy.
Q: When this lockout does eventually get settled, what storylines will you be following?
Wojnarowski: This is a star-driven league. Miami trying to win a title. LeBron (James) trying to win his first ring. Kobe Bryant trying to win his sixth to match (Michael) Jordan. ... I also think the players coming back from the lockout. There are team executives and coaches who are worried that the owners will have so poisoned the water with the players and driven a stake so far through them. At the end of the day, they need the players to sell this league. David Stern is not going to sell it. Billy Hunter is not going to sell it. The lawyers aren’t going to sell it. The stars are going to sell the league. There is such an animosity between the owners and the players, that when teams ask guys to do things and do outreach with the fans, players may still do it, but through their own foundations or charities rather than through the team. I think that’s a danger. I think that’s where the owners are being shortsighted here. At the end of the day, the players are the product and they’re the ones that everyone comes to see. That’s the risk they’re running.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring sportswriters?
Wojnarowski: I’ve always given the same advice: Read all you can. Write every day. And I’ve always believed the guts of good writing is great reporting, especially in the information age. If you can combine strong writing with great reporting, I think it makes you a real commodity.