ESPN.com’s narrative on DeAndre Jordan’s free agency and his decision to stay with the Los Angeles Clippers after verbally committing to the Dallas Mavericks gave readers an insider’s account of the events that unfolded in what became a very public back and forth. Senior writer Ramona Shelburne and ESPN.com’s Mavericks beat writer Tim MacMahon (see sidebar) share the backstory on how they were able to reconstruct the facts.
How were you able to reconstruct the events that took place to tell this story from an insider’s perspective?
Shelburne: I’ve done a few of these tick-tocks over the years and the key is to report, report, report. You call everyone you can think of who may know something about what happened. Then you line up all the stories and versions and it’s incredible where things overlap, and where they don’t. That’s when you can tell someone’s spinning, and you need to dig deeper as to why. The tricky part with these stories is that because they’re so fresh – and often times controversial – a lot of people prefer to stay on background instead of going on the record. You have to push people to give you something on the record, though. There’s no substitute for that. In this story, getting Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and John Lucas – a former NBA player and coach who was with DeAndre Jordan in Houston while he was changing his mind – on the record was critical.
How did you balance your time between reporting for the story and conducting on-air interviews about the situation as it was unfolding?
Shelburne: I called both of my main editors, Eric Neel and Henry Abbott, about this story within a few hours of when Marc Stein first broke it on Wednesday morning and said this needs to be a longer narrative story. They both agreed, and Henry suggested that I work with Tim – who had gathered some incredible reporting on the Mavericks efforts to woo Jordan in the first place. Once that decision was made, I had the narrative story in my head as I gathered and reported news in real time on the website, TV and radio.
You file away little details for later. You take really good notes on every phone call you make. I’m very close with the other NBA reporters on our staff. Marc Stein, Brian Windhorst, Chris Broussard, MacMahon and I talked 10 times a day during free agency. I can’t even imagine the number of emails with updates we all must have sent into the news desk, which then has to make sense of it all and constantly update the story on the site. We have to communicate like that in order to report out a huge national story like this from all angles in the time frame. Plus, it’s just good to have people to check you and your reporting all the time.
I think I transitioned from reporting on the story on TV to writing the longer narrative story after doing a segment with Lindsay Czarniak on Thursday’s 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter. The rest of that day and all day Friday were spent reporting. There were some really tricky issues to report here and we had to get them right, so we each made a few more calls on Saturday morning – that’s when I finally got a hold of John Lucas – and then I started writing. I wrote pretty much all night Saturday and into Sunday and filed by 4 p.m. We all collectively made edits that night and into Monday, then published the story.
— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) July 13, 2015
Excellent ESPN reader on Jordan/Mavs: agent seems clueless about how client was feeling http://t.co/QyNZU9S8aK
— Harvey Araton (@HarveyAraton) July 13, 2015
— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) July 13, 2015