Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – October 21, 2016

ESPN features Rockets-Lakers in Week 1 Game Coverage
ESPN’s blockbuster opening week of the NBA season is highlighted by two prime-time doubleheaders (Wednesday, Friday) and superstars LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden in action. On Wednesday, Oct. 26, the Oklahoma City Thunder visit the Philadelphia 76ers at 8 p.m. on ESPN (Van Gundy on commentary), followed by the Houston Rockets visiting the Los Angeles Lakers at 10:30 p.m. (Jackson on commentary). For more information on ESPN’s NBA coverage, visit ESPN Media Zone.

The Los Angeles Lakers used to be the most successful team in the NBA, but over the last three years the franchise has declined and Outside the Lines reporter Steve Delsohn interviewed multiple sources to find out why.

The special report will air on Sunday at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2 and a longer conversation is available now via WatchESPN.

Lakers President Jeanie Buss and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss were at the top of Delsohn’s list to interview.

“We [Delsohn and producer Willie Weinbaum] asked for both Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss and only Jeanie agreed, which was not really a surprise because Jim Buss rarely does interviews,” said Delsohn. “To go along with Jeanie, we ended up interviewing three candid former Lakers: Byron Scott, Matt Barnes and Carlos Boozer.”

Having a variety of personalities allowed each subject to lend something different to the piece. Because of Jeanie Buss’ position in the company and a unique family dynamic, she was a fascinating subject.

“She is in an interesting position. Although she’s team president, I think she’s trying to honor the wishes of her late father Jerry, who chose her brother Jim to run basketball operations,” Delsohn said. “But she also has an obligation to the fans and the Lakers’ business partners to make the team successful. Whether Jim can do that, from a basketball standpoint, is a question that’s still being asked around the league. And if the team doesn’t start winning, Jeanie is going to face a tough decision.”

She never said she would fire him; she did say she would do ‘whatever it takes’ to make the Lakers successful.
OTL reporter Steve Delsohn talking about his interview with Lakers president Jeanie Buss and her take on retaining her brother, executive Jim Buss

Delsohn was prepared to discuss the possible outcomes of another losing season with Jeanie, one being the firing of Jim Buss, a topic that anyone in the president’s position might be hesitant to answer. She might be even more reluctant to answer since it involves her brother. Knowing this, Delsohn paid a lot of attention to how she answered the question.

“She never said she would fire him; she did say she would do ‘whatever it takes’ to make the Lakers successful,” Delsohn said. “By the way she said it, and in the context of our conversation, it seemed to imply that she would dismiss Jim if the team did not improve and if he refused to step down. But again, she never directly said that.”

When discussing what surprised Delsohn most about his interviews, he admitted nothing really surprised him, but he was pleased that Jeanie Buss was willing to talk.

“I wasn’t surprised, but I was gratified that Jeanie seemed willing to have an honest conversation, especially when we nudged her off of her talking points,” he said. “There are many team presidents who would never go on-camera in the midst of a three-year skid like the Lakers are having.”

The Lakers try to reverse their fortunes this season beginning on Wednesday night when they host the Houston Rockets on ESPN (see sidebar above for programming details).

How Carmelo Anthony’s cover of ESPN the Magazine came about
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New York Knicks power forward Carmelo Anthony is featured on the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s NBA Preview issue on newsstands today. For this issue, columnist Howard Bryant was presented with the unique opportunity to talk about Anthony’s role as an African-American citizen rather than just as a basketball player. He shared more about this unique sit down with Front Row:

How did your interview with Anthony come about?
Usually, reporters like to come up with their own ideas. In this case, I was grateful that our editors were setting up an interview with him and thought I was the right person to do it.

Why was Anthony the appropriate subject for this Q&A?
Something unique is happening in this country. I don’t know if it is just because of an election year, or, as Carmelo feels, the ubiquitous nature of technology has brought light to the aggressive relationship between police and communities of color, but he is another person who has undergone something of an awakening. The death of Freddie Gray changed [Anthony], turned him into an active, concerned citizen. He was not out of his depth on subjects. He knew what he was talking about. He is reaching a point in his life where he seems to be synthesizing the active elements in our culture – aggressive policing, lack of educational and job opportunities – that lead to desperation and oftentimes tragedy.

What was your key takeaway?
His recognition of how powerful athletes can be. Our conversation was not only about policing and race, but about how after years of being at a decidedly disadvantageous position, players today recognize their platform, enormous wealth, and visibility has given them a leverage they’ve never had before. They can affect social change. They can affect policy in their sports. They can affect media and now circumvent the traditions of newspaper and television, all of which means they can change the labor-management structure as it currently exists – if they unite and remain united. I had the feeling I wasn’t speaking to a power forward, but a leader.

By Carrie Kreiswirth

Journalism on Display

  • Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis has played a key role in transforming the Aggies into a playoff contender. In a profile piece on ESPN.com, writer Chris Low takes a look at how growing up on a farm in Dillon, S.C., taught Chavis everything he needed to know about work ethic and humility. With his resume, Chavis could be a candidate for just about any open head coaching job. But he’s perfectly content being an outstanding defensive coordinator.
  • Draymond Green is a top-10 player in the NBA. But he’s also disliked within the walls of Oracle Arena by many. The Golden State Warriors know they can’t win without Green. The problem is, they might not be able to win with him, either. ESPN The Magazine writer Ethan Sherwood Strauss tells the behind-the-scenes story of Green’s 2015-2016 season in “The Problem with Draymond Green.”
  • Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford has always been full of promise but has consistently been derailed by bad luck or circumstances. His trade to the Vikings just as the season started seemed at the time like another awkward fit, but he and offensive coordinator Norv Turner have made it work so far. Bradford has been nearly perfect, and the Vikings are undefeated. ESPN The Magazine writer Tim Keown answers the question everyone’s asking, “Has he finally found a good fit?
  • Panelists on Sunday morning’s The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m., ESPN2; 10:30 a.m., ESPNEWS) will be Mike Lupica (host), Israel Gutierrez, Manish Mehta, and Bob Ryan.

By Molly Mita

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