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ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – March 9, 2018

In this E:60 profile, Isaiah Thomas discusses the many challenges he’s faced in the past year. (Russell Dinallo/ESPN)

This Sunday on E:60 (9 a.m. ET, ESPN) reporter Ryan Smith profiles Los Angeles Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas. Although Thomas is often in headlines, Smith sought to discover more about him than what’s been in the news.

“We knew very little about his mental makeup and fight to reach the heights he’s attained. Here’s a man who defied significant odds; based on his height alone [5 feet, 9 inches], he had a difficult road to reach the NBA,” said Smith. “What is it about his makeup that not only led him to the league but to star in it? Add to it the trials and tribulations he’s endured over the last year and, for me, it’s compelling to gain a window into what it was like to live through those experiences.”

In April 2017 when Thomas was playing with the Boston Celtics, he learned his younger sister Chyna died in a car accident. Thomas rarely discusses his sister’s death but Smith had to prepare to ask the difficult questions.

Ryan Smith (Melissa Rawlins/ESPN Images)

“I start from the point of trying to be respectful for their loss. After that, I try to focus on discussion points that address their reaction to and experiences with the tragedy,” said Smith. “It isn’t easy for anyone to talk about the death of a loved one, much less in a situation where your answers will be broadcast on national television.”

Smith says in these situations he is ready to accept that certain points are off limits. But showing the subject respect can go a long way.

“I think that, on occasion, people are more comfortable talking about their reaction to the loss rather than the person who has passed. And beyond that, I find if you give respect, especially to the emotions and feelings someone has suffered in the face of tragedy, you increase the chance of them sharing their true experiences with the tragedy in return.”

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