Tell me Adrian Wojnarowski’s great, I’ll blink twice and say “you could be right.” I come to this space not to impugn his body of work, career or character. The state of sports journalism is what consumes, not any particular interest in a single reporter. I think.

There’s so much rumor that we lose track of it all. We fix on a titillating morsel of “sources say” like hyenas on a corpse–only to quickly move on to tomorrow’s scraps. Reporters are generally free to revel in the unsubstantiated, threatened more by diminished publishing profits than by a track record.

With that in mind, I cringe in the direction of “Inside look at LeBron’s free-agent coup.” I’m a political junkie, and this piece prompts a familiar dismay. The article draws from a hated cannon of political journalism: An “insider” reporter uses quotes from other (anonymous) insiders to separate the cool kids from the dorks. Beltway journalists like to hold the “very serious” grownup insiders above their “unserious” outsider foes. Wojnarowski’s screed is bulwarked by this stuffy, condescending attitude, which rankles my outsider sensibilities.

Before we sift through the fishy sand that is “Inside Look” I begin with a slim of sliver of good from the piece. Here’s a respectable way to use anonymous sourcing:

“The NBA doesn’t seem interested in pursuing a tampering probe, but a senior NBA official wants the league to investigate whether Riley promised James employment and benefits to members of his camp.”

A whistle blower wishes to do right by the rules, but has to shield himself in the meantime. I have no issues with this. If true, it’s all above board. If true.

Here’s a counter-example from an earlier Wojnarowski article:

“He (LeBron James) seems more enthusiastic about this (free agency) than he did trying to beat the Celtics,” said one Western Conference GM.”

Zing! Pow! What a brave way to cattily snark at a rival player. How noble to print that very important slice of anonymous information.

There is nothing wrong with believing LeBron James to be an egomaniacal jackass. Printing such an opinion is not only understandable—it’s popular these days. So much of the popularity shift is LeBron’s fault, if not his Decision. I’d even go a step further—the attitude he paraded on that postmodern joke of a TV special made me fear for James’ sanity.

But I do take issue with death-by-Casper insults. I realize that athletes are a satisfying target. We hate them, we love them, we want to be them, but we also know we’d be better at being them. They aren’t human beings so much as they are avatars, legends, and fodder for morality fables. And the petty gossip is fun. Who cares if nameless critics rip sports figures to wood chips?

I do. Call me naïvely self righteous, and ask why I crave ethics in a trivial pursuit. Can’t help it, won’t help it. Sports journalism should be better. At least in my deluded head.

Anyway, I have many questions for Adrian, but my overarching query is simple:

“You know this, how?”

This supposedly “damning” LeBron article can’t link a human to a quote. It’s a heap of “insider” information that comes on the heels of Adrian’s Heat-less LeBron reporting. Wojnarowski never sniffed Miami, and now he’s sagely telling us how it all went down. Call me suspicious.

“No one could stand James as a 19-year-old in the 2004 Athens Olympics, nor the 2006 World Championships.”

Really, not a one? No one at all? And none of these no ones can give you a named-quote about it?

“After the NBA witnessed the behavior of James and his business manager Maverick Carter during the 2007 All-Star Weekend, the commissioner’s office sent word to USA Basketball the league wouldn’t force James on them for the Olympics.”

These events are connected? What did Maverick Carter do? What did LeBron do? Details? Does anyone actually believe—on the record—that Team USA was apathetic about LeBron James due in part to Maverick Carter’s 2007 ASG behavior?

“Legacies were on the line,” one league official said, “and they weren’t going to let LeBron [expletive] it up for everyone in China.”

Are these anonymous slights germane to the story about 2008 free agent collusion, or are they just plain fun? If these big, bad, manly men were so intent on keeping LeBron in line, they could have, you know, publicly said something.

“Through Nike, James ultimately heeded the message and became more tolerable to coaches, teammates and staff. Team USA assigned Jason Kidd to babysit him at the Tournament of the Americas in 2007, to try to teach him something the Cavaliers never had a veteran to do: professionalism.”

How exactly did Jason Kidd “babysit” an adult LeBron James? Is Kidd really the best “professionalism” mentor around?

“James lived to make demands, but those with knowledge of his plans insist he never intended to re-sign with the Cavaliers.”

Adrian, I read “Cleveland ties could still bind LeBron.” It was printed on July 4th, not April Fools’. Other than an offhand Pat Riley reference I saw no Heat foreshadowing. Were you among those out of the loop? Can you tell us why this happened?

“Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, a statistics analyst, met with Chris Bosh at 12:01 a.m. on July 1 armed with an iPad. Morey’s cult followers on the web hailed it as a resounding success, but Riley never believed he was losing Bosh to the MIT gang.”

Is this an insult? If so, was it necessary to insult Daryl Morey and Morey’s “cult” fans in this offhanded manner? Were you trying to insinuate that Morey is too much of a nerd to woo a free agent? Are you a Kindle kinda’ guy? Oh well, I guess Morey is a silly outsider and his crazed fanboys are deluded rabble.

“Carter wanted credibility beyond the public perception of him as merely James’ childhood buddy, and ultimately he could no longer hide his jealousy when Wesley started to get too much public recognition for packaging the players in free agency. Privately, everyone in the circle knew James was leaving Cleveland, and it would be harder for his Akron guys to get credit for the deal.”

Do you have a Maverick Carter mood ring? Does it come with the Maverick Carter voodoo doll?

“After a Yahoo! Sports column detailing the strife within Team LeBron in late June, Carter unwrapped his jealousy and called the New York Times to insist Wesley would have nothing to do with choosing a team.”

Again with the jealousy.

“Still, he (Wes) stayed in close contact with James through a Nike official, Lynn Merritt, and let Carter cool down from his public tantrum.”

This is a tantrum? Carter merely claimed that Wesley had no influence over the process. Based on the Heat outcome, that may have been the case. But it sure was nice of wise, adult Wes to “let Carter cool down from his public tantrum.”

“As the New York Knicks followed the Nets by repeating those themes with an array of power points and charts about accumulating wealth, James drifted in and out of focus.”

Is there any proof of this? A particular question he asked? Did he not pepper Prokhorov with inquiries about Brighton Beach nightlife?

“As it started to get back to Jay-Z that the Nets were trailing to the Heat and Bulls, a Nets official close to ownership – against the wishes of several peers – hatched a plan to leak the notes of a Prokhorov staff meeting to a media outlet. The leaked notes indicated that Prokhorov believed James’ brand would be diminished as part of a three-star team in Miami. What’s more, the notes also indicated what great respect Prokhorov had for Maverick Carter.”

Maverick Carter again?

“Later that day, Carter was on the phone with free agent Mike Miller telling him that James was going to Miami and that he needed to join them as a sharpshooter playing off the three stars.”

Maverick Carter should be a GM?

“James had been gone a long time. They (Cleveland) just never wanted to believe it.”

Apparently they weren’t the only ones. From AW’s July 4th column: “And maybe most of all now, you get the idea that James is an overgrown teenager getting a few laughs with his buddies, driving home to Akron from this cattle call in Cleveland to watch cartoons, play video games and kill some time until he gives the nod to post the big news that maybe the rest of us should’ve known all along: He’s home.”

“James had wanted Brown gone a year earlier after the Cavs lost in the Eastern Conference finals to the Orlando Magic – despite Brown guiding Cleveland to 66 victories while winning the league’s Coach of the Year award.”

So LeBron would make a good GM?


If all this was so telegraphed, then Wojnarowski missed multiple Morse memos. Now Adrian claims retroactive omniscience? My temples throb at the thought. Insiders should prove their status with a hefty helping of named sources. I give leeway to those with impeccable track records, but Adrian just whiffed on a big one.

Say this about Maverick Carter: He was much better at keeping a secret than Adrian Wojnarowski was at uncovering it.

32 Responses

  1. Bill Poindexter

    Today’s media, where the media writes about the media, and thinks it’s really part of the story.

  2. sureshot32

    So this was why ESS was cut from ESPN? Sad that Wojnarowski is such a baby.

    • Mike Mitchell

      Was thinking the same thing. Hard to believe a guy as busy breaking stories as Woj is would even have time (seven years later) to hold a grudge over getting called out for shitty, conveniently-revisionist reporting. If anything, Woj should appreciate the lesson Strauss taught him: Missing one every so often is better than pretending to hit on one after you’ve missed it completely, because you risk getting exposed after the fact with shit like this.

      I’ve always liked Woj’s work, but Woj is the catch for ESPN here. He + his team, imo, is *not* better overall than the entire team that ESPN is letting go for them. Woj’s team just isn’t strong enough to make up the difference is overall talent. Here’s an analogy even Woj would appreciate:

      If Lebron’s only demand to a team that desperately wanted him to join was that they’d have to cut their already established (and maybe even beloved) stars so he could bring in his own group of guys (stars or not), there are few teams in the NBA that wouldn’t find a way to say goodbye to those players to bring him in with his own guys, because he’s Lebron James, and Lebron’s good enough on his own to carry a team regardless of the talent he brings with him. On top of that, Lebron tends to bring world-beaters with him when he goes somewhere. Adrian Wojnarowski, however, is *not* the “Lebron James of NBA reporting.” AW is *no Lebron James,* and his team is *not* full of the type of recruits Lebron would bring with him.

      ESPN’s making a mistake, imo. Woj would’ve been a fantastic addition to the team, if that were all this was: An addition. They could’ve made an already world-class team even better. Instead, this reminds me of when the Phillies traded for Roy Halladay while they already had an ace in Cliff Lee, and then for “reasons” (which I have never understood) traded Cliff Lee that same day to the Mariners for Philippe Aumont (career ERA just south of 7.00), Tyson Gillies (never made it to the majors), and Juan Ramirez (who, as a pitcher, had an ERA over 14.00 and had to be converted to an outfielder, but it didn’t matter as the guy has never been able to stay in the majors). I’m not saying Woj’s team is full of nobodies who could never hack it, but I don’t know their names off-hand, nor am I familiar with their work. I know the names Ethan Strauss, Marc Stein, Chad Ford, and Henry Abbott because their work has been that good over the years.

      Woj might be the biggest “scoop-getter” in NBA-related journalism, but why push out other world-class talent when you *don’t have to*? Why not add world-class talent to world-class talent and end up stronger for it? AFAIK Yahoo! sports isn’t exactly flourishing, and if not ESPN, where would Woj have gone if Yahoo actually does fail? Fox Sports? FS doesn’t even broadcast NBA games (as ESPN and Turner hold the rights through the 2024-2025 season). Woj was never going to go to Turner/FS. ESPN had the leverage, imo, yet they catered to the guy at the expense of their overall NBA-related talent pool anyway.

      Just my opinion.

      • A.J.

        Please. Just between Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks, there’s more NBA knowledge, information and talent in those two than in all of ESPN’s prior NBA crew combined. Then toss in a few more of Wojnarowski’s guys, plus Windhorst if he’d start working hard again, and ESPN received a massive upgrade.

      • king marcus

        A.J., if you have the time, can you please link any articles from Woj that show his NBA knowledge and talent? If someone agrees to not write bad articles about teams in exchange for scoops, does that mean they’re talented?

      • A.J.

        Each year, he tweets the individual draft picks of every team before they’re even announced. The man is not a psychic. Nobody is more hooked in with agents and GMs than he is, and he’s critical when he has to be. If you want to read articles that are rah-rah, then I suggest local beat reporters. But despite the fact most will never be critical of anything, you’ll notice they are almost always the last to know anything and everything that’s happening with the only team they are covering.

        Not to mention ESPN has never come even remotely close to providing the detailed financial information that his site regularly furnishes.

        There’s always give and take in reporting. Without sources, a reporter is just a stenographer. Strauss eventually learned that after he made the leap from being a snarky recently graduated college kid/blogging know-it-all on to becoming a full-fledged ESPN employee. Seven years later, Strauss is now paying a temporary career price for his prior inability to contain the stupid impulses of youth. A humbling lesson learned and he’ll be better off for it.

      • Mike Mitchell

        Just so we’re clear: Are you insinuating that every year Woj, with 100% accuracy, correctly *guesses* each team’s draft pick and tweets it out before it’s revealed? I’ve seen him tweet picks *a minute* before the pick is officially announced, but there’s two major things I think you’re ignoring about this:

        1. Among the big 4 sports, NBA rosters are the smallest. Therefore, its arguably easier to predict what players will get picked by each team in the NBA draft than any of the other drafts specifically because it’s easier to ascertain team needs. There’s a reason major draft day surprises (outside of blockbuster trades) just aren’t all that common. More obviously, however…

        2. …the guy’s spent decades creating and cultivating relationships with sources in every NBA organization. He’s also got one of the sharpest bullshit radars in the industry, and he uses it to make damned sure he doesn’t get used by those various sources to spread disinformation. It’s *far more likely* that the guy waits until draft day to cash-in favors owed to him from sources at various NBA organizations for the sake of finding out the particulars of what each team is doing when they’re on the clock, specifically whom they’re going to draft/whether or not they’re in trade talks with other teams.

        Am I misunderstanding you here? The guy’s not clairvoyant, and he’s not a superhero. He’s smart, he’s connected, and he’s got decades of experience, but his ability to predict draft picks literally a minute or two before they’re officially announced isn’t especially impressive when you consider he bases his predictions on *inside information*.

      • A.J.

        That’s just stupid, Mike. The guy gets it directly from the GMs and the player agents. He’s not clairvoyant, just connected.

      • Mike Mitchell

        That’s literally what I said, so when you say “stupid,” I’m assuming you mean “I agree with you.”

      • Mike Mitchell

        Agree to disagree, I guess. I like Woj, and I consider him the king of the NBA-related breaking story, but I think you’re underestimating the knowledge of the guys that ESPN ousted when they acquired the guy.

    • A.J.

      Why not? Let’s be completely honest here and cut all the bullshit out of the equation: most anybody in Wojnarowski’s position, if provided the opportunity, would have done the exact same thing.

      • sureshot32

        If Wojnarowski is that thin-skinned, I don’t know what he’s doing in this business. Again, I’m not sure he came in and demanded that those writers be let go, but if he did, and if this article that brought up some truly valid points about Wojnarowski’s 20/20 hindsight played a major factor, then I’d say Adrian is a colossal d-bag.
        And no, I don’t think most people in his position would have insisted ESS be dropped from ESPN.

      • A.J.

        Get real, man. If somebody (let’s call him “Joe Bloww”) personally attacked you in print and impugned your integrity, and then seven years later you had the opportunity to join an organization and there is a limited budget for payroll and you were given the power to say who should stay and who should go as a condition of your employment, then I GUARANTEE if Joe Bloww was now employed there, your boot would be so far up his rear end that he’d need 10 hours of major surgery to have it removed.

        It’s dog eat dog and Strauss got devoured like a pit bull chowing down a poodle. That’s business. Strauss was once a kid that assumed some actions don’t carry potential future consequences. Turns out he was very wrong.

  3. aj

    I haven’t read the article, but I found this site because I was searching to see if anyone else thought that Wojnarowski’s writing was super-annoying. I guess it’s a little masochistic that I still occasionally read his articles–but every time I do, I want to strangle him. His “voice” just seems so affected and fake, like he’s trying to convince us that he’s a “real” writer.

  4. Matt Mohr

    Are you kidding me jamey???? i dont really like the warriors, go jump off a cliff and then marry charles barkley, in that order. wow way to go Strauss just fueling the flames for warrior hatred. I love the warriors, I hate you, bottom line. It seems to me that you dont like the warriors and I think im correct from exhibit A, and every other article you have written. did I read the article? NO, I skimmed it, but i skim everything you write after I read your first couple of pieces. THIS IS A WARRIORS WEBSITE WRITE ABOUT THE WARRIORS, not lebron james.

    you still suck

  5. Jamey Findling

    This commentary is 110% win. I find AW’s columns generally insufferable, and the so-called “Inside Look” particularly so, but not having come across any similar comments in my normal rounds, I did a search just to see if I was alone in this. What a relief to find your article! I couldn’t care less about the Warriors, but I’ll be back to your site anyway.

  6. ch

    Great piece. Woj wrote a snarky article about MJ after his hof speech and it had similar holes as this one. Plus he got a ton of facts wrong. He is sloppy and gossipy. Seems not to like the superstars.

  7. Ethan Sherwood Strauss

    @J I agree that we’re mostly in agreement (ha..ha). I have a narrow space in which anon sources can or should be used, the industry has a broad space. I’d like to see that window tighten a bit, for many reasons. I also think you’re likely right about the 2007 ASG weekend.

  8. Ethan Sherwood Strauss

    @Matt Mohr

    I honestly don’t mind if or that you hate me (I have no problems with you, for the record). I’m more confused by it, than anything else. Where is the anger coming from? Did you read the story and do you have any thoughts on it?

  9. Matt Mohr

    jmc: I u hate writer too. So learn english and get back to me you moron use spell check the next time you post a comment.

    Sean: pretty funny comment but i think we all know ethan has problems in the banging department

    Ethan: you still suck find a new job and stop pretending like lebron is the next watergate

    Last: I hate only those who deserved to be hated

  10. J


    I can understand that. My personal feeling is that Woj has soured on LeBron in the worst way; he wants nothing to do with him, and has perhaps let his spite get the better of him. In all honesty, I don’t doubt that validity of the statement, precepts, or facts; however, like you say, you can’t simply continue to quote anonymous sources that make snide comments. I agree with you in that aspect.

    Oh and the All-Star Weekend “incident” he refers to wasn’t so much an incident; I believe he’s referring to the fact that on that weekend, LeBron and Maverick made their whole “I want to be a billionaire/worldwide icon spiel”, which was an attempt to make LeBron the focal point of the Weekend….much like LeBron did during the Finals.

    Agree with you in large part, though.

  11. Sean

    Hey, WhatWouldEllisonDo?

    Brighton Beach is a neighborhood in Brooklyn with a huge Russian population. And you know, Prokhorov is like, Russian and stuff.

    Also Matt Mohr- U MAD and it shows. Did Strauss bang your gf or something? Seriously, that amount of anger is just inappropriate for a comment on a post on an unofficial fan site. Oh, and I know you like caps but THERE ARE OTHER WAYS OF CONVEYING FRUSTRATION.

  12. Ethan Sherwood Strauss

    @J I appreciate the thoughtful comment, but I disagree with the naivete notion: Asking a reporter for proof isn’t “naive,” it’s something we should do more often. Wojnarowski should at least explain why and how he missed on this story, if he’s asserting LeBron’s departure had such deep roots.

    As to my instincts, I simply don’t know if his story is fabrication or fact. So much of it is all based on nameless sources, as though he’s breaking Watergate.

    Apart from fact vs. fiction discussions, I don’t think reporters should use anonymous sources to relay catty insults. That’s small, trivial and unethical.

  13. J

    All you can do in an instance such as this is look at Woj’s body of work. Having read “Miracle of St. Anthony”, he certainly is a writer that should be lended some credibility; he is certainly not Peter Vescey. He doesn’t need to make a name for himself, he doesn’t need to prove his journalistic chops–he’s already proven himself. So what purpose does it serve to falsify all this? None. Having established himself as an insider–he broke more stories about FA than any other writer–what does it benefit him to fabricate? Nothing. Now yes, he may have soured on LeBron in the past few months, and his venom singes of the screen; however, abstract reasoning for not giving credence to his claims, or simply asking for proof is a bit naive. I will admit: he may have made the entire thing up. However, after reading his entire year and a half with Bob Hurley, after reading all his articles, and after considering that he is well placed enough to out-report Stein, Broussard, Bucher, et al, do your instincts tell you this was fabrication?

  14. jmc

    Matt, did you even read article? He wasn’t bitching about lebron and his decision he was complaining about a sports writer not giving good insider info…and strauss cant write about shit that hasnt happened yet so might aswell write something different…also I u hate a writer…why do u still read his articles? Get a life stop complaing…or find something useful to complain about..

  15. Matt Mohr

    Well here we are again strauss, you sorry excuse for a writer, you have written another article that makes no sense what so ever. What are you trying to prove? I seriously dont even understand what this article is about. You ramble and ramble about nothing. Yes we all understand that cleveland and the owner of the cavs are pissed. Who wouldn’t? The fact is that any team that lebron could have gone too (cavs, nets, knicks, heat) the other teams would have been hurt.

    Now, theres this little sports broadcasting system called ESPN, I dont know if you have heard of it, but they cover sports too. I know Ethan, I just blew you away huh? This has been beaten to DEATH, about 100x more than the brett farve watch. Bottom line:

    Last, but not least, here is my argument to this article:
    WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE WARRIORS?????? Come on man, I know you suck, but really? A lebron article on a warriors website?

    Here let me spitball for you:
    (yes I stole your format for this article where you put a line and then answer it below, like I said learn how to write an article. this is soooooooo annoying to read any article like this.)
    What is Lacob going to do with the front office?
    Why Don Nelson is still head coach?
    Are there any free agents still out there that could impact the warriors?
    How is there summer league going?
    Is ellison going to strip oracle arena of its name?

    once again:
    I hate you, anyone who reads this article I have pitty on

    WE DESERVE MORE THAN THIS TRASH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Ethan Sherwood Strauss

    @Oz I’m not asking writers to give up every source, that’s a strawman argument. I’m pointing out that AW missed on a story (while using anon sources), then retroactively told us the details on this story he missed (using anon sources). This jibes with you?

  17. Oz

    Strauss, if everyone who writes articles gave every single name of every single source, no one would ever want to talk to reporters about anything not pertaining to anyone but themselves. Surely as a “writer” yourself you have some sort of experience with anonymous sources don’t you? Are we to believe that you have never cited an anonymous source? Seriously? It seems maybe it would be more productive if you wrote your own article about a certain topic (and don’t forget to cite your sources!) rather than bash someone else’s work and demand they reveal their sources, what are you, some kind of “article critic”? Seriously, if you really want to know those sources so badly, how about you put in a little work and investigate and write your own article? Just a thought..

  18. dizzle

    In the sports writer hierarchy, Adrian Wojnarowski ranks no higher than hoopshype with regard to insider information and thoughtful analysis…except hoopshype has that nifty salary cap summary for each team, making it far more useful than our esteemed yahoo sports columnist. Thank you for putting this dude in his place Straussalicious.

  19. WhatWouldEllisonDo?

    Did he not pepper Prokhorov with inquiries about Brighton Beach nightlife? to the author: can you elaborate a bit on Brighton Beach? Why would Prokhorov know about it versus say, Avery Johnson? can you source this bit of information? what is so cool about Brighton Beach anyways!?

  20. Pointman

    Sports journalism seems to be heading more and more into the realm of sensationalist journalism. Kudos for trying to keep one of the major offenders in check. Great job, Strauss!

  21. zeke

    Very good analysis of the Wojnarowski article in question. All of this is after-the-fact innuendo to make it seem like there was a simple narrative to all of this, yet if there was, how did no one notice the hints and why did they continuously contradict this simple narrative with “LeBron’s staying in Cleveland.”