Back To The Future: A Look At My Past and Future with WarriorsWorld
This upcoming season will be my fourth season with WarriorsWorld. I was entering my first year at San Jose State when I was brought on as a contributor to the site — a fantastic opportunity for an 18-year-old entering the infant stages of what hopefully ends up being a long career in the field. I wasn’t sure how long the temporary tag would be with me, I just had to seize the opportunity and make the best of it.
Blogging about dunk contests, NFL lines, my favorite albums and Floyd Mayweather quickly turned into discussions about Steph vs. Monta, free agent targets and Joe Lacob. I could still blog about the formers, but my focus — as it pertains to my blogging anyway — is on the Warriors. Of course, for those who follow me on Twitter, those non-basketball topics are still discussed frequently.
After some time, I was hired to become a full-time writer for the site. As ecstatic as I was, I knew it was just the beginning. I was still just 18, and while blogging quickly became my main focus, it wasn’t my only focus. I was a freshman in college, attending to anything and everything that came with that title. It quickly became a balancing act of sorts: reading NBA Power Rankings, writing about Ekpe Udoh and studying box scores all while learning Calculus was an interesting task.
While I tried to limit my in-class time to the class at hand, my downtime was solely focused on basketball. Did I turn down some extra curricular activities to attend to basketball activities? Absolutely. Did those decisions hurt my social status quo within the realm of San Jose State? Absolutely. Did I care? Absolutely not. While I’m making myself out to be a hermit, that wasn’t really the case. My passion was reading and writing about basketball…then everything else.
I learned to harness this balancing act and maintain a respectable GPA while continuing my duties at WarriorsWorld. This continued on for two years, and coming into the 2012-2013 season I expected more of the same. While I still held the same duties with the site, the chance to enhance my skills by attaining a credential and traveling to cover the team became a reality. I had built a large enough rapport with the site and subsequently Warriors PR that I was granted a credential to cover a limited amount of games for the upcoming season.
My first event: Media Day.
It was my first time visiting the Warriors headquarters in downtown Oakland, and I was equally excited as I was nervous. The building itself isn’t solely dedicated to the Warriors, so a certain level of ruse was necessary (at least for first-timers). Warriors headquarters doesn’t exactly stare you in the face — which isn’t an accident I’d imagine — so the search for the correct parking, entrance, floor and doors had me on a Frodo-esque quest.
Once I did reach my destination, however, the fun soon followed. My name was on “The List”, I was handed my credential, given my information packet and was sent off to cover my favorite basketball team in any way I see fit. I had heard from various people that Media Day is a very loose environment, which may be comforting for many but not for me. I was a nervous wreck, even if I didn’t look it.
Various tables are set up on the Warriors practice court, each dedicated to players who would then rotate depending on their groups. There were sets to the side of the court for official photos, radio booths from the local stations, computer stations for players to use for various tasks and multiple locations for filming commercials. I was overwhelmed. Did I mention I was nervous?
Each player was required to head to their assigned table at some point for their Q&A sessions. Players were assigned into groups based on a complex formula: the fringe players were to come out first followed by the official roster, who would then be brought out in way that would make them all equally accessible.
That Media Day, the biggest question marks were the health of Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry. Bogut was the big fish acquisition who had played a grand total of zero games for the team. Curry, on the heels of a 26-game season, was the unconvincing franchise player with perpetual ankle problems. How would they mesh? How was Bogut’s elbow? Was Curry confident his ankle can stay healthy for an entire season?
Questions aplenty for the Golden State Warriors, nothing new. Both Curry and Bogut were open about their injuries and continue to be the two of the classiest players I’ve had the pleasure of talking to. They both drew the biggest crowds around their tables and answered every question with class. In my short time talking with players, the Warriors continue to lead the pack in this department.
The Q&A sessions, like most media sessions across the sporting platform, require you to be quick and concise. The mic — or the players attention in this case — is awarded to the quickest and loudest. I had the floor for many tables: Bogut, Curry, David Lee and Harrison Barnes to name a few. I was still nervous throughout the day, but as the minutes passed by I became more comfortable and forward with the environment.
I asked Bogut about Scott Skiles and his new coach Mark Jackson (the other hot topic at Media Day), Curry about his anticipated chemistry with Bogut, Lee about the rookie class and Barnes about how UNC and Roy Williams helped prepare him for the NBA. Considering the setting, I also asked Barnes about his favorite albums: he thought Good Kid, m.A.A.d city was an instant classic and Cruel Summer was a disappointment. I can’t disagree.
Media Day wound down: I sent my last tweets, posted my final pictures on Instagram and saved my recordings on my hard drive. It was an incredible day, my first day as a credentialed media member. I knew it was just Media Day, but it meant much more to an 18-year-old college freshman than, let’s say, a writer for a local newspaper that has been doing it for decades. This was the first of many events I was hopefully going to cover, and it couldn’t have gone any smoother. Nerves aside, I became comfortable with my surroundings within the team, the people, and my place within the Bay Area media hierarchy. A successful start.
Media Day rewarded me with new followers — literally and figuratively –and thus a larger audience for my coverage. I stay active on social media, and my musings as the season progressed drew more responses and feedback than I had previously anticipated. It was exciting, and this is the point of social media. Following hundreds is great, but being followed by hundreds is even better.
As the games were played and as the team became more successful, interest naturally grew. Living in Silicon Valley and covering a team with a passionate fan-base is a bloggers dream. As we know, Warriors fans pack the house and stay interested even if the team deserves different. “We Believe” brought about insane coverage to a franchise previously synonymous with failure. That team was good, and the fans, media and league took note.
The “We Believe” movement started a short run of relevance to the franchise. Social media wasn’t prominent back in those days, but it’s fun to imagine how many Trending Topics, tweets per minute and shared photos that team would’ve provided. Fast forward to early last season and some of that relevance began to rise again. Were the Warriors just a nice early season storyline or were they real contenders? Will the Warriors finally break their All-Star-less streak of 16 years? Has Mark Jackson already proved critics wrong?
December 19: I get an e-mail from Ethan Sherwood Strauss — fellow WarriorsWorld writer and now ESPN TrueHoop contributor — asking if someone can sub-in for him as he couldn’t make it to that Friday’s matchup vs. Charlotte. I responded within minutes. Ethan forwarded my name and e-mail to Warriors PR and I was soon given the green light. My first Warriors game as an official media member was now just two days away. What a blessing.
It was like the first day of high school all over again: what should I wear? Do I have my notebook? Are my pencils sharpened? Do I have two pens in black, blue and red? I had talked to numerous people seeking advice on how and what I should do that night. All of it was helpful, but as I digested more information my nerves increased. The 48 hours or so until I left my house for the game were stressful. It was an exciting stress though.
While my first game as a credentialed media member hopefully wouldn’t end with tragedy, it was the excitement and stress of those days leading up to an event I’ll never forget. Everything I thought I know was now going to be tested. I was being thrown into the fires, and I it was my responsibility to represent my brand to the fullest.
Just like Media Day, my travels through the deep realms of Oracle Arena was another quest in and of itself. Despite my numerous visits to Oracle, I had never traveled through the depths of the arena where media travels. I parked in the media parking lot, walked through security, picked up my credential and found the Oracle media room where I saw many faces I recognized. I arrived more than two hours before tip-off in hopes of fully documenting my rookie experience.
As with Media Day, I take numerous pictures and sent out plenty of tweets describing the game and my travels through Oracle that night. Time flies when you’re having fun and this game absolutely flew by. While I was indeed having fun, I knew I had a job to do. The old adage says you’re not supposed to cheer in the press box, and a few fist pumps aside I felt I controlled myself fairly well.
David Lee recorded his third career triple-double, Stephen Curry had a career high 8 three-pointers and the Warriors extended the Bobcats losing streak to 14 games. There was no shortage of topics to discuss in the post-game media sessions, which made my job slightly easier. While the Bobcats aren’t a marquee matchup by any means, it didn’t matter.
The locker room is an interesting setting. Talking with players wasn’t new to me, but being in the post-game setting was. You have to get there quick, be concise with your questions, stand your ground and not be afraid to be loud. I’m still learning, and it’s safe to say my first locker room experience could’ve gone smoother. I attempted to ask questions but they went unnoticed in the swarm of other veterans present.
My first game with a credential went smoothly, and I credit my friends in the industry for helping me out and Warriors PR for making things easy on the rookie. I didn’t know when my next game would be, but I knew I had checked off one task on my career bucket list. “Until next time”, I uttered to myself as I walked out that night.
WarriorsWorld, as a member of the ESPN TrueHoop Network, is offered certain opportunities to represent the network at a national level for certain events. Summer League, MIT Sports Sloan Analytics Conference and NBA All-Star Weekend are all events that members of the network can cover if deemed fit to attend.
Members of the network received an e-mail from Kevin Arnovitz, writer/editor of TrueHoop, inquiring on who would be interested in heading to Houston to cover All-Star Weekend. Like my response to Ethan, I responded within minutes. I was the youngest and least experience of any member inquiring to attend All-Star Weekend, but I didn’t care. The opportunity was presented to myself and I ran with it.
After a phone conversation with Kevin I was granted a media credential on behalf of ESPN.com to cover all the All-Star festivities. It was surreal. Keep in mind this was just days after covering my first game. It was all happening so fast. Once again, while I was excited, I had to realize that there were tasks at hand and I wasn’t there just for the fun of it.
I paid my way to Houston and stayed at the allocated media hotel located downtown, just blocks from the Toyota Center. I arrived in Houston on Friday, so I had no time to relax or take in my room. I checked in, dropped my stuff off and headed to the media center to acquire my credential. I walked quickly, not only because I wanted my credential as soon as possible, but because I was cutting it close: the dunk contest was a mere hour away.
I gave the NBA my name and affiliation and I suddenly had my credential for the entire weekend. As much as I wanted to just stare and appreciate what had I had just obtained, I had to head to the arena. I quickly made my way \through the intense security, down to the elevator, through the tunnels and into the media room at the Toyota Center. I made it.
Each night was a different experience. Each day more fulfilling than the next. Just finding my seat amongst the media section was unbelievable. The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge — with the help of Kyrie Irving — was a great kickstart to the weekend. The dunk contest — one of my favorite events in all of sports — was pure unadulterated fun. And the All-Star Game was every bit the spectacle I had hoped it would be.
While the events were the obvious highlights, there was another moment that weekend that I’ll forever remember: my short interaction with LeBron James. Following their practice on Saturday, both All-Star teams were made available to the media for questions. I stationed at LeBron’s chair, with Kobe and Dwight’s being the other popular chairs. After the initial hounds asked their questions, I stepped in and asked, “Who are you most excited to play with tomorrow?”. James quickly replied, “Kyrie and PG.” Short and to the point.
I didn’t want the weekend to end. The six hour flight back to San Jose felt mere minutes as I spent my time reminiscing and appreciating what had just transpired the last few days. My experience that weekend in Houston is, to this day, the best moment of my young career. The resources provided made it happen, and hopefully more weekends like this one are in store.
There was quick turnaround however, as two weeks later I was to be in Boston to cover Warriors vs. Celtics and attend the MIT Sports Sloan Analytics Conference. My first away game and a heralded sports symposium all in the same weekend; across the country no less. Houston was still in the mind, but Boston had to be on the mind as another trek was at hand.
I had never flown across the country before, so to do so twice within a few weeks was definitely a rush. I had heard nothing but great things about the city of Boston, and my trip cemented all that praise. The people were different, but I understood that. The weather was different, which wasn’t a surprise. But most importantly, the sporting climate was different, and I loved that.
TD Garden has enough sports history inside it to make most states jealous. Boston and Los Angeles are known for their banners, but I never realized how significant each individual one carried with them. The difference between the alps of Oracle Arena and TD Garden is unbelievable. Hall of Famers, conference championships and NBA tiles all tower over my head as I watch Warriors vs. Celtics. I can’t say I wasn’t distracted.
The Celtics home locker room was much like the Warriors: fairly large (hough not as large as the Warriors), nice wooden lockers, TVs, and well furnished. Walk across the hallway and you have the visitors locker room: a downtrodden, dark room with lockers similar to middle school cubbies. I understood why, it just took a minute to grasp the differences.
The game was just two nights after Curry’s 54 point performance at Madison Square Garden, and the arena carried a certain buzz because of it. Curry was in the midst of reaching his star potential, and his game against the Knicks was the final endorsement. Curry went back to Earth and the Warriors lost the game, but the entire ambience of the arena was fantastic. If Oracle Arena houses the best fans in the NBA, TD Garden isn’t far behind.
The MIT SSAC was out of my realm a bit. The conference revolved around the use of analytics in the realm of sports. Panels covered analytics in baseball, football, basketball, gambling and fantasy sports, to name some. Talks pertaining to individual studies were also present, with David Lee being the subject of one of the more talked about speeches.
The study — administered by Kirk Goldsberry of MIT and Grantland — make a mockery David Lee with his exposing of Lee’s porous interior defense. The room — in which Warriors representatives were present — laughed at Lee’s efforts while equally fascinated by Larry Sanders’ impressive, stalwart defense. Joined by other Warriors followers, this wasn’t anything new, but it was relieving to see the numbers supporting what we all see.
My four days in Boston was eye-opening. TD Garden treated me extremely well and the conference expanded my knowledge to areas of the field I had little experience with. My time in Boston was more businesslike than my trip to Houston, but it was equally important. I can only hope this won’t be my first and last trip to attend such events. Sam Adams tastes so much better there anyways.
As game passed the Warriors continued to prove doubters wrong. They really looked like a playoff team, and conversations in the Bay Area quickly changed their tune. “Will they make the playoffs?” turned into “Would we rather want Memphis or Denver in the first round?”. Not even the “We Believe” team had the luxury of these discussions. Warranted or not, playoff basketball was back in the Bay Area.
Naturally, I had requested credentials to cover the home playoff games, not expecting much. At that time, my media experience was limited to one home game (vs. Charlotte), All-Star Weekend, and one away game (at Boston). Credit the Warriors for recognizing local blogs, and within days I received the green light to cover the Warriors first home game vs. Denver.
The fan inside me had to be tamed throughout the playoffs. Whether it be the Bogut dunk over JaVale McGee, the 22-point third quarter in Game 4, Jarrett Jack’s near-squandering of Game 6 or the team speaking to the fans after their elimination against San Antonio: emotions ran wild. Everything during their run was heightened to epic proportions, and I was blessed enough to witness it all.
The end didn’t end when the final buzzer sounded however. Following the Warriors elimination in Game 6 against San Antonio, two of my questions — one to Bogut and one to Curry — were aired live on NBATV. While standard procedure for most, this was another moment in my young career where I genuinely felt fascinated and humbled by the progress I’ve made. My phone was buzzing and so was my head. Very cool to say the least.
The playoff atmosphere at Oracle was unlike anything I had previously attended. The All-Star Game was a rather subdued crowd filled with celebrities, personalities and the ones that actually paid for their expensive tickets. The crowd at Oracle Arena during the playoffs is unlike anything in basketball. Yellow shirts everywhere, ears ringing, everyone standing; Oracle was special.
Do I wish the Warriors beat San Antonio and continued onward? Absolutely. But I also realized that they capped out their talent and lost to a superior team. Most pundits picked Denver in the first one, giving the Warriors a “nothing to lose” aura throughout the second round. Both rounds had their moments, whether they be at Oracle or not.
While “We Believe” was a sudden culmination of success through gritty veterans and a quirky coach, the 2012-2013 campaign was early triumph acquired through organizational smarts and young, developing talent. There was sense of proudness as many watched these players grow up before their eyes now realizing what they could ultimately become: successful. The fun is only beginning with this young core, and I hope to witness their continuing success.
A fulfilling season with WarriorsWorld to say the least. My first Media Day, home game, away game, All-Star Weekend and playoff game all in the same season. Hearing from others and realizing it on my own, being where I am at my young age is an incredible opportunity. As my skills as a writer and journalist progress, so does the site itself.
This past season we introduced the WarriorsWorld podcast, a weekly discussion on everything Warriors, NBA and pop culture. While we were very much experimenting this season, we plan on sharpening our on-air skills as well as making the podcast the best produced sports podcast we can be. A multitude of guests, segments and coverage is on the way for this coming season, and we can only hope our supporters continue to listen.
The layout for the site is changing as well. Our IT team has some amazing things planned for the new version of the site, which includes an updated version of our logo. While we love the “Free At Last” banner and vintage feel, it’s time for a change. We recognize this is long overdue and truly believe it will make WarriorsWorld the best looking basketball blog around.
As for myself, I will continue to cover the team I love for a site I love. These new changes are exciting, and my own growth as a journalist will only benefit because of them. WarriorsWorld has brought me great joy and opportunity, and I’m eternally grateful. The opportunities presented to me this past season will never be forgotten, and I have this site to thank for everything. But, my job is far from over and this site will continue to move forward.
We hope you stay for the journey.