Editor's Note: Jared Zwerling has joined Bleacher Report full time to write about the NBA. We asked Jared to introduce himself and his work.
My interest in the unknown and underreported in sports all started when I was nine years old, when I was writing for the student paper at Gulliver Academy in Miami.
I had attended the upper school's baseball game, and something caught my eye: Our starting pitcher that night could throw equally well with his left and right hands. But while my classmates merely marveled at Jamie Irving's ability, I wanted to know more.
So I set up an interview, from which I discovered that his father, a former Yale pitcher, had discovered that his son's arms were equally strong at an early age and had actually been having him do dual workouts to develop his ambidextrous talents. (Interestingly, after Irving went to Harvard and played in the minor leagues, he was profiled by Sports Illustrated.)
Years later, while I was working for ESPN in 2011, a story developed in a similar way.
There was Al Marchfeld, 78 years old at the time, sitting in the press box at Madison Square Garden, helping reporters find their seats. But while many walked right past him—not as an insult, but because of the deadline nature of the environment—I was interested to know why such an older man, whose health appeared to be on the decline, was working New York Knicks home games.
As it turns out, Marchfeld was the second-oldest NBA employee, ever, with a running list of incredible sports stories to share. I was fortunate to hear many of them before he passed away earlier this month, after struggling with kidney failure and a weakening heart.
Now, looking back at it, I realize that perhaps my youthful gift, which carried over through the years, was having a journalistic sense for the story behind the story, in the way another nine-year-old would have an uncanny ability to find the slightest crease to pass the ball through on the basketball court.
I later took that inquisitiveness to New York University, and then to some of the biggest sports companies in the world: the NBA, CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated and most recently ESPN, experiencing both the editorial and marketing sides of the industry.
As time progressed, I realized how much I enjoyed covering the NBA. The work was an extension of my background as a varsity basketball player, and I had a passion for the game's different playing styles, creativity and high-flying acrobatics.
I was interested in the colorful personalities and special individualism at each position, and in the growth of the league's global appeal and entertainment. While at ESPN, I covered the Knicks and Nets, wrote national features and appeared on SportsCenter and countless radio shows.
One recent conversation I had with former Knicks assistant coach and player development coach Phil Weber sticks out for me. He said, "The five percent of negativity or controversy in our sport overrides the positive commitment from many players," and I agree. Especially in the quick (sometimes not carefully edited) news and blog cycle we live in today, the web-traffic war for eye-grabbing headlines is an all-out battle.
The attention to detail, in-person conversations and longer-form reporting aren't as nurtured due to the faster-pace cycle of content.
But a great, under-the-radar story is still a great story—and it will get read.
For example, in the past for ESPN, I told the story of how Jeremy Lin and other athletes turn to Christian hip-hop rapper Lecrae for inspiration, which sparked more than 6,000 comments.
I chronicled Jared Jeffries' passion for deep-sea fishing, including the story of how he lived on a boat for two weeks in the South Pacific, 200 miles off shore.
And, most recently, I profiled Corey Maggette's interest in technology, which led him to get a degree in the field from Arizona State while launching Drinkboard, a mobile app that allows a user to send gift cards for food and drinks.
Through my journey, I've also learned to have an entrepreneurial spirit—I launched my own website, SportzUndercover.com, in December 2005—and to keep an open mind about things. In 2010, I started an after-school program for high school students so they could learn about the business side of sports, including how to be a well-rounded NBA scribe.
Now, in my career, that game changer is Bleacher Report. Now in its sixth year of existence, B/R has become a major player in the world of sports media, with help from its established friends at Turner Sports.
I'm excited to join the partnership as an NBA analyst, a versatile role in which I'll be writing and producing features, breaking news stories, appearing on multimedia outlets across NBA TV and CNN, helping with the expansion of the B/R brand, developing younger writers and much more.
Overall, B/R presented a unique opportunity that combined many of my strengths and experiences, and I look forward to continuing my sports exploration with my readers.
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