No Topic Too Far Afield For This Sports Nut

My first piece of journalism, 26 years ago last week, was about Chris Lapriore, a high school tennis star in my hometown of Marshfield, Mass.

For most of my first half-dozen years as a reporter, the bulk of my work was sports writing. Football, basketball, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, track and field, golf…if it involved some element of physical competition, there was a good chance I covered it.

But over the last 20 years, my opportunities to write about sports have come in fits and starts. Along the way, I created an inflation index for home runs, wrote a stats column for Sports Illustrated for Kids, and reported on sports icons like Tiger Woods and LeBron James.

Still, the sports-related work has been largely bumped off my plate. So if there’s an occasion to weave in an athletic reference, I jump all over it. Such was the case three weeks ago, when I tied in the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup triumph with my summary of a NAIOP-Chicago meeting (“The Rumors Are True, Capital is Back”).

I didn’t waste any time, either, referring to the hockey franchise’s great win in the very first paragraph. I look forward to my next gratuitous sports tie-in, especially if it has to do with a certain Bay State team winning its third World Series in the past six years.

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LeBron: A Look Back at A Legend-in-the-Making

Between 2000 and 2004, I worked on about 85 assignments as a stringer for Time. Easily, one of my favorites was reporting on LeBron James during his senior year at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.

To see some of my first reporting on LeBron, while he was in high school, click here.

I also reported on him early in his rookie year with the Cleveland Cavaliers. You can see that writing here.

Three times during a formative 11-month span in this phenomenal talent’s life, I dropped in on LeBron’s World, interviewing him, his coaches, friends and a longtime support network of adults.

The first time, in December 2002, I met a reporter for the Akron Beacon-Journal, David Lee Morgan Jr. I could tell, within a few minutes, that Morgan was working on a book on LeBron. Though he coyly resisted confirming my suspicion, neither did he deny it.

So it was no surprise a short time later—I think it was during LeBron’s rookie year in the NBA—that I came across Morgan’s “LeBron James: The Rise of a Star.”

On my second trip to Akron, in January 2003, I met Kris Belman (pictured below, with James). He explained that what had begun as a film school class assignment had mushroomed into a documentary on LeBron and his teammates.

He took a few minutes to interview me (cutting-room floor material, I strongly suspect) at “The JAR”—the James A. Rhodes Arena where LeBron’s team played its home games.

Little did I know that it would be the better part of a decade—by which time LeBron has more than lived up to the rarefied billing with which he entered the pros—that the documentary would start appearing on screens across the country.

In October, at last, that documentary, “More Than a Game,” will be aired in Chicago and other cities. You can see Chicago Tribune reporter K.C. Johnson’s story about it here.

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