An Unlikeable NBA — See: Kyrie — Still Has The Joy Of Steph
The league has lost some appeal, weighed down by activism and negative vibes from Kyrie Irving and the Nets, making MVP Steph Curry’s playoff appearance vital for as long as possible — with LeBron looming.
Once considered cool, hot, dope and the most entertaining damned league on Earth, the NBA now is unlikeable. That is the operative word. Activism has backfired, chasing away viewers in a racially divided land. Load management is a bogus copout, used by stars to nurse alleged injuries, blow off games at their leisure and render the regular season meaningless.
And the biggest postseason story, the Brooklyn Nets? They are a contrived, reviled superteam with one cornerstone whose skills have been superseded by his dark social-media habits, another whose playoff failures are longer than a beard that should have been weed-whacked years ago — and a third who has announced he can’t separate his full-time profession from Israeli airstrikes, though he’s paid $164 million to care about the playoffs.
“I’m not going to lie to you guys. A lot of stuff is going on in this world, and basketball is just not the most important thing to me right now,” Kyrie Irving said. “There’s a lot of things going on overseas. All our people are still in bondage across the world, and there’s a lot of dehumanization going on. So I apologize if I’m not going to be focused on y’all’s questions. It’s just too much going on in the world for me to just be talking about basketball.
“It’s just sad to see this s— going on. It’s not just in Palestine, not just in Israel. It’s all over the world, and I feel it. I’m very compassionate to it — to all races, all cultures. And to see a lot of people being discriminated against based on their religion, color of their skin, what they believe in, it’s just sad.”
Billions of people on the planet, myself included, share his concerns about Israel-Palestine warfare. We’re still expected to perform jobs and earn salaries with optimum dedication. In his undying quest to behave like he’s intellectually floating above the league, Irving comes off as an entitled space cadet who needn’t be laser-focused on his craft because there is violence in the Middle East. Never mind the fans who still devote money, time and energy to the league while still trying to climb out of a pandemic. Kyrie has shifted to his social-crusader mode again when, you know, America might like to enjoy an NBA postseason without the political echoes of the 2020 Disney Bubble. The sad part being, Irving is an exceptional talent, reaching the 50/40/90 club with those shooting percentages from the field, three-point line and free-throw line.
While Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden try to avoid a crash that would delight the masses, LeBron James is cast in a rare role as underdog, which falls in line with his upcoming animated challenges in “Space Jam 2.” Just days after deleting the tweet that sabotaged his recent activist triumphs — “YOU’RE NEXT #ACCOUNTABILITY,” he regrettably wrote about Nicholas Reardon, the Ohio police officer who fired the shots that killed a knife-wielding Ma’Khia Bryant — James isn’t a sentimental favorite, either, even on a weak ankle that he tweaked again Sunday night. He’ll try to will the Los Angeles Lakers from the Western Conference’s No. 7 hole in a play-in tournament that he already has slammed as beneath him, demanding that the concept architect be fired. The Lakers won’t return to the Finals — think Utah or, heavens, the down-the-hallway Clippers — as they’d have to survive a road potentially involving the very real Phoenix Suns, the Clippers and the Jazz.
“Let the chips fall where they may,” said James, hardly promising a repeat league title. “As simple as that. We’re ready to go.”
He says so even though the one superstar who happens to be likeable — actually, lovable — awaits on Wednesday night at Staples Center. Be careful what you wish for, King James. Stephen Curry still could save the NBA from itself, at least for a little while, beginning with a victory that might send the Lakers tumbling into the offseason.
Speaking for most, I suspect, wouldn’t we enjoy watching Curry bring down James for the same reasons we enjoyed it three times in four years during the Finals? Three years have passed since they last met with consequences on the line, and, of all places, they meet again in a play-in game hatched in a Bubble during a pandemic. Curry was asked about their rivalry.
“You expect greatness,” he said. “It brings out another level of intensity and excitement.”
That’s understating things. Thanks go to Warriors coach Steve Kerr, an ex-media guy, who said, “You’re talking about two of the greatest players of all-time. Of course, four meetings in the Finals is going to create a rivalry.”
What we’ve valued most through the pandemic are the showmen in sports. Curry has been a revelation, somehow more sensational than ever, taking advantage of the league’s three-point binging and defensive lapses to lure eyeballs that otherwise are gazing elsewhere. If TV ratings have plummeted since 2019, Curry remains the NBA’s lead attraction, having played in half the season’s 10 most-watched games. He is a true underdog, overcoming his own injuries and the wretchedly bad luck of the Golden State Warriors — who’ve lost Klay Thompson for two seasons and rookie big man James Wiseman this year — to become an MVP candidate for a 39-33 team with the No. 8 seed.
Check that. He is the MVP, worthier than Nikola Jokic, the gifted, do-all centerpiece of the Denver Nuggets; and Joel Embiid, who has suffered his usual injuries while Philadelphia has soared to the Eastern Conference’s top seed. Abandoning his trademark humility for just a moment, he agrees that he deserves the trophy. “Yeah, I do,” said Curry, who has won the award twice. “But even if you don’t win it, being in the conversation, top five — those type of acknowledgements show what you’re about, no matter what the situation is year to year. That, in and of itself, is the reward, because we all know how hard it is to actually have everything go right in a season where you actually do win it.”
He is, without debate, the greatest and most electrifying shooter ever. He scored at least 30 points in 11 straight games — 38 times all season — as the Warriors avoided elimination. He broke the league record for most threes in a month and made 337 total, with a record seven 10-three games. He inevitably will break Thompson’s record for threes in a game (14). If Durant must draw social media traffic with homophobic, misogynistic rants, Curry still stirs phone-holders in uniform, enrapturing all demographics by routinely breaking down a defense, chucking a shot from anywhere inside halfcourt and strutting when it swishes. Or, during a late spree Sunday against Memphis, yelling and lifting his shirt to reveal modestly developed pecs as he celebrated his ninth three-pointer, his 11th game of at least 40 points — and his second career scoring title, making him the oldest to win it since Michael Jordan. Yes, the babyfaced assassin is 33 years old.
Oh, according to ESPN, he also joins Jordan and two large men, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain, as the only players with multiple scoring titles, MVPs and championships. Come on, Curry isn’t the MVP of his league? Every time he plays, he mutes every Irving screed, every Durant tweet and every LeBron social observation. When the Warriors were champions, Curry regularly lambasted President Trump. What’s the point now in politicking and screeching? When he yelled Sunday, it came from a place of sports inspiration — channeling Baron Davis, who authored a miracle Warriors run in the “We Believe” postseason. Was it Curry’s way of hinting at more magic ahead?
Certainly, James is impressed. “We’re playing, in my opinion, the MVP of our league this year,’’ he said. “I mean, just look at what he’s done this year. I don’t know anything else if you’re looking for an MVP. If Steph is not on Golden State’s team, what are we looking at? We get caught up in the records sometimes. We get caught up in the, `OK, who has the best record?’ instead of just saying who had the best season that year. And Steph has had, in my opinion, the best season all year.”
On a weekend when Jordan presented Kobe Bryant for induction at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, in a ceremony that included Tim Duncan, Curry’s name was lifted to the same all-time plateau by his biggest admirer. “He’s reminding me of MJ in that you just get so used to the brilliance and the excellence, it sort of blends in with everything else,” said Kerr, who helped turn loose the Curry monster starting in 2014-15. “It just becomes routine. It’s insane to say that because what you’re watching is otherworldly, and yet you sort of begin to expect it. That’s probably the purest sign of greatness. … It’s the same thing after every game. It’s just utter amazement at this guy’s skill level, heart, mind, focus. It’s amazing to watch.”
As a leader, Curry is compared by Kerr to Duncan, his former San Antonio teammate. “The combination of humility and humor, and then total confidence on the floor. It’s such an amazing combination,” Kerr said. “A lot of people who have the humor and the humility, usually guys like that are the ones who are at the end of the bench. So when you have a superstar that has that type of combination, it’s so rare and incredibly powerful.”
More simply, teammate Juan Toscano-Anderson said, “He’s like the Picasso of our time.” Noting that Memphis’ Ja Morant had trolled Curry on social media last season, Toscano-Anderson took note of how Morant hit just 7 of 21 shots — and only 1 of 6 threes — while looking spooked in the Sunday loss. “If Mike Tyson has a problem with me, I am not going to bark up that tree,” he said. “I wouldn’t make him have any personal vendetta against me. If you want to get embarrassed in front of a million-plus people, then, hey, go for it.”
Said Curry, acknowledging Morant’s slight: “I see everything, so I love to have some fun with it.”
Fun. Isn’t fun so much … fun?
So, yes, at least there’s the Joy Of Steph to counter all the NBA loathing. Problem is, the Warriors might not be around long. A loss to the Lakers would drop them to a single-elimination home game against the Memphis-San Antonio winner. Lose that, and wave goodbye. Win, and they’re in a best-of-seven series against the top-seeded Jazz, the league’s most complete team in the regular season. That might be more fun than anything else we see in these May-June-July playoffs, including the Finals.
“God is good,” Curry said. “I’ve been blessed to be back healthy and able to just play night in, night out, at a high level. I’m going to keep doing that until I can’t anymore. I don’t know how long that will be.”
Can it be forever?
With summer arriving after a year in isolation, people won’t be immersed in the playoffs. They’ll be outside, which suggests ratings for the NBA — and all sports, including a risk-filled Tokyo Olympics that shouldn’t take place — will remain at rock-bottom levels. Curry can take a team and a league only so far.
So, the rest of the NBA might want to channel his joy. And, you know, leave bondage and dehumanization to the world leaders.
Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes a weekly media column for Barrett Sports Media and regular sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts in production today. He’s an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio talk host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects. Compensation for this column is donated to the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust.
Ian Rapoport Is Competing Against Everyone
“When I’m working, when I’m not working – my brain is still going on overdrive.”
The 2023 NFL Draft was a weekend filled with speculation, intrigue and musing among football fans and experts alike. After two quarterbacks were selected with the first two picks – C.J. Stroud by the Jacksonville Jaguars; and Bryce Young by the Houston Texans – Ian Rapoport had the inclination that something was about to break at the event in Kansas City.
The third pick of the night was held by the Arizona Cardinals, but through previous intel, Rapoport knew there was a chance the team would trade it. His phone then lit up with a text message from a source that simply read, “Texans trading.” Receiving a message of this magnitude takes years of networking, credibility and immense trust from the people you cover. Rapoport has worked hard to attain all of them.
He replied by asking, “Did the Texans trade up to three?,” as the team was not set to pick again until No. 12 overall. Once he got confirmation of the scenario, he began to visibly shake in excitement and captured the attention of the NFL Network team.
“I sit there with a camera in front of me that’s not always on air – this is during the Draft – and the producer gets in my ear and he goes, ‘Can you go on air with whatever you have?,’ and I just say, ‘Yes.’” Rapoport recalled. “And then I hear Rich Eisen go, ‘Ian, you have news,’ and I was able to break that the Texans have traded up to three to go get Will Anderson.”
This is the craft through which Rapoport has cultivated a successful journalism career, ultimately distinguishing him as NFL Network’s goto insider. He hardly ever separates himself from the job, equipped with an unparalleled work ethic to ensure he can communicate messages accurately and in a timely manner. While some people may argue that he is in direct competition with others in his position, such as Adam Schefter of ESPN, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports, the reality of the situation is that it is Rapoport vs. the world.
“It’s such a small world now and everyone is interconnected – and with Twitter, literally anyone could break a story and have it go viral,” Rapoport said. “Obviously, you want everything first, but really you’re competing against everyone that exists because anyone could get the story at any moment.”
Work-life balance in such a role is usually quite insurmountable in today’s dynamic, interminable breaking news environment. Rapoport strives to find some level of normalcy in his life by playing golf and attending his sons’ sporting events. In the end though, he knows the world of football never sleeps, and it is up to him to remain in the know at all hours of the day, essentially always on standby to break the next big story.
“I do not turn my phone off because that’s actually way more stressful,” Rapoport said. “At least now when my phone’s on and near me, if something crazy happens, I can react rather than having a fake relaxation moment and then being caught off guard with something.”
Rapoport recognized that journalism was the field for him almost immediately after stepping onto the Columbia University campus. He worked his way up at The Dial to ultimately become its associate sports editor. In the summer preceding his senior year, he landed a coveted internship with ESPN where he gained invaluable experience in the world of television production.
By the time he graduated, Rapoport envisioned himself becoming a nationally acclaimed sportswriter, but he knew it was going to require he start small. Three hundred eleven job applications and two interviews later, he landed a part-time role with The Journal News in Westchester, N.Y. covering high school sports. It gave him a start in the highly-competitive business – and kept him close to home while trying many new things.
Two years later, he found himself moving from the bright lights of New York City to the quaint town of Starkville, Mississippi for a notable opportunity. He had landed a job covering the Mississippi State Bulldogs for The Clarion-Ledger in the nearby capital city of Jackson and was under the direction of sports editor Rusty Hampton.
“I knew how to write, but I really didn’t know how to report,” Rapoport said. “He was probably the best [at] showing me, ‘This is all about reporting. It’s all about telling people something they don’t know rather than how well you can pen a sentence.’ To be really valuable to society or your newspaper, you really need to inform rather than entertain. I think he was probably the first and best person to teach me that.”
After spending two years in Mississippi, Rapoport became a beat reporter for The Birmingham News tasked with following the Alabama Crimson Tide. Just months into his new role, the program made a coaching change and hired Nick Saban, who has since led the program to six national titles.
Rapoport learned the thoroughness necessary to cover the Southeastern Conference as he rapidly watched the program become a perennial contender. In turn, he became an eminent college football reporter and his work began to be consumed nationally.
Simultaneously, Bill Belichick, another accomplished football head coach in his own right, was in the process of trying to lead the New England Patriots back to championship glory. Known to be stoic and restrained in his press conferences, reporters asking him questions knew extrapolating answers was not the easiest of tasks.
When Rapoport saw a job opening to cover the team with the Boston Herald that required NFL experience, he knew that he was not qualified verbatim per se. Yet he figured the experience he had in covering Saban and Alabama would serve him well in the role, and articulated such in a protracted email to the newspaper’s editors. His strategy worked, proving why Rapoport is considered one of the industry’s best communicators at the micro and macro levels.
“You don’t see a lot of sources within the Patriots or sources within Alabama – there’s not a lot of that,” Rapoport said. “So I learned to report despite that and kind of work the edges and get the information I needed, despite head coaches who weren’t always the most forthcoming with information.”
NFL Network oftentimes has local beat reporters on the air to interact with studio talent and give their perspectives about teams, and it was something Rapoport did while at the Boston Herald. He had no television experience outside of other appearances he made on Comcast New England and certainly no intention to pursue the medium as a career.
In Super Bowl XLVI, the New York Giants overcame the New England Patriots, who were undefeated for the year entering the game. Rapoport was on hand for the proceedings, and shortly afterwards was called into a meeting with NFL Network executives.
He didn’t know he was interviewing for a job until he asked just why he had been summoned. He expressed his lack of television experience to the executives, who said the network would teach him everything he needed to know.
Once the meeting concluded, Rapoport called his wife, who he had met while living in Starkville, Mississippi, and told her what had just happened. She tempered his expectations, warning him not to get his hopes up as he remained optimistic. One month later, Rapoport received a job offer and found himself moving once again – this time to the Lone Star State.
“I hired an agent and moved to Dallas and basically spent the next year reporting on the Cowboys and some other things being very, very bad at TV, but learning and eventually figuring it out,” Rapoport said. “At the time, this guy, Eric Weinberger, who was our boss, kind of mentioned to me the possibility of transitioning [me] from reporter to insider.”
Rapoport acknowledged that he did not have the contacts necessary to effectively work as a league insider for a national outlet, but through his years of experience, he knew how to network and he was ready and willing to take the challenge.
Once he began the new position, Rapoport, along with reporter Michael Silver, was on the road for Thursday Night Football and contributed to its pregame and halftime coverage. While his television skills improved, Rapoport was hard at work bolstering his contacts and took somewhat of a geographical approach.
Every time he arrived in a new city, he would contact anyone and everyone he could conjure up, including general managers, scouts and head coaches. If he could not schedule a meeting time with them, he would introduce himself by roaming the sidelines at practices and before games. He engaged in a similar practice before the NFL Draft Combine, training camps and the Super Bowl along with other premier events, always staying focused on the task at hand.
“It probably took me five or six years to get a baseline of sources where if something happened, I had someone to call,” Rapoport said. “And then it took me a couple more years to get to the point where I would know before a lot of people when something was about to happen. It’s all a multi-step process, and just [the] layering and layering and layering of sources is really the sort of engine that drives this thing.”
Ian Rapoport always attempts to triangulate his sources to verify information before he releases it publicly. There is no guarantee sources are always truthful or acting in a professional manner. Therefore, it is incumbent on a journalist to ensure the validity of content before publishing it themselves.
“If you’re only right some of the time, then none of it is really worth it,” Rapoport expressed, “because then you say something and they’re like, ‘Well, wow, that’s a big story if this is true.’ The whole point of doing this is when I pop up on TV or when people see my Twitter alerts or whatever, they have to know that it’s true – they have to know.”
One day, Rapoport was having a conversation with a source and discovered through their conversation that Rob Gronkowski had informed the New England Patriots that he would return to the game of football under the stipulation he be traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reunite with quarterback Tom Brady. There had been much speculation pertaining to Gronkowski’s future after he had worked as an NFL analyst with FOX Sports, and now Rapoport realized he had a monumental scoop – that is, if it was true. Within six minutes, Rapoport verified the story with three sources, contacted his editor and reported to the world Gronkowski’s intentions. The story was picked up virtually everywhere.
“I just think about the job all the time, and I make little lists for myself of things that I need to track down, and I just make a lot of phone calls for it,” Rapoport said. “When I’m working, when I’m not working – my brain is still going on overdrive. It ends up just a brain full of football thoughts, and then I spend the rest of the time trying to figure out what I can learn from it.”
Working for a league-owned entity can sometimes epitomize an inherent conflict of interest. For Rapoport however, he has found working at NFL Network to be hassle-free. He knows, however, the nature of his job means he will not be universally liked.
“Whatever you do, you’re going to report and the people you report on are going to be happy or upset or neutral – or whatever it is,” Rapoport said. “I’m never going to criticize a referee, for instance, because that’s a nuanced thing and people might say, ‘NFL criticizes referees.’ I’m never going to do that, but I wouldn’t do that anyway.”
Rapoport continues to appear on a variety of external media outlets, perhaps most notably The Pat McAfee Show, which recently concluded its “Up to Something Season.” The grand conclusion of the proceedings was McAfee announcing he would be bringing his show to ESPN’s linear and digital platforms starting in the fall.
While McAfee is retaining creative control and has expressed on multiple occasions that his show will not be changing, many have wondered whether insiders employed by other networks will be able to continue making appearances. It is an answer Rapoport himself does not know, nor has he asked about.
“When the news broke, my phone blew up with all sorts of people saying all sorts of different things,” Rapoport said. “I have no idea. I really don’t.”
Even so, Rapoport is elated for McAfee and his team taking the next step in their show’s journey and is genuinely glad to see them succeed. He does not think McAfee’s goal was to reshape sports media, but rather to cultivate a distinctive sports talk program built for fans and today’s generation of consumers.
“You get to know someone and you think they’re a good person and you respect the way they work. Some people have success and some people have a little success and some people don’t. It’s really rare to see someone who has every bit of success that’s essentially possible and deserves every bit of it, and that’s kind of how I thought about Pat. It’s really cool, honestly. He’s built it himself.”
It was on McAfee’s show where another prominent football insider – Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports – said it would be a matter of “when,” not “if” the NFL would have games seven days per week. While devoted football fans like Rapoport are open to such a proposition, he is not sure the league would ever go that far.
“I don’t even know that it would affect my schedule that much,” he said. “It sort of doesn’t matter. I’ll report all year round anyway.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Face-to-Face Sales Meetings Have Never Been More Valuable
“With the increase in virtual meetings, new buyer preferences, limited time, and better tech, we have our work cut out to get the F2F.”
When did you last attend a face-to-face (F2F) in-person sales call? Let’s imagine for a second.
In New York, Sarah, a determined sports radio salesperson, got tired of chasing a major client for months. Despite her calls, emails, and text, she couldn’t break through to get a meeting.
Throwing caution to the wind, Sarah decided to go for it. She loaded her deck and took her burning desire via airplane to Florida to make the pitch. She showed up unannounced at the client’s office and startled the decision-maker. She was given the meeting and won over the client, getting a substantial annual contract and a movie deal in Hollywood.
We have all seen that storyline. F2F meetings used to be the obvious choice over a phone call, and most buyers were open to that idea. We even conducted market trips to meet our buyers in person and create better relationships.
With the increase in virtual meetings, new buyer preferences, limited time, and better tech, we have our work cut out to get the F2F. Lots of us work and listen from home.
Gartner Research points out that live, in person selling is superior to virtual selling in financial services or, as I think, in radio sales. Now, prospecting new clients F2F is much more difficult. You have never met them, you don’t know who you are looking for, and gatekeepers and remote decision-makers make walk-ins more challenging.
How about getting out and seeing your current or former clients F2F? 65% of outside account executives attain quota, 10% more often than inside reps. Here are some simple strategies to get outside and F2F:
STAY IN TOUCH
Turn the sales faucet on ‘drip’ and contact your current clients with whatever works: phone calls, emails, or texts. Tell them you are checking in to see if anything has changed, give them a local business lead, or share your latest insight on their favorite team. When doing so, tell them you want to meet F2F and go deep into the next quarter’s ad plan or a new idea to get them back on the air. They may start looking forward to your communication.
Schedule an annual review ahead of their busiest time of year to review the upcoming messaging in ads. Go over what worked or didn’t last year. Share a success story of a similar advertiser in another market or show them a new opportunity that fits.
Be upfront that with F2F, we can get more specific, work with better feedback, and partner on hitting their goals. Be the person who looks ahead and helps keep your client focused.
Organize workshops for your current clients. Teach that about streaming, OTT, or Google ads. Get your digital person involved. Let them know you are bringing in other local businesspeople they may want to know or network with and meet F2F! A Mortgage broker may want to meet a realtor who wants to meet a wealthy local businessperson interested in meeting the local head coach. Stand out as a leader in the industry and watch clients brag about working with you.
HIT A TRADE SHOW
Attend trade shows where your current clients will be. This will show you are serious about their business and want to stay current so you can learn and earn. Set up a meeting over coffee or a drink. Share what you learned.
Client Appreciation Events held at your town’s most meaningful events or places. Do whatever it takes to get hospitality tents at big games and concert suites to show appreciation and bond with your current clients. Host a luncheon at the hottest new local restaurant. Focus on providing an atmosphere or experience everyone wants, but not many can attend. Be the exclusive person in town.
GET PERSONAL REFERRALS
Leverage your existing client relationships to seek referrals. Do it in person. Tell them you want to see them and ask for help and advice. Ask for introductions to potential new clients they know, and you will be surprised how much they like working with you.
Bring your Digital manager to them and do a free review of their SEO, PPC, whatever. Working off your client’s pc and bringing them an expert at no charge or obligation is much easier. Watch your partnership grow by providing so much expertise at no extra expense.
Don’t forget the value of F2F meetings. It’s a great way to build trust, connect, and unlock new opportunities. We are in a people business doing business with tons of local directs who still make most of their money serving retail customers F2F. Let’s get out and sell!
Jeff Caves is a sales columnist for BSM working in radio, digital, hyper-local magazine, and sports sponsorship sales in DFW. He is credited with helping launch, build, and develop SPORTS RADIO The Ticket in Boise, Idaho, into the market’s top sports radio station. During his 26 year stay at KTIK, Caves hosted drive time, programmed the station, and excelled as a top seller. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @jeffcaves.
All Jason Timpf Needed Was A Moment of Clarity
“I didn’t know it until after I was hired, but they said they played my video for Colin and he knew right away that I could do this.”
There was once a time when Jason Timpf always included Colin Cowherd in his commute to work. As he made his morning drive to a sales job at Verizon, The Herd was appointment listening each morning for Timpf. The ex-college basketball player would marvel at Cowherd’s ability to make relatable references and break down all of the same basketball games he would watch the night before.
One of the unique things Timpf can remember from listening to The Herd during that time was Cowherd saying if FOX ever put someone in front of him, he could tell in five seconds if that individual had the skills to be a host. It was far from a hot take on the Lakers, but still a distinct moment that stuck with Timpf for many years. Little did he know at the time but Cowherd would soon give a five-second evaluation of Timpf’s career.
Jason Timpf was a late-bloomer in basketball. He played college hoops at an NAIA school in Utah, but not until his third year, after being a regular student the first two. After graduating, he pursued a basketball career overseas in India. However, after the league folded, he left the game for a normal job in the States.
There was a real desire for Timpf to get into the sports media business, but he was having difficulties finding the right fit. He wanted advice on the best way to start, but the tips he received just didn’t feel like the right initial path.
“I’d hear, hey, go bang on a radio station’s door and ask if you can work the soundboard,” said Timpf. “Or, try to go to a journalism school. Another big one that everyone was doing was the SB Nation blogs and FanSided blogs. I briefly tried to do that a little bit. But none of it was materializing the way that I had hoped.”
But then the lightbulb went off for Timpf and it happened during the middle of a podcast interview. In October of 2020, Jason Maples of Blue Wire reached out to Timpf to talk hoops on his podcast. It was in the middle of that interview when it all made sense. It felt exactly like the camaraderie he enjoyed with his old teammates and friends talking basketball. It was relaxed, fun and what he used to do for enjoyment. The perfect fit had just found Timpf organically.
“It was, ‘this is it,’” said Timpf. “‘This is how I want to do it.’ It was like a moment of clarity. Like, this is the way I want to talk about the game. Fortunately, I was working in real estate at the time, so I was super flexible, so I literally was just trying to fake it until I made it.”
While Timpf was grinding away on his new platform choice, he was constantly putting out his content on social media. For a handful of years, he had used Twitter as an outlet for basketball talk – not because he was trying to build his brand, but because it was his preferred method of sharing his takes during and after basketball games.
“My wife actually played basketball in college but she, like a lot of people, got out of it and was like, ‘actually I’m so sick of basketball, since it’s all I did growing up, that I’d rather not talk about it,’” laughed Timpf.
As Timpf had built up years of basketball takes on Twitter, he also built up followers. Not a crazy amount, but enough to have regular interactions with several basketball fans. He had no idea at the time, though he remembers occasionally interacting with him, but one of his followers in the beginning was Logan Swaim, who just happens to be Head of Content at The Volume.
Being such a huge fan of Cowherd, Timpf was absolutely familiar with The Volume, a company started by the FOX Sports Radio host. In fact, during his first plunge into podcasts, he quickly took note of how much success The Volume was having with instant reaction and video content. He wanted to emulate what they were doing and would host a Twitter Space after each Lakers game.
Swaim kept up with Timpf’s journey and continued to be impressed with what he saw. He was so impressed, in fact, that a video eventually made it in front of Cowherd’s eyes. It was the moment Timpf had always heard about while driving to his job at Verizon. Cowherd was about to make a declaration on Timpf’s abilities.
“I didn’t know it until after I was hired, but they said they played my video for Colin and he knew right away that I could do this,” Timpf said. “That was a huge boost of confidence for me, because it meant somebody I deeply respected believed I could work in this business.”
Timpf made his dream come true. He was offered a job by The Volume hosting Hoops Tonight. As much of a dream as it was when he was initially hired, the experience since has been nothing but ideal for Timpf. He gets to cover his favorite sport the way he wants to cover it.
“When I first started and Logan and I were structuring out the show, he kinda viewed it as my show would be the slower, more methodical pace, where I work through my thought process of a game. And also that I’d be a guest on other Volume shows for more conversational podcasts. I really wanted to break down pick and roll coverage. It’s just going to take me a while, so trying to do that in a debate show format or conversational format can get hard. It’s a place where I can let more of my crazy depth out. And I can also have a side format where it’s more conversational.”
Timpf has learned prep for podcasts is one of the biggest elements to being successful. As Hoops Tonight continues to draw impressive numbers over audio and YouTube, he’s figured out the best method to prepare for a long-form podcast where he’s hosting solo.
“I digest the game from the simple concept of how the game was won,” said Timpf. “Where was it won? There’s 100-something possessions in this game, there’s seven different storylines and several runs and sequences and sways in momentum, but what’s the one? Usually I’ll target that first in the opening segment of the show.
“While I’m watching the game I’ll take ancillary notes. About five minutes before I record, I sift through everything I’ve written down and limit it down to the things I think are most important. But generally the flow of the show is how the game was won.”
The whole experience has been gratifying and a full-circle moment in many ways for Timpf. Not only has it been vindicating to do things his way and see it become a success, but he’s gotten to do it with someone who he considers an idol.
Sure, Timpf always envisioned growing up he would be talking to Cowherd as a pro athlete, but talking to him as a colleague is certainly the next best thing. So when he got the call to talk with Cowherd during last year’s West Conference Finals, he didn’t hesitate.
“I was so incredibly nervous, as you could imagine,” laughed Timpf. “But I immediately remember him making me feel comfortable and confident. It immediately calmed me down.
“This is probably my favorite part of the entire experience, I think a lot of people think that these networks try to shove people in certain directions and The Volume has given me such freedom to cover the game exactly the way I want to and nobody is telling me to say crazy stuff. Nobody is pushing me in certain directions, it’s like total creative freedom. The way that Logan and Colin have been letting me do me, so to speak, has been so cool. To see my version of what I want it to look like makes me feel vindicated for talking about it the way I want to.”
Tyler McComas is a columnist for BSM and a sports radio talk show host in Norman, OK where he hosts afternoon drive for SportsTalk 1400. You can find him on Twitter @Tyler_McComas or you can email him at TylerMcComas08@yahoo.com.