Sports writing has a lot of boring stories with PR-packaged quotes about people who are uninteresting other than the fact that they play a sport well.
Then there’s this gem, by Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters, entitled “The NBA Is Lucky I’m Home Doing Damn Articles.”
It is as tremendous as you might imagine. It’s essentially about Waiters’ life and his personality. Some fun parts include:
- “Fourth quarter, 10 seconds left. Tie game. I got the ball in my hands with the game on the line, and I already knew what was gonna happen. F*** an overtime, let’s get up outta here.”
- “So because of everything I’d seen and lost, I decided from a young age: You know what? I’m just gonna f***ing ball out.”
- “(I know Kev [Durant] is reading this right now, like, “Thank God this dude is at home doing articles instead of lurking in the playoffs.) You didn’t wanna see us, Kev!”
- “Still, at that point, Syracuse seemed really, really far off. When you come from my neighborhood, you live day to day. That’s how you get by. You think too much about the future, and you might get your heart broken, you feel me?”
There are many more great quotes and you should read the entire piece. It has everything, from humor to tragedy, and it tells Waiters’ life story better than most journalists could tell it. It doesn’t have any particular direction until you’re finished reading it and realized, “hey, I now know a lot more about Dion Waiters.”
Best of all, it’s authentic, and authenticity is what sports writing is missing most.
That’s the fault of everyone involved. Journalists look for stories to fit trite narratives like “leadership” that don’t really tell us anything, and in doing so, they box people’s personalities in. PR people, who don’t want to see players do anything that could be perceived as embarrassing, will steer athletes away from harmless things like cussing and talking about vices, which means they can’t show their true personalities.
This piece shows Dion Waiters for who he is.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that first-person Player’s Tribune pieces are all that’s needed in sports writing. They are still, to an extent, PR for the players, and you’re never going to an investigation into wrongdoing or exploitation on the site. A lot of their pieces are boring.
But this is a piece everyone can learn from. Strive for authenticity—whether you’re writing about yourself or writing about another subject—not the narratives you think these subjects should fit into based on the sports writing mold.