There has been understandable interest in how SI.com lined up the first-person essay by LeBron James, as told to Sports Illustrated senior writer Lee Jenkins, that last Friday revealed the four-time MVP's return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jenkins also wrote the cover story for this week's magazine, which assessed James' move and the reaction in Cleveland. Among the pieces worth reading that examined the story behind James' essay: The Wall Street Journal, Ad Age, Deadspin and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
To provide readers with more background on Jenkins' reporting from Cleveland and Las Vegas and to shed more light on how James' story landed on SI.com, Richard Deitsch interviewed Jenkins for the Inside Sports Illustrated Podcast. Here are a few clips from the interview. Listen to the entire podcast below.
• On getting an exclusive interview with James:
"He is so crucial to the NBA and I cover the NBA for SI and am constantly talking to people who are part of his team, like every celebrity athlete has now. After Jabari Parker made his announcement [about going pro] to SI in a first-person essay [in April], it got me thinking a bit. I was in conversation with [James' camp] and I discussed [Parker]. I discussed Jason Collins. [A first-person story] was something we were doing more of -- Richard Sherman and David Ortiz. What I wanted was an interview with LeBron at the time he was going to be making his decision, whether it was right afterward or before. I just wanted his voice. I knew that it was unlikely -- or near impossible -- for me to break the story traditionally. I don't have the the kind of sources that someone like [Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski] or [ESPN.com's] Marc Stein or [USA Today's] Sam Amick has. I just wanted to be as close as first as I could to his explanation. As time went by, [James' camp] eventually reached out and said it was something they were interested in. I flew to Las Vegas. I didn't have had any idea of where he would go, what he would do or if this would work out. Then last Thursday I had a chance to sit down with him. It was just like any other interview with him, just an unorthodox structure."
• On why rookie No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins was omitted from James' first-person piece while four other Cavaliers players were mentioned:
"Those were the names that came up. I don't know how much [James] watched Kansas. [James] follows the NBA so closely so those were the names that came up. There was no intentional omission. He was not going to go through the entire roster. He has a personal relationship with Tristan Thompson. Kyrie Irving is obviously the star there. Anderson Varejao is a close friend and former teammate. And I think Dion Waiters is a guy he thinks could be a diamond in the rough."
• On the reaction in Cleveland:
"It's a championship for them. Now they are expecting a real championship to follow, but it is the closest thing they have had in 50 years. His connection with that area is well documented, and this has been an open wound since 2010 for them and in some ways for LeBron also. It's an incredible story there. It is a place where people move away from. In 2011, there population was as low as it has been since 1900. So many talented people took their talents elsewhere. And this is one moving back."