- Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum chats with The Crossover about his journalism experience and how it has helped him form a relationship with the media.
As CJ McCollum and the Trail Blazers chase hardware in the postseason, the Portland guard is guaranteed to be taking home at least one trophy this season. McCollum won the NBA Cares Community Assist Award in February, with the league recognizing him for his efforts mentoring kids in the Portland area.
McCollum’s outreach to the youth include his Dream Center at the Blazers Boys & Girls Club, as well as CJ’s Press Pass, a mentorship program for 30 high-school kids each year that aims to give students lessons in what it’s like to be a professional journalist. (Kids, if you’re reading this, it’s pretty cool. Sometimes you get to interview basketball players.)
“I’m thankful to have the platform as a professional basketball player to inspire and impact the lives of many people who look like me and come from places like me. I’m really excited,” McCollum told The Crossover about receiving the Community Assist award.
In addition to the important of the Press Pass program, McCollum recently chatted with The Crossover to discuss his relationship with the media, how he wants basketball to be covered, and how he feels about succeeding alongside Damian Lillard.
Rohan Nadkarni: Obviously you kind of famously studied journalism in college. Why is the Press Pass program particularly important to you?
CJ McCollum: Press Pass is important to me because I was a journalism major at Lehigh University. I felt like a lot of kids out there really needed to fully understand what the journalism field consists of, and provide them the opportunities of being mentored first hand, covering games, get paid for different things at a young age. Before, kids had to go to college and work for the school newspaper to decide if they want to be involved in journalism or not.
RN: How would you describe your relationship with the local media in Portland?
CM: I would think that it’s a pretty good relationship. I try to give them good quotes for the most part. I understand they have a job to do and deadlines to meet, so I try to be as accommodating as I can.
RN: What’s your perspective on guys who sometimes have a rougher relationship with journalists?
CM: I mean everybody is different. Everybody has different personalities. Everybody has different experiences and situations with the media. I can only speak for myself and what I’ve experienced in Portland. Throughout my interactions with media it’s almost always been positive. Coming from a school where I studied journalism I think I have a better understanding of exactly what they’re trying to get accomplished, exactly what they have to get accomplished each day.
RN: Kevin Durant made some news recently when he kind of said some things about the media. How would you like to see the sport covered ideally?
CM: I think the facts are important, so accuracy is something that is very important. I think people should be held accountable for their predictions or opinions if they fail. As players we’re held accountable for poor performance, I think the same should be said for journalists. A lot of time predictions are able to be made, a lot of things can be said, but when it doesn’t happen the way they said it would there’s no backlash. Nothing happens, it’s just, “Oh, that was an opinion.” I think that could be more fair. Other than that, I think the game is covered well. There’s so many social media outlets, so much in-depth coverage on our spot, I think they do a pretty good job.
RN: Players are always saying they don’t listen to the noise. But do you have a sense of something players are always paying attention to?
CM: Players are always on Instagram, so they always pay attention to highlights that are on Instagram. A lot of guys probably read their mentions on Twitter. I would say that it’s too hard not to pay attention to it because it’s everywhere.
RN: The “Rip City on They Ass” hashtag has become a rallying cry for you guys. What’s been your favorite use of it so far?
CM: Yeah, I think it’s funny. Dame and some other guys started using it a little while ago. And now the fans are using it, there’s T-shirts being made and hoodies being made. I think you can use it anyway you want. You just have to end it the right way. Fans have started to grow really fond of it. I think the media has started to use it. Even the DJ in the pregame warmups. DJ OG 1 mixes it in. I think it’s traveling well, and our support and our fans have been amazing throughout my time here.
RN: What would it mean to you personally to make a deep run in the postseason?
CM: It would be a great accomplishment. I think being able to make the playoffs alone is an outstanding accomplishment alone and something not a lot of people get to experience in their careers. I’m grateful I’ve been on good teams with good coaching staffs and I’ve been able to carve out a role. I just want to take it one round at a time, progress, and try to make some history.
RN: How does it feel to have all this success alongside Damian Lillard after a lot of people were thinking halfway through this season you guys wouldn’t be able to make it work?
CM: We’ve been working extremely hard, put a lot of time in the summer, throughout the season too trying to help our team get better. We don’t really listen to the white noise surrounding us about stuff like that. We know what we’re capable of. The proof is in the pudding. Like I said before, we’ve had success. Not as much success as we would like, but a lot of teams and organizations can’t say they’ve made the playoffs five straight years, while consistently trending upward and getting better. On the doorstep of 50 wins this year, third seed and hosting a playoff series. I’d say we’re headed in the right direction, we’re continuing to get better and we’ll be a force to be reckoned with.