Lee Jenkins, Sports Illustrated’s lead NBA writer for the last eight years, is leaving SI to take a position in the Los Angeles Clippers front office as the franchise’s Executive Director of Research & Identity.
The 40-year-old Jenkins, who was hired by SI in 2007 as an NFL writer, is the second SI writer in the last 13 months to be hired by an NBA front office. In August 2017 the Toronto Raptors hired Luke Winn to be their Director of Prospect Strategy.
"Sports Illustrated called on my 30th birthday, the greatest gift of my professional life,” Jenkins says. “I was one of those kids who grew up running to the mailbox on Thursday afternoons. SI taught me to read, and then, to write. With dream jobs, reality often disappoints, but everything about SI only exceeded my imagination. I’ve worked alongside my idols, Tim Layden, Tom Verducci and S.L. Price, and with my friends, Michael Rosenberg, Chris Ballard and Greg Bishop. There is no honor in this business like sharing a page with them.
“SI remains the ultimate platform for sportswriting and I would not leave for another media outlet. But I was offered an extraordinary opportunity to work in the front office of an NBA team and see the league I cover from a different angle. I’ve been privileged to tell a lot of triumphant basketball stories over the past decade. With Steve Ballmer and Jerry West, Lawrence Frank and Michael Winger, Doc Rivers and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, I’m going to try to help build one."
Upon the retirement of Hall of Fame writer Jack McCallum in 2010, Jenkins—at the suggestion of assistant managing editor Hank Hersch—was installed as the franchise’s lead NBA writer, where he quickly established himself as the beat’s premier features writer, penning the definitive profiles of everyone from James Harden to Lamar Odom to Nick Young.
He continued to write the occasional non-NBA story, including the 2013 Sportsperson of the Year story on Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. The following summer SI managing editor Chris Stone tried to talk him into moving to the NFL beat. Jenkins agreed, albeit reluctantly, before virtually the entire SI staff let Stone know that he was making an insane decision. “You won’t regret this,” a relieved Jenkins told Stone after the editor reversed his decision. In the following nine months, he produced this story…. and this one ….. and, of course, This One.
“Lee belongs to that long legacy of great SI lyricists and feature writers,” Stone says. “He has a remarkable gift for taking subjects that have been profiled and parsed innumerable times and surprising the reader with original, fascinating revelations. His stories were the gifts that kept giving for more than a decade.
“We’ve begun the process of seeking his replacement, and we look forward to the day when we assign that replacement the definitive story of how Lee Jenkins helped shape the NBA champion L.A. Clippers."