- Turner Sports's 'Inside the NBA' is need of a fresh face. Hiring Chris Bosh, whose Hall of Fame playing career is likely over, would be a win-win for all.
As great a product as Inside The NBA is—the best sports studio show in history it says here—Turner Sports could use an infusion of new talent as far as its roster of game analysts (the current group is Greg Anthony, Brent Barry, Kevin McHale, Reggie Miller and Chris Webber).
On that end, there is a candidate out there who in my opinion could make an immediate impact. His basketball IQ is super high, he’s a great interview, genuinely funny and he brings significant currency having played with LeBron James for four seasons. He also has broadcasting experience with TNT and is an 11-time NBA All Star.
His name is Chris Bosh.
This week, per the Palm Beach Post and Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, a medical review instituted by the NBA and the players' association ruled that Bosh has a career-ending illness. The 33-year-old Bosh hasn’t played since Feb. 9, 2016, and he failed a physical before this season. His Hall of Fame basketball career is likely over as the Heat are expected to waive him given the above ruling.
Turner has had ongoing conversations with Bosh over the years about his interest in broadcasting but nothing definitive fulltime given he was playing. He was part of TNT’s "Players Only" franchise earlier this year during Monday night doubleheader action and did solid work.
"Chris has been a contributor with us in the past and we have an open dialogue with him and his representatives,” a Turner Sports spokesperson said on Sunday. “No plans have been finalized for next season at this time."
That’s not spin. Turner Sports executives usually make NBA hires in the off-season. But they should push very hard for this. Bosh has always said he wants to remain in basketball following his playing days and at 33, he would be a fixture with the network for decades. He also has the type of personality that could easily move into a studio setting following the end of the Charles Barkley-Kenny Smith era. This would be a win-win for all parties, especially NBA viewers.
THE NOISE REPORT
(SI.com examines some of the week’s most notable sports media stories)
1. Episode 122 of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast features a tribute to the life and work of Frank Deford, the longtime Sports Illustrated writer who died on May 28 at his home in Key West, Fla. He was 78.
Writers Alex Wolff (Sports Illustrated), Wright Thompson (ESPN), Jack McCallum (SI), Sally Jenkins (Washington Post), Tim Layden (SI) and Michael Farber (SI and TSN) joined the podcast (separate segments) to offer thoughts on their favorite Deford pieces, his impact on sports journalism, personal stories of interacting with Deford, how he approached stories, why he matters in 2017 and much more.
“His best stuff was for the ages,” said Wolff. “It was a privilege to be his colleague.”
You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.
• Alex Wolff, on writing the Deford obit for Sports Illustrated– 1:30
• Wolff, on who Deford was as a writer– 3:50
• Wolff on his personal relationship with Deford — 7:40
• Wolff, on the Deford piece that stays with him the most — 10:30
• Wolff, on Deford as a writing stylist — 14:00
• Wolff, on why Deford was matched perfectly for his time — 18:20
• Thompson, on why a great profile is true forever — 22:00
• Thompson, on Deford as a writing influence — 24:00
• Thompson, on Deford’s literary devices — 26:30
• Thompson, on the quintessential Deford piece for him — 29:00
• McCallum, on Deford’s journalism legacy — 36:00
• McCallum, on his interactions with Deford — 38:00
• McCallum, on the Deford pieces that stood out for him — 40:30
• Jenkins, on her Post column memorializing Deford — 47:00
• Layden, on Deford’s impact on his career — 52:50
• Layden, on Deford’s ability to do multiple subjects — 55:15
• Layden, on Deford’s ability to transport a read to a time or place — 1:01:40
• Farber, on first meeting Deford in 1974 — 1:03.30
• Farber, on Deford’s hockey work — 1:08.00
• Farber, on Deford offering him a job to work at The National — 1:10.00
• Farber, on Deford’s enduring legacy — 1:11.30
2. Some Deford tributes of note:
• The root beer and the starlight: A tragedy, a legacy and the lesson of Frank Deford—some writing brilliance from Charles Pierce
• ESPN’s Steve Wulf (he worked at SI from 1977 to 1994) on memories of Deford
• SI writers, past and present, offer thoughts on Deford’s legacy
• SI editor Mark Godich passed along something Deford wrote on Tiger Woods in his 2000 Sportsman piece:
Tiger is such an extraordinary champion and so widely admired that we have granted him a sort of spiritual amnesty. His persona is still insulated by his deeds, his misjudgments immunized by his youth. Sometime soon, though, we will weary of the tedium of his persistent success and start peering more deeply into that heavenly smile and beyond those steely eyes. Won't we? Because that's the nature of the beast—us. This, right now, may be the best Tiger will ever have it. Until, that is, he becomes a Grand Old Man, and we fall in love with him again.
• Bob McCown, of Toronto’s Sportsnet 590 The Fan, pulled up a May 2012 interview with Frank Deford. It’s great.
3. Jon Hock always delivers on his sports docs, and he’s the producer behind the upcoming 30 for 30 on the Celtic-Lakers rivalry in the 1980s. “Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies” will premiere on June 13 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN and will run over multiple nights. The doc was chosen to coincide with the 30-year anniversary of the 1987 NBA Finals coming up—that series was the third time in four years the Lakers and Celtics met for the title. Here’s a piece I did last December on the upcoming doc.
4. Non-sports pieces of note:
• From The New Yorker: West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the country. Locals are fighting to save their neighbors—and their towns—from destruction.
• From actress-advocate Holly Robinson Peete: Autism And Police: My Plan To Protect My Driving-Age Son (And Yours)
• Terrific piece from Buffalo News writers Dan Herbeck and Lou Michel on what it’s like to be the daughter of an infamous killer
• Great piece by Alan Siegel, for The Ringer, on the kids from Season Four of The Wire
• From The Washington Post: Violence is soaring in the Mexican towns that feed America’s heroin habit
• Via Sean Kirst of The Buffalo News: A Memorial Day quest, a quiet grandson and stories that live on
• From author Michael Lista: The Rise and Fall of Toronto's Classiest Con Man
• From The Marshall Project: When autism, child pornography and the courts collide
• Teen Vogue’s Lauren Duca on Kathy Griffin and performative outrage
• How Roger Ailes and Fox News Got Rich Scamming America’s La Z Boy Cowboys and Selling Out America’s Soul
• Terrence McCoy, on how disability is shaping the culture, economy and politics of small communities
• Jonathan Goldsmith, most recognized for his iconic role as “The Most Interesting Man in the World” in the Dos Equis beer commercials, on his relationship with Barack Obama
• An oral history of the famed restaurant Nobu, via The Hollywood Reporter
Sports pieces of note:
• ESPN’s Tom Junod, on Muhammad Ali's last days
• From SI’s Tom Verducci: Why the curveball is taking over the game
• From Dave Doyle, writing for the Wrestling Observer, on Arena Mexico, the lucha libre palace
• Chad Leistikow, of Hawk Central, on Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands
• From Thomas Gounley of The Springfield News Leader: The Man Who Reinvented Meth
• Patrick Sauer, for Vice Sports, on How Dr. J and Larry Bird Helped Build a Video Game Empire
• NM Fishbowl’s Daniel Libit on the University of New Mexico’s athletic department accidentally overpaying coaches
5. Longtime White Sox announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson will retire after the 2018 season. He will call a 20-game schedule in 2018, including Sunday home games and select others.
5a. Good stuff from John McEnroe (for Eurosport) on Margaret Court
5a. Pro Football Talk hired former Fort Worth Star-Telegram NFL writer Charean Williams
5c. First Take co-host Stephen A. Smith wrote a poignant goodbye to his mother, Janet Smith, who passed away last week
5d. Longtime ESPN NFL insider John Clayton made public that he was part of the ESPN layoffs
5e. Robert Seidman, who runs the fantastic Sports TV Ratings website and Twitter feed, recently debuted a new podcast (The World’s Fastest-Growing Sports Podcast) in which he’ll interview behind the scenes people in the sports media. Best of luck with it.
5f. To be the #covfefe, you gotta beat the #covfefe—WOOOOO!
5g. The acclaimed wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer worked with Frank Deford at The National, the died-before-its-time sports daily that Deford founded and served as editor-in-chief. That Deford hired Meltzer to do a wrestling column in 1989 showed incredible foresight given how much wrestling content exists today. As he has for decades, Meltzer continues to cover professional wrestling for his publication, The Wrestling Observer, as well as via podcasts. I encourage all wrestling fans to subscribe. He wrote a great tribute to Deford, which he allowed me permission to reprint below.
In late 1989, the phone rang at the apartment I was living in. I knew the voice instantly from television, but it was a surreal moment. A moment, in hindsight, that changed my life.
Frank Deford was something of a hero of mine growing up. He was acknowledged as the best sportswriter of his generation, some would say of all-time. I had been reading his prose since the age of six. It shocked me years later when I saw in Sports Illustrated that he was writing a book about Roller Derby. In looks back at his career, apparently this was the first book he ever wrote, “Five Strides on the Banked Track,” the authoritative history of Roller Derby, which came out in 1971, just as its popularity was peaking nationwide. I read it over-and-over, memorized not just the facts but the way he wrote the facts and the stories. That book, to me, was like a dog with his favorite toy. I’d take it on every trip as a kid, just trying to mentally figure out how to make words make the kind of impression he did. I learned about business success and failures, and ups and downs, how television made Derby short-lived cultural phenomenon, and overexposed it and left it for dead. Then it came back big with the advent of UHF channels. It talked in depth about winter road tours, and ordinary people not making much money in search of laundromats, going into sold out major arenas, and sometimes not sold out arenas, and being mobbed for autographs. He talked about the huge miscalculation that cost the company huge in the early '60s when they tried to establish a Southern outpost and went with a black man (Ronnie Robinson, the son of Sugar Ray) as the top star and all the racial epithets he had to deal with at the time. Ultimately it said that most of these skaters were good people, working hard to make a living, and entertaining people. When the book was written, Derby was going strong, but only a couple of years later, it changed its business model, expanded too fast, the stars got older and the world just changed. It stopped drawing and the company folded.
Once, while someone else was reading it on the boat dock at Lake Berryessa, it fell into the lake so the book got soggy, dried out and the pages were all crumpled and curved. I freaked out. But it was still readable. It would be nice to say I still have that book, but I can’t remember ever seeing it after the mid-'70s, by which time Roller Derby had already died. While I could never be close to the writer he was, then again, nobody else could have been either, as far as the key formative influence in long-form pieces I’ve written, especially obituaries, are based almost entirely on studying his writing style.
Deford passed away on 5/28 at the age of 78 at his retirement home in Key West. He had lived in Connecticut for the last several decades. He has been suffering the past few weeks from pneumonia and had just retired from doing his commentary on National Public Radio earlier this month.
Deford was the person calling and told me that he was starting a sports newspaper, which I was well aware of. Deford leaving Sports Illustrated where he was its most famous writer and hiring the best sportswriters in the country to do a national newspaper was huge news in the sports world in late 1989.
He felt pro wrestling didn’t get the coverage it deserved given its popularity. I couldn’t believe my ears. The entire conversation felt like something I had scripted years earlier in my head, but couldn’t believe would ever happened. And a few minutes later, he hired me to write a weekly column for The National, a short-lived daily sports newspaper that was the brainchild of Deford and Emilio Azcarraga, the richest man in Mexican media.
Mexico had a long history with successful sports dailies, but none existed in the U.S., so Azcarraga figured this was a great untapped business opportunity. It sounded great on paper. USA Today was already a success in the U.S. Deford, arguably the biggest name and most respected sports writer in the country was hired to head it up. He really thought it could work.
The idea was to offer bigger money to the top sportswriters in the country to get them from their local papers with the idea of creating an all-star team of writers from all over the country. When publicizing the newspaper, he pushed that the best sportswriters who were almost never front page writers with their local newspapers, nor well-known outside their home markets aside from the hardcore sports fan. The writers would get paid a lot more, and be able to develop more of a national following.
I was not in that category. My money offer wasn’t significant at all. The Observer was already successful by that time, but the 16 months that publication existed, and the period right after, were huge keys to the long-term success at a different level. Essentially what I did get paid ended up going into paying for a weekly ad in the newspaper for this publication, but that period helped this publication grow and that exposure was great not just for this publication, but for the entire genre of wrestling newsletters at the time. Everyone knew that Tuesday was wrestling day in The National and people in wrestling, including myself, took out our Tuesday classified ads to build our respective businesses. Whether this was coincidence, although Deford later told me he didn’t believe it was and that I was a key part of it, Tuesday was always the best selling issue of the week. It very much legitimized the idea of real pro wrestling coverage, and that such a thing existed. Of course the influence was most significant for me, but it was also significant for people like Wade Keller and Bruce Mitchell. Keller took the photo that was on the cover of the publication’s final edition regarding the story the newspaper had broken of a fixed boxing match that involved pro wrestler Derrick Dukes and former NFL star Mark Gastineau.
It was easy to think of an underground publication written by an avid wrestling fan on a “fake” sport and treating it as it as a joke in the real sportswriting world, or perhaps more nicely, cute fanzine. Deford made it clear to everyone that what I did was very real reporting on what at the time was a very difficult subject to cover. Many times during the duration of the publication, when Deford was asked about the top writers in the publication, he always said that I was the most popular, the one who got the most feedback, and how that was especially the case if the column was put in a day later.
Even thought the last issue of The National was published 26 years ago, we still have many subscribers who first heard of me there and it was a turning point of my career. But it is funny reading stories about the publication in the wake of his death or in retrospectives of the publication talking about how Azcarraga gave Deford a blank checkbook to get the best sportswriting talent in the country. Today, my name listed among major star writers he was able to get, not realizing that in 1989, I was not Scott Ostler or Tony Kornheiser or Chris Mortensen. It was he that made me viewed as legit, or perhaps, as close to legit as could have been possible at the time.
Deford told me that when he broached the idea of a wrestling column, that several different people had applied. I wasn’t one of them, since I had no idea he was thinking in that direction. He told me that John Cherwa, the sports editor of the Los Angeles Times, and Dick Ebersol of NBC Sports, who were both subscribers, pushed my name hard to him and said I was the only person he should consider. The irony of Ebersol, who along with wife Susan St. James was two of Vince & Linda McMahon’s best social friends at the time when Vince still had a social life being partially responsible for me getting that job that Vince and Linda McMahon were furious is of particular note. When the word got around in the wrestling business of the hire, Deford received other phone calls from major players who were not nearly as supportive, although many were. When he got those calls, he told me that he was convinced I was the guy and how impressed he was at the nature of the negative reaction.
Pro wrestling was a very minor part of that newspaper, some would say the coverage was a gimmick, but he never treated it as such. During my time with the newspaper, I dealt directly with Deford and Vince Doria, the two top editors of the paper. During that 16 month period, it was very much a mentor/protégé relationship with Deford. He spent far more time with me than he should have.
At one point, he wrote an article that he tried, unsuccessfully, to turn into a major motion picture, on the life of early women’s world champion Mildred Burke. He allowed me to publish it in one of my old yearbooks.
Once Howard Cosell, a famous sports personality of that era, in one of his books, wrote about what a travesty it was that Deford would personally edit a pro wrestling column, as a snide remark, and what a joke covering pro wrestling was.
Nobody has ever said as many nice things publicly about me professionally as Deford. He called me right after the newspaper folded, and was very apologetic, noting that everyone else would be able to get jobs at newspapers all over the country and said that it’s too bad that people in sports don’t understand what you do, or how successful it was in his publication, but they don’t.
In time, from his writing, and from discussions, I figured out why he treated me the way he did. While he was best known as a sportswriter, he believed, and rightly so, that he would have been a great news reporter on any subject. It just so happened he covered sports. Whenever anyone brought up the subject of me to him, he would say the same thing. At times he thought that he really should be covering more important things in the world and it was something that bothered him at times, that he wasn’t using his talent to its most social good. But it did result in him branching out to books on subjects other than sports, and working in outside fields.
Still, his work in sports hardly went unnoticed in the non-sports world. The Washington Journalism Review twice voted him the best magazine writer of the year, regardless of subject. A profile he wrote on basketball icon Bill Russell was voted the best magazine profile in 2000. In 2012, he was the first sportswriter to get the W.M. Kiplinger Distinguished Contribution to Journalism award, the highest honor of the National Press Foundation. In 2013 he was given the William Allen White Foundation’s citation for excellence in journalism. He also wrote one movie and several television documentaries.
From time-to-time I’d hear from him. We had some long discussions after the deaths of many of the Roller Derby stars, not just limited to Joan Weston and Ann Calvello. Indeed, it was his obituary of Weston that was read by television executives at TNN which led to the attempted revival of Roller Derby as RollerJam. But it was the life of Calvello, that spiritually created the underground revival of shoot women’s Roller Derby, which exists today in leagues all over the world. And, not surprisingly enough, it was the death of Calvello that was responsible for the single best story I will probably ever write, even though he said my best work ever was a story last year on Muhammad Ali and lifelong coverage of PEDs in sports. It was notable that like much of his best work wasn’t in sports, the genre he’s known for, my best work really wasn’t in wrestling.
Deford was usually quite accurate on his predictions about where things were headed in the sports world, but was always wrong about Roller Derby. He’d always say that Roller Derby would make a comeback, and while I enjoyed it and have the childhood memories of it, I would tell him it was never coming back, and that was the product of an era that was long gone. We also talked boxing some. He hated boxing and wrote passionately on that subject, having seen the life cycle of fighters and how so many end up, and was particularly bothered by young boxers who died in the ring. For those same reasons, he never warmed up to MMA either.
Deford was sent in the late '60s to do a feature on Roller Derby, with the idea of knocking this fake sport that was at the time a big hit on television and drawing big crowds all over the country. Instead, he was very taken by the people involved in the game and wrote what at the time was one of the longest articles ever in Sports Illustrated. He loved reminiscing about that period in his life and the different personalities he met while doing the book. My belief is that he saw Roller Derby, a fake sport, as something he saw play to packed houses and draw huge television ratings at the time, yet get no coverage. He had enough power to get a Roller Derby story into Sports Illustrated once a year, usually a light-hearted piece about the championships at the end of the season. When he was put in charge, there was no Roller Derby, but there was pro wrestling, a popular staple of television with a big fan base, drawing big crowds all over the world, but getting no coverage. The idea was to cover it as it is. Really, his idea was for light-hearted coverage of it, but when circumstances caused it to evolve in a different direction, he fully backed it and immediately recognized that my idea for what it should be was the way to go.
Some wrestling people at the time hated that a national newspaper would cover it while readily acknowledging it wasn’t real competition, even if Vince McMahon was saying the same thing about wrestling publicly. But the younger people in wrestling embraced it.
He also called me on rare occasions when wrestling was in the news or when he was looking to do a story or commentary on the wrestling business. Sometimes I’d call him, for advice, and he was always the best with it.
His book, “Alex: The Life of a Child,” was one of my mother’s favorite books. Deford’s first daughter, Alexandra, was diagnosed with cystic-fibrosis as a toddler, and died in 1980 at the age of eight. Deford was chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation from 1982 until 1999, and remained involved with that cause until his death. My mother and him spoke on the phone and exchanged letters about the book. My mother asked about him often and always got excited when she’d see him on television. To my parents, his acceptance and endorsement of me in public was gigantic in their eyes.
From dealing with him, he was a brilliant and articulate person with a strong moral compass. It’s the latter, more than the countless great articles he wrote, that sticks with me the most during this very sad time. I admired him for his writing ability growing up, but after working with him, I can say he was one of the finest human beings that I have ever met. To this day, I’m embarrassed and never truly believed the praise he gave me, both when I was at the paper, and in the decades later whenever he’d be asked.
In 1991, when Deford and his wife were attending the birthday party for John Fillipelli, a television producer who at the time worked for WWE, who he was good friends with for years, many WWE people were there. They all went bowling, and Pat Patterson stole Deford’s shoes, so he had to leave with his bowling shoes while Vince McMahon laughed about it. Later, when McMahon was before a Congressional committee after the Chris Benoit murders and suicide had spurred coverage of the preponderance of young deaths within the pro wrestling industry, including an article by Deford which likely helped spur on the investigation, McMahon tried to claim in his testimony that the article was Deford’s retaliation for stealing his shoes.
The National, because of its losses, something like $100 million to $150 million in 16 months, was always a blemish on his record, yet on his death, it was talked about as if it was his most positive legacy. The newspaper had problems from the start, in the sense it was national in scope, but only really had distribution in a few major markets and in even fewer places could you get home delivery. Plus, the deadlines were early so the West Coast games weren’t covered in the newspaper. It’s been said it was ahead of its time. The reality is the idea may have been sound, but the logistics weren’t thought out at all before it started. Today, it’s considered groundbreaking and one of the best sports publications of its type ever in the U.S. by many, but it was a business disaster. Others have said it would have flourished had it come 15 years later in the Internet age.
Irv Muchnick last corresponded with Deford just two days before his death, noting he enjoyed his farewell segment on NPR. Deford noted that he liked Muchnick’s piece he had written on the death of pro wrestling historian J. Michael Kenyon, and then said, “Unfortunately, I am laid up in a hospital rehabbing from pneumonia.”
Deford was one of the key players in the growth of HBO’s “Real Sports,” as well as the life of Sports Illustrated, which he started writing for in 1962 and within a few years became the star writer on the staff.
In 2013, President Barack Obama gave him the National Humanities medal, and said, “A dedicated writer and storyteller, Mr. Deford has offered a consistent, compelling voice in print and radio, reaching beyond scores and statistics to reveal the humanity woven into the games we love.”