In professional sports, the spotlight is always on the professional athlete, and logically so. As media, we write about questions asked, opinions gathered, answers given. Sometimes answers are candid, sometimes prepared, sometimes true, sometimes misleading. But, what about a behind the scenes look at someone who has been covering a sports team or a professional athlete for the majority of their career?
Kevin Ding, Lakers lead writer and NBA columnist for Bleacher Report has dedicated close to 15 years of his career to covering the Lakers. In an interview, Ding opens up about his decision to leave the OC Register for Bleacher Report and gives not only insightful advice but a unique perspective on what it takes to make it in a sports journalism career. Plus, ever wonder what type of impression a guy that’s been around Kobe Bryant for the majority of his career has to actually say about him? What makes him tick? What makes him upset? How Kobe’s feud with Shaq changed his perspective? Check out our interview, which we’ve broken up into four separate parts below.
Kevin Ding opens up about his decision to leave the OC Register for Bleacher Report:
“I describe it to people as, hopefully, just a better life in general. As far as timeline and the ability to reach more people and Bleacher Report is owned by Turner Broadcasting so there are online and TV possibilities, in addition. Basically, the newspaper world as we all know it is in flux and we’re not sure where it’s gonna go. The Register had a pay-wall up last season which, some of you certainly know, stopped me from being able to reach the audience that I felt like I had developed really into a strong connection with and that was really frustrating for me.”
On Kobe’s underdog mentality and rift with Dwight Howard
“Before, he was so competitive with everybody that he didn’t let people in that much to see that (underdog mentality). Contrast that with someone like Steve Nash who is an obvious underdog to everybody — and I’ve written before that there are actually a ton of similarities between Kobe and Steve Nash and that’s why there’s no question in my mind that when you got those two guys together there would be a mutual respect – that they would work together and figure it out. They didn’t win a championship but they’re trying to figure out how best they can work together. Dwight Howard was not in that little group. So there is a natural rift that developed, it’s not surprising when you look at the dynamic of that why it happened that way.”
On Kobe’s feud with Shaq and Kobe caring what people think
“He’s always cared…Over the years, he has changed his approach largely because of what happened with Shaq. We talked about how he (Kobe) feels like he handled that Shaq stuff poorly, like he felt like he could have just let it ride out, and people would figure it out and he didn’t want to draw attention to things that Shaq might be doing wrong. Instead, he felt like he just took a lot of gunfire. He just had his image pretty much shattered there for awhile, because he didn’t take the responsibility to actively manage it, even though he did care what was happening, he thought that it would just take care of itself. So, one thing he changed was he felt like ‘I need to be more proactive about putting my side out there, letting people know what I really am about’ and that’s where you saw that gradual shift.”
Kevin Ding’s advice to those looking to pursue a career in sports journalism:
“It’s mostly about experience — you have to figure things out on your own through experience, it’s about learning and building sort of a body of work that represents who you are over time and the sooner you can get there the better. There’s a lot of people out there who want to be sportswriters and love sports and it is an ideal job in many ways for people that are into sports, but you need to not just focus on the sports part of it, you need to figure out what is your voice and how do you present your information. How do you make it interesting to people besides just talking about sports, there’s more to it.”