On Wednesday of last week, while the rest of us were still scouring the internet for clues, Chris Sheridan reported that LeBron James planned to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had a source, and he went with it.
Sheridan has covered the NBA for many years. After a long career working for the Associated Press and ESPN, he started his own site, Sheridan Hoops, in 2011. Despite his credentials as a journalist, Sheridan received plenty of criticism for his report. His independent status probably had a lot to do with that. No major media outlets were able to confirm his report, so he was basically on an island for two days. Once LeBron announced his decision, few outlets gave Sheridan credit for reporting the news first.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I have previously contributed two articles to Sheridan Hoops over the last two years.
Yesterday, Sheridan spoke with Fear the Sword about breaking the story, and the Cavs' chances to contend next season. He also offered some advice for future sportswriters.
Fear the Sword: When you reported on Wednesday that LeBron was going to choose the Cavs, you received some pushback. Did that offend you? And do you feel vindicated by how it ultimately played out?
Chris Sheridan: There will always be disbelief and skepticism when you report something no one else is reporting. I do not get offended. I was trained at ESPN to have a thick skin. Seriously, they told me that, and it was great advice. At first, I did not feel vindication ... But I have been over the past couple of days because of all the messages of support I received. I knew what was going to happen, so I was calm, but I don't think I realized exactly how much skepticism there was out there. People thought I had made it up! That would have been suicidal for my career.
FTS: Has there been another story that you've covered in your career that compares to this one?
Sheridan: Carmelo Anthony's insistence that he would not sign a contract extension with any team other than the Knicks [in 2010, link here]. That one was out there for two months, and I never wavered. It was another case of being very well-sourced and sticking to my guns.
FTS: Are there any major differences in covering free agency -- and breaking a story like this -- for a site that you run, as opposed to doing it for the AP or ESPN?
Sheridan: With the AP and/or ESPN, you have the backing of a major news organization. With Sheridan Hoops, we are a mom and pop website by comparison. So the skepticism is much greater. But other than that, the rules are the same. Rule number one: Don't write it if you are not 100 percent sure it is correct.
FTS: Assuming the Cavs don't make another really big move (i.e. trading for Kevin Love), do you think that their core of LeBron, Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao, their recent draft picks, and other role players that they will add will be enough to compete in the East next season?
Sheridan: They should be favored to win the East. They have LeBron.
FTS: Finally, for any young people reading who are interested in careers in sportswriting, do you have a piece of advice that you could share?
Sheridan: Find another career, or prepare to spend the rest of your life being a slave to the 24/7 news cycle. It screws up your work-life balance in a major way.
I am very thankful that Chris took the time to speak with us. As you know by know, his website is Sheridan Hoops, where he and his team cover all aspects of the NBA.