The NBA’s Miami Heat are one of the most publicized teams in all of sports. Wait, make that the history of sports. With non-stop media coverage and the numerous storylines that accompany the Heat, they are scrutinized at every angle. But while players get most of the attention, coach Erik Spoelstra became a known name after his perceived inability to lead the team to a championship. Observers knew who Spoelstra was, but didn’t know his background. They didn’t know where he came from or how he rose to be the Heat’s head coach. Then Kevin Arnovitz. an NBA writer for ESPN, wrote this lead for Spoelstra’s feature.
“They call him “No Problem.”
Mind picking up some dry cleaning?
Can you throw together some video clips of our pick-and-roll defense?
We need someone to make a sandwich run.
This is 1995, the Miami Heat’s seventh year of existence. Expansion teams never get an engraved invitation to legitimacy. At some point, if they want to become a franchise that matters in the NBA, they have to cultivate an organizational identity, find a leader or two and lay down a path.
On the periphery of that process is a 25-year-old named Erik Spoelstra.”
There are many reasons why this lead is marvelous. Despite the simplicity of it, the first words draw you in. Who is this “No Problem” and why do they call him that. The repetition of the lead also draws me in, along with the use of the present tense to make you feel like you’re rolling along as the story goes. Even though the reader doesn’t know the subjects name yet, they want more.
The problem is established, as the Heat are in a period of uncertainty.
“The Heat are in a state of flux following a 32-50 season.”
“Spoelstra doesn’t know jack about video: coordinating video, editing video, or the coordination of video editing. All he knows is that he wants to be around basketball. He has applied everywhere for a college coaching gig, but has come up empty. If the Heat are interested in having him stick around, then he’ll gladly take on whatever tasks they have for him.”
Through this paragraph, the reader has established why Spoelstra will take on any problem: basketball. It gives insight into who Spoelstra is as a person, as every profile story should hope to do.
“I just figured I wanted them coming to me with as many different things as possible to lean on, whether it was basketball-related or not. I wanted to be the guy who they’d pick up the phone and say, ‘He’ll get it done.’ “
This quote is awesome. It’s exactly what every employer wants and what entry level employee wants to be.
My favorite thing in a feature story is an anecdote because they are a specific experience that is unique to the subject, something that can’t be duplicated.
And Arnovitz has many Spoelstra anecdotes to offer.
“Spoelstra is the Heat’s Dungeonmaster. He rarely sees the Miami sunlight and will sometimes go days without visiting the inside of his Miami Beach studio — a converted hotel room — because he overnights in The Dungeon. There, he breaks down game tape, evaluates players, figures out where the pick-and-roll defense is failing and which offensive sets are producing results.
Sometimes Spoelstra’s late-night findings after a game need to reach the Heat while they’re traveling. Since the main FedEx office in Miami closes early, Spoelstra hops into his old Toyota station wagon it the middle of the night and drives out to the cargo terminal at Miami airport.”
Driving to the airport in the middle of the night- now that’s dedication. And the details Arnovitz gives give the reader a better impression of who Spoelstra is and what he did to get to where he is now. I’m even rooting for him a little bit by the conclusion of the article.