Oliver Maroney does not sugar coat anything. This interview will help young aspiring sports journalists get a good look of the industry. Lastly, Mr. Maroney shared some of his high basketball knowledge. Enjoy!…. You will need popcorn.
The NBA Finals are underway; filled with a lot of excitement and energy. Even though everyone is focused on the Finals, there are fans who are looking forward to what’s happening beyond the championship. On June 22nd, the NBA draft will be taking place and offseason signings/trades finally begin.
Speaking of this offseason, there’s a strong possibility that star players like Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and etc. may be elsewhere. I’m not alone to talk to you about all of these fantastic moves. I had the opportunity to speak with Oliver Maroney of Uproxx to join me and talk all about the NBA.
With work published on ESPN, NBATV, NBA.com, TSN, Dime Magazine-UPROXX, Oliver has been a household name in the sports industry. You can find his work here.
Jonathan Bates: Before we start the NBA questions, what’s your story? Everybody always have a journey to get where they’re at now, so what’s yours?
Oliver Maroney– I’ve got a long story, but I’ll try and make it short. I grew up loving sports. From soccer to baseball to football, I loved them all. I used to memorize stats, league rankings, and even imitate players I looked up to. In fact, I used to play hoops by myself in my driveway calling out the shot clock and just announcing different players like Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Rasheed Wallace, you name it. There was a phase for all of them.
Unfortunately, I just wasn’t good enough to hoop and realized that pretty early on. But, I still kept up with it. I used to debate kids in class about why certain teams were better than others and I just really enjoyed it.
Journalism wise, many of my school papers in high school and middle school ended up being biographical pieces on different sports figures because I was always enamored by their stories. I actually ended up getting to cover high school sports at the Oregonian in about eighth grade.
This is where I met a bulk of the relationships that I still have today. Guys like Terrence Ross, Kevin Love, EJ and Kyle Singler, were all coming up in Portland at that time, so I covered a lot of them before they were “big time.” Of course, being a sports fan, I always wanted to write about the next great player or why so-and-so was better than another player. But more importantly, I realized I loved telling the stories they had. So this was my first real opportunity and experience which really made me understand what I truly loved to write about.
I ended up going from high-school to college on a soccer scholarship at a small junior college. But, I still had student debt that was building up from housing costs and books. So I ended up dropping out after just one semester. It’s not something I’m proud of and it’s something I regret, but I think it made me who I am today. From there, I started writing on my own websites, interning at a few different places, and just finding my way into journalism anyway I could.
Actually, it was Olivia Harlan who put this into a good way. She said something to the effect of (not word for word) “it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you do, just go out and do it. Find a camera, find time to put yourself in front of people. Nowadays you can be seen on YouTube and social media for being unique and different. You don’t need a big-time job or even a specific skill set, you need to be you and get reps in anyway that you can. That always stuck with me.
Oliver Maroney, Basketball writer for Dime Magazine. When I hear that name, I hear nothing but achievements, and many young aspiring sports journalist praise you. What’s the formula to be successful in this business; what does it take?
Man. Honestly, this is too much. I appreciate all the kind words. I think the most unique thing about this industry is the fact that there is no formula. It’s not science, it’s not statistics. It’s about informing, educating, and helping people understand your points, narrative, or take.
My whole goal in this is to see people succeed. It doesn’t have to be myself, that’s not the number one goal. I’m here to tell a story. Actually, I’ll tell you something that Mike Barrett, former TV broadcaster, play-by-play guy for the Blazers told me. He told me that we’re not here to be the show, we’re here to support the show. We’re here to help the stars of the show, the players, get the best coverage you can see and hear. I’ll never forget that. And while journalism may be different, you’re still trying to tell a story of a player and make it resonate with people. If you have a drive and a passion for changing the narrative, viewpoint, or direction of something, journalism is a very indirect and at times, direct way, of doing just that.
I just think you have to be an honest, caring individual who understands people, can make connections and can roll with the punches along the way. Obviously, in journalism, you have to stand out. I always felt like telling a player’s story the way they wanted it told was the way to approach this. All the great ones have their own ways of doing things and every one of them has a cool, unique way to present the information. That’s what makes journalism great, that’s what make this industry great.
So far, in your six-plus years in this business, is there something you haven’t accomplished that you want to before you retire from this industry? Also, what’s next for the iconic Mr.Maroney?
For awhile, I always thought I wanted to break news or work at this big time network or do this or do that. Now, and for the past few years, no. I’d love to interview LeBron one-on-one, I’d love to chat with M.J., I’d like to sit down with Paul Allen, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to pursue it.
Most of the time, I let the chips fall where they may. For me, I think I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve got connections that’ll ask me to do a story because they know my work and who I am. I’m grateful for that because it means I’m hopefully doing something right. But, that doesn’t mean I can just go ask random people for favors. I think that’s where you get into trouble.
The last question before moving on to basketball related questions; who motivated you to become a sports writer?
Some of the first journalists and media members I interviewed were extremely influential. Ben Golliver of S.I. has always been someone who’s helped me immensely. He’s an incredible writer who took the time to really explain some of the more in-depth ideology behind writing and he just helped a ton. We still chat about stuff today.
Another one was Kristen Ledlow. She literally spent time out of her all-day broadcast schedule to chat with me about her gig, what she did, how she did it, and not only that, but she was incredibly nice when she explained everything. It was like she wanted to help, she wanted to explain what she did. But more importantly, her drive, incredible attitude and passion made me realize what it was all about. It’s really no coincidence that she’s one of the best in the business.
Some other people who really motivated me were Chris Haynes of ESPN, Amin Elhassan of ESPN, and Chris Broussard of FS1. All of them talked to me early on when I was working to get better and improve, telling me how I could succeed and what I could do to be different. “You’re only as good as your last piece,” Amin once told me. Something I’ll never forget.
C.J. McCollum is another person I really have to thank. I was introduced to him early on in his career before the Most Improved Player season and big contract extension. He not only gave me the time of day, but critiqued all the work I did on him. He would send me screenshots of things that didn’t sound right or needed work, and he did it because he wanted to help. He didn’t need to, he didn’t have to, but he wanted to. He’s always been someone I admire, someone who deserves a lot for what he’s done both on and off-the-court.
Of course, every editor I’ve ever had has been instrumental to my success as well. They’ve all been incredibly supportive and willing to work to improve me as a person and a writer.
And lastly, my wife. I wouldn’t be doing this at all if it wasn’t for her. She has been nothing but supportive of my endeavors, even with the travel and late nights, she is still pushing me and keeping me going. She understands how much this means to me and I just cannot be more grateful for her support in all of this. She’s literally the best wife I could ever ask for and without her, I probably wouldn’t be doing this Q&A with you, wouldn’t be chatting basketball, and wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Let’s turn our focus on the NBA Finals for just a moment. With Kevin Durant being 28-years-old who is arguably the second-best player in the NBA if he beats LeBron James in the finals this year and next year would it be safe to say this Durant league? Following that question, would you put him over LeBron?
I find it hard to believe I’d say it’s anyone’s league. Obviously, with LeBron going to seven straight, I think it’s evident that you could call it his league if you wanted to. But, when it comes to KD, how could you say it’s just his league? Wouldn’t it be the Warriors league based on their overall team dominance spanning past the KD addition?
I also have a hard time putting him over LeBron currently. Even with two titles in Golden State, I think he’s going to need more experience, playoff experience, MVP-caliber years to get up to James’ level. But, that’s not to say he couldn’t get there by the end of his career.
Speaking of King James, knowing that he has a 3–4 finals record, if he loses to the Warriors do you believe the Cavaliers would find interest in Dwyane Wade? In my opinion, I think they should sign Wade and put JR.Smith on the bench.
At this point, I’d find it very hard to see Wade in Cleveland. The cap space would need to be made available and I just don’t see them doing that for a guy like Wade. Now, could it still happen? Sure. Anything is possible when you’re close friends with LeBron.
The NBA draft is just weeks away and this a popular question: De’Aaron Fox or Lonzo Ball if you are the Lakers and why?
Lonzo Ball without a doubt. This kid is going to be a great player in this league. I feel more confident about his ability at the next level than I did about Ben Simmons last year. His ability to read the game, make others better and defend are unique from most other draftees that I’ve seen. When I saw him at the NCAA tournament, he commanded the room and led by example. Teammates seemed to gravitate towards him and it really gave me confidence that he could be a special, special player at the next level.
Now, with that said, I do think his dad could possibly get in the way. Whether people agree or not, his father is putting a microscope on his son before he’s even played an NBA game and when he steps on that floor for the first time, his game is going to have to be almost perfect in order to not be criticized. Do I think it’s fair or right? Of course not. But, the brand, along with what his father has done and said, could affect him if he doesn’t perform right out of the gates. Even if he does, it will still be a tremendous amount of pressure that could stay with his career.
What’s a realistic draft trade ideal for any team in this years’ draft?
I think you could see Boston move their pick either after or before the draft depending on what’s out there. I think Portland with their three first round picks should be making a move given their cap situation and open roster spots. Perhaps you see a team like the Sixers, Lakers, or Timberwolves make a move for some more experienced stars in exchange for picks. Either way, it seems like it will be a busy draft.
The Phoenix Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough told, “The Brad Cesmat Show,” that he is willing to trade the number four draft pick. If you were McDonough would you trade that draft pick and for what player? Which teams would possibly be interested?
That’s a tough question. It depends on who’s available at four. I think the Suns have some serious questions regarding their small forward position. So if they could get a Tatum or Jackson, I think that’d be something worth keeping. However, if they want to win now, they’ll have to look for someone more solidified and that may be difficult. I could see a number of teams be interested.
Who do you believe is the next big thing for the NBA in this draft?
Lonzo. As I said earlier, I think he’s got the highest ceiling of any prospect in this draft. Regardless of what his father does, I think his on the court value is something you can’t find often. He’s a rare, unique talent.
Last draft question: The Celtics have the number one draft pick, it’s almost guaranteed that Markelle Fultz would be in a Celtics uniform on June 22nd. Adding Markelle Fultz to the backcourt would cause traffic for the guards. Do you believe Danny Ainge would trade Avery Bradley?
No. Bradley is probably the most valuable backcourt commodity the Celtics have. I don’t see a way they’d get rid of him. Now, Thomas? There’s more of a discussion there. Still, it’s hard to see anybody on this Boston team getting dealt.
I have to ask, my followers are anticipating this answer from you, what team do you believe is willing to give Derrick Rose another chance? What contract do you believe they would give him? Following that question, is he still a starter or a sixth man in your opinion?
Minnesota makes a lot of sense. They need an experienced, offensive minded point guard and Thibs has worked with Rose previously. I think the contract he’s given will be a “prove it” contract. Something in the range of what Rondo got last year. A one or two year contract, like 8 to 12 million a season.
Let’s shift towards the offseason. This being possibly one of the most anticipated free agency, who best fit for Carmelo Anthony personality and type of game?
I think the L.A. Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers. But more realistically, just the Clippers. He has to move and we all know he’s a family man. So I don’t know where else besides L.A. that he’d be willing to go. Perhaps, the Spurs? That’s Spurs-y, but may be too much. I think the Clippers move makes the most sense.
Chris Paul, Paul George, Blake Griffin, Kyle Lowry, Stephen Curry, Gordon Hayward and Jimmy Butler. Which player is the likeliest to be in a different uniform and which team you see him going to?
Hayward. I think he goes to Boston like everyone is talking about. He goes and plays for Stevens with a diehard fan base that’ll love him.
Let’s turn our head away from the offseason and let’s look at the future. Out of the Lakers, 76ers, Timberwolves, Knicks, Suns, and Nuggets who has the brightest future and rank them from brightest to darkest.
I think the 76ers have the most upside and the Knicks really look to be the worst of the bunch. If I were to rank them I’d probably go 76ers, Lakers, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Suns, Knicks.
Before we turn our heads to some VIP exclusive questions, what’s next for the Portland TrailBlazers? Any insights we should know about heading into next season… small forward? …. Center?
I know about as much as everyone else. I think they need to get ahold of their cap situation, find another player that can fill the small forward position, and build on last season. I think it’ll be very interesting to see what they do with these three draft picks and a full season of Nurkic. Whether they make a trade or not, Olshey has done a lot of good for this team whether people say so or not. This will be his toughest test. He’s got to improve this team to above an eight seed and in a loaded Western Conference that won’t be easy.
I saw your top 10 players of all-time list and Kobe Bryant is not on the list, why is that? In my opinion and others, Kobe is the next closest thing to MJ so why he isn’t number 2 or 3? What’s the real deal about your opinion on Kobe?
I’ll be honest, I was a HUGE Kobe fan in his early title runs with Shaq. But, the later runs I wasn’t as impressed with. Sure, he averaged 30 or more per game but he did it on poor efficiency. I think people look at him similarly to MJ in the sense that there will never be a more talented player. That’s just not the case. He was great but do we over glorify him historically? I think we do. I think you take the buzzer beaters, the memories, and those memories takeover your ability to see the truth for what it is. He was 11th on my list and I can hear arguments of possibly top-10, maybe top seven or eight. But not one through five.
VIP Questions: Would you work for ESPN full time or Fox Sports full time, if they asked you for a Job?
Obviously, this would be a dream come true for most. But, I’m honestly not sure. I like where I’m at and I’ve always gotten further by just taking things one step at a time. It’s good to have your sights set on something but I don’t need it to make me happy. Doing good work, doing consistently good work, making people happy and enjoying what I do are why I do this. That can happen anywhere, it doesn’t have to be at a big network. When or if that opportunity does arise, I’ll make a decision at that point. Until then, I don’t think I’d know.
I know this industry is full of competition, who’s your favorite sports Journalist and reporter?
Lee Jenkins of SI. Ben Golliver of SI. I also really enjoy reading Ethan Strauss, Marcus Thompson, Howard Beck, Ramona Shelburne, and Zach Lowe. As far as reporters, I’d have to say Woj and David Aldridge. As far as sideline reporters and hosts, Ernie Johnson, Rachel Nichols, Kristen Ledlow, Rosalyn Gold-Onwunde and Cassidy Hubbarth are all excellent.
Who’s your favorite NBA team and favorite player?
Right now, I’d have to say my favorite team to watch is the Warriors. How can you not like how they play?
As far as players go, man. That’s tough. Probably Steph. He’s unique and does things that defy the odds. It’s incredible to watch. I think Harden, James, Leonard, and also McCollum are guys I really enjoy watching. They all bring a different aspect of the game that makes it fun and entertaining to watch.
James has been to the finals seven straight times. Is it the noncompetitive Eastern Conference or is King James actually great? What should Adam Silver do to toughen up the East?
Nothing? I think it is fairly clear and simple. Someone needs to dethrone him. We shouldn’t have to bend or break rules to do that. Players should have a chip on their shoulders to beat him. When it happens, it’ll just be more special.