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10 Years of The Pick and Roll: Ben Mallis
Life has a funny habit of coming full circle.
This past week I relocated from Perth to Melbourne and while settling into my new Richmond home, I stumbled across a familiar cafe. To say familiar is an extension of the truth, but there was a strong sense of nostalgia as I collected my morning coffee. The origins of this feeling were not immediately obvious, but when sitting down to write this article a few days later, the mental jigsaw puzzle slid into place. The café on Bridge Road that felt comfortable was remarkably the location where I first met Kein in 2016 to discuss getting involved with The Pick and Roll. I guess it’s an apt time to sit back and reflect.
The Pick and Roll was an established brand long before I ever got involved. That is why the aforementioned meeting in 2016 was a pivot point in my life. I was a 25 year old looking for meaning, and my then ambition rested with accessing NBA basketball and getting over to North America. There was a desire to explore the world of NBA basketball and experience the sporting subculture up close. To be frank, my desires were simple and cheeky: I wanted to tell stories about Australians performing around the world, while simultaneously getting free access to NBA games. The latter motive was driving things more than the former, it must be said.
Upon reflection, it’s little surprise my lasting memory from an initial meeting with Kein was his pledge to assist. Work with us, he said, and we’ll turn you into a better writer, while also assisting in your quest to get credentialed to NBA games. I was quickly hooked. Six months later I was off to North America, landing in Salt Lake City to attend my first NBA game, at the beginning of what was a 14 games in 30 nights jaunt around North America.
I have been blessed to scratch a journalistic itch over the past seven years. The Pick and Roll has been the partner I needed to turn a juvenile dream into a reality. The past seven years have included a litany of life changing memories. I attended over 100 NBA games as credentialed media, covered multiple NBA All-Star weekends and witnessed Kawhi Leonard’s shot of the decade in person.
The games will always be the micro memories that last, although the more impactful reflections are based on the relationships built along the way. The Pick and Roll connected me meet people I idolised since high school, while also introducing to me a number of women and men who leverage sport to chase their dreams. For me, that is the power of sports media done right. Many writers, with greater talents than mine, have combined to build this website over the past decade. Sports are a vehicle through which we can all attach our beliefs and chase our dreams. The Pick and Roll is, in my very biased opinion, one of the best platforms for this type of storytelling in Australia.
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The story arc of the Boomers falling short in Rio, then again in China, before finally claiming that maiden medal in Tokyo has coincided with my time alongside The Pick and Roll. Relieving this quest with Boomers past and present has been a thrill. The pain I heard in Luc Longley’s voice, when discussing the end of 2016’s defeat to Spain in Rio, has stuck with me. Perhaps that is a confronting insight into my mindset, but the endearing nature of this pursuit of something bigger than himself has stuck with me. An actual medal wasn’t the important thing; achieving a goal for his community was the larger, and more impactful, quest he was on.
In a similar vein, one of my favourite memories was a ten-minute chat with Deng Adel in the bows of Wells Fargo Center during winter of 2019. Adel was a successful athlete, playing in the G League, as he chased his NBA dream. But he spoke of a bigger meaning that morning. Adel explained what an NBA jersey would mean for his family and everyone that sacrificed for him to be standing in Philadelphia on that frosty morning. There was a bigger game at play. Two weeks later, Adel made his NBA debut in Denver.
I have not spoken with, nor seen Adel, since that day in Philadelphia but his journey sticks with me. I, along with everyone at the Pick and Roll, are irrelevant footnotes on the journeys of athletes like Adel. Yet I strongly believe the power of sport is its ability to unite and inspire through the actions of others. Adel was the example I witnessed up close, and The Pick and Roll’s ability to tell similar stories, across all genders and skill levels is the reason why this website has survived for over a decade.
I hope that I personally have produced some great content along the way. But I know The Pick and Roll has positively impacted the industry. The sporting media landscape in this country is trending upwards, albeit from a low base when it comes to the non-football codes. The legacy of this website comes in the form of Kane getting his full time job at ESPN, Hayley doing great things in her career and Jacob following suit.
Seven years, and a litany of life changing memories, later I am thankful for The Pick and Roll. Jubilant, actually, that I found that Kein sitting inside that little café in Richmond in 2016. Just like how life has drawn me back to that spot this week, I am hopeful The Pick and Roll keeps attracting sporting fans for another decade to come.