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10 Years of The Pick and Roll: Winston Zhang
“Thanks for the submission, but please wait for a prompt or assignment next time.”
Thus began my stint writing for The Pick and Roll (PnR): a mild rebuke for over-enthusiasm. Still, my draft was accepted and published (after some editing), which I think is emblematic of my time at PnR - I was afforded the space to do my own thing, but with guidance that was aimed at maximising what I brought to the table.
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Right place, right time
It was exactly the outlet I needed. At the time, in 2014, I was doing my undergraduate studies at the University of Melbourne, and - more importantly - I was a frustrated wannabe writer. Full of thoughts and opinions about the NBA and with only a personal blog to express them on, I was craving any kind of larger platform. A friend dropped me a link to the The Pick and Roll’s writer application page, and I was off to the races.
Well, actually, not quite. My application was accepted and I was added to a private Facebook group, but there wasn’t any kind of induction or orientation. As a Singaporean —an alien, a legal alien— in Melbourne, I scanned the group member list and zeroed in on the guy with the familiar-looking surname: Kein Chua. Kein turned out to be one of the co-founders of the site, and he got me all set up.
(He was also the guy who chided me for my false start after I submitted an article on Chris Bosh before anyone could tell me what to do.)
Anyway, what followed was a regular writing schedule and assignments that provided structure and responsibility to what once were just stray, unharnessed energies. It was the first step towards me becoming the professional writer and editor that I am today.
A growing love
Of course, it wasn’t just Kein I talked to. When the site shifted focus from general NBA content to more niche Australia-focused content - a necessary change, by the way - I was part of a group that wrote about the Aussies plying their trade in the NBA. It was a fun bunch of people, and I’ll never forget the banter I shared with one Jayme Markus. Him being a San Antonio Spurs fan and me a Dallas Mavericks supporter, you could argue it was inevitable, but we played off each other very well.
It was also during this time that I developed an interest and, eventually, a lifelong fondness for any Australian that makes it in the NBA. To be perfectly frank, I was mildly apprehensive about the shift to Oz content at first, simply because there weren’t any Aussie stars in the Association at the time and all I really wanted to do was write about the Mavs and the NBA at large. Andrew Bogut was the best of a somewhat underwhelming bunch, and his gruesome injury as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks had reduced him to a role player.
Still, I decided to give it a shot, taking responsibility for reporting on the exploits of Bogut and Dante Exum. I grew to really like the pair - Bogut for being a rugged, take-no-shit cog in the early days of the Golden State Warriors dynasty, and Exum for his flashes of potential that unfortunately never amounted to all that much.
If needed, I also helped to write pieces on Patty Mills and Joe Ingles, two of the most likable professional athletes ever. And my interest grew even further when Bogut was traded to the Mavs and, later, Ryan Broekhoff signed to play alongside Dirk Nowitzki and the rest of them.
(Of course, it helped that Broekhoff consistently retweeted my articles on him. I will love him forever, just for that.)
As an aside, PnR even got me onto a conference call interview with Nowitzki once. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a question in, but getting that close to my idol was an unbelievable dream come true. Writing about it now still feels surreal.
In a nutshell, this period of writing for PnR exposed me to writing discipline and team camaraderie, and showed me the wonderful possibilities that can come with taking a chance on something unfamiliar.
These are all things that I see reflected in how I write now, in my full-time job, as well as how I manage my small team of writers as Managing Editor for partnership content at Tech in Asia, a regional business, tech, and startup-focused publication.
Essentially, my time with PnR helped shape my ideals as a professional.
Beyond the page
Although I haven’t written for the site since 2020, I still maintain contact with Kein - it’s why I’m penning this piece. Over the years, he’s been a boss, mentor, and friend, and whenever he drops by Singapore, I make it a point to catch up with him.
We talk about a bunch of stuff - basketball, manga, and even just life in general. Most recently, I started collecting basketball cards, and he helped me get started with some useful links.
All in all, it’s no exaggeration to say that writing for The Pick and Roll changed my life. So much of what I am now —as a professional and as a person— has its seeds in my time with the publication, and to see it hit 10 years brings a lot of pride and joy, even if I was only around for about half of it.
I will always root for the Aussie Boomers and The Pick and Roll, no matter what else I do or wherever I go in life. It’s a love that’ll never die.
To many more decades ahead, Team Pick and Roll!