The cream of the crop show their best crossover moves as roles are reversed and interviewer becomes interviewee.
“A sports blog to me has always been like a sports specific journal on steroids”.
This quote encapsulates what Royce Young brings to the Daily Thunder –a dedicated OKC Thunder blog on the ESPN True Hoops network — and subsequently Eye on Basketball, the blog he co-commandeers with Matt Moore and Zach Harper. Seattle’s loss was not only OKC’s gain but also that of every NBA fan, as it brought with it the opportunity for the 2008, University of Oklahoma journalism graduate to show the basketball world just what he was capable of. Witty, knowledgeable and always candid, Young has established an extensive online Twitter following.
With this new installment of the interview series, we at The Pick and Roll are rolling out (yes – pun intended!), Royce talks about the Seattle backlash, his favourite writer and more. Is he living the everyman’s fan dream by writing NBA, breathing OKC every day? Is the online negativity worth it all?
Read and find out.
1. You have been operating the Daily Thunder for about five years now. Could you provide a bit of insight as to how and when you got involved?
Basically, the cliffnotes of the story is that I was a journalism student at the University of Oklahoma in my final semester and the team relocated to Oklahoma City. I had an irresistible urge to write about some of the first things that happened with the team — the name, the logo, the colors, the uniforms — and decided I’d start a little blog, more for myself than anything else. Apparently it was a hit and here we are.
2. What were some of the biggest challenges you have faced in the development of Daily Thunder?
Early on, the anger from Seattle was tough to deal with. It seemed like every comment was about me personally or about my city and state. It got old very fast and made it hard to want to spend time writing and working on something, only to have it taken down with personal attacks and over-the-top language.
3. There was a bit of angst when the Seattle franchise was relocated and became the Thunder. How have you viewed the transition, and were there any aspects of the change you felt were done very well, or could have been improved?
I’ve always said that I hated the way OKC got its team. I wouldn’t say that Clay Bennett “stole” the team, because you can’t really steal something you own, but when he purchased the Sonics it was pretty obvious what his intent was. The breakup was always going to be messy and ugly because we’re talking about pulling away a franchise that had spent 41 seasons in Seattle. There was a ton of history and connection there.
4. How have you seen the development of the blog, you as a writer and the importance of social media in today’s NBA?
I’ve learned a whole lot over the last five years about how I like to write, what I’m good at writing and how to come up with ideas to write about. As for social media, it’s everything, I think. If you’re not doing Twitter, and doing it well, you’re doing it wrong. It’s frustrating, but snap takes on Twitter are almost as important as 1100-word columns.
5. Have you got any tips for people such as myself who are passionate about the NBA and would like to pursue a career in sports writing / blogging / journalism?
I think the biggest things to focus on are yourself and not worry so much about “making it.” I think when anyone starts anything in today’s world, they’re looking for instant gratification. It’s hard work to build a readership. You’ve got to be consistent, you’ve got to be good and you’ve got to be reliable. To me, those things are what’s most important. It’s easy to start a blog. It’s not so easy to keep one going.
6. Blogging for the Thunder seems like a perfect job. In your opinion, what are some of the more challenging aspects of the role?
Sometimes trying to remain as objective as possible (while still being a fan) is difficult. You don’t want to get wrapped up in the team or players or whatever and not tell it like it is. That’s hard.
7. You have your “finger on the pulse” when it comes to the Oklahoma City Thunder. From an “expert” perspective, how do you see the model of the franchise (draft, develop, sustainable success etc?)
It’s an excellent way to build an organization. But it takes patience, and a fanbase that buys in. It also takes drafting Kevin Durant. The Thunder model has worked for a lot of reasons, but as much of it has been good luck with Durant, and then an incredible developmental system to help produce players like Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka. You can’t just pick a player and say, “Good luck!” You’ve got to build them.
8. If you had to pick one, what would be your favourite moment with the Daily Thunder, and why?
Has to be the moment Kendrick Perkins punched down a dunk in Game 6 against the Spurs, Kevin Durant hugged his family and Oklahoma City headed to the NBA Finals.
9. What has been the best interview you have ever conducted, and why?
Good question. I had a really great conversation last year with Kevin Durant about Twitter and social media where he talked a lot about all the vile comments he gets and how hurtful it can be.
10. Do you attend all the Thunder home games? What about away games?
Yep, every home game, but rarely on the road.
11. You also do some work for CBS sports. How does that differ to what you do with Daily Thunder? Which is more fun for you, and why?
With CBS, I write about the entire NBA and am part of a writing staff, rather than at Daily Thunder where I run the show. I love CBS and love working there, but the Thunder are kind of my passion, so I probably enjoy that more.
12. If you could target a couple of people in the field of journalism / sports journalism to list as favourites and / or influences, who would they be?
I feel like every sportswriter my age idolizes Bill Simmons. But after him, too many to list. Henry Abbott, Zach Lowe, Kevin Arnovitz and on and on.
13. Finally, who wins this year’s NBA championship? Can the Heat hold on, or are the Thunder a red-hot chance? Or would you have your bet on a sleeper sneaking into the Finals?
The Heat have to be the favorite again. Kind of hard to go against them at this point. I think the sleeper would probably be the Warriors. Good health and good playoff matchups and they could make a surprise Finals run, I think.
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