For years, the first word in NBA news was a St. Bonaventure grad working for Yahoo Sports. Adrian Wojnarowski became the leading voice in breaking NBA news, and for good reason. He always seemed to be first, beating out bigger, seemingly more well-connected outlets like ESPN for the biggest stories in hoops.
At his peak, Woj was four or five picks ahead of the NBA Draft broadcast on ESPN, making people on Twitter feel like they were living in the future. His breaking news tweets became “Woj bombs” and fans reacted with glee when he would break a big trade or signing.
Yahoo reacted by letting him create The Vertical, a basketball site where he recruited reporters and hosted live video shows that would get huge numbers. One of those reporters Woj recruited was Shams Charania, who quickly stood out at The Vertical when Woj left Yahoo last month to join his once-rival ESPN.
It was easy to wonder what would change at The Vertical with Woj gone, but it appears that the site is sticking around for the long haul. And Charania soon positioned himself as the site’s most notable newsbreaker.
While Wojnarowski became “more visible” on ESPN’s broadcast, it hasn’t been without its hurdles. And some believe Charania has taken advantage of this transition to position himself as the new Woj at The Vertical.
The fan narrative here has been pretty strong, with people devoting a good amount of time to photoshop memes of Shams and Woj squaring off.
Perhaps the best example of this was an edited image that came from Woj accidentally walking into a live shot on ESPN on the Fourth of July.
While Woj is getting the hang of being on television and reporting live on camera on a regular basis, Shams seems to be playing the hits and getting word of important NBA decisions out there first. Even on smaller moves, the measuring mark is who got it first: Shams or Woj?
NBA fans have their teams, but these days they also root for their preferred reporter as well.
How do you get breaking information first? Never sleeping, for one. And maybe having one of the most extensive networks of contacts in the business. It’s easy to wonder how much you miss sitting in makeup and practicing for live shots.
And it seems like Shams is willing to stay up all night for a scoop. Charania tweeted out the signing of European star Ekpe Udoh past 4 a.m. early Thursday morning, making Twitter followers yell at him to go to bed.
Shams is certainly seen as the underdog here and he has his supporters, but many out there still stan for Woj.
Woj and Shams are far from the only NBA reporters breaking stories, by the way. Neither of them were first on the Gordon Hayward, with Woj himself getting beat by a fellow ESPN reporter. And Ramona Shelburne had it first that Paul George was getting traded to Oklahoma City.
But Wojnarowski is clearly the new face of ESPN’s NBA media arm, and The Vertical is still seen as its main reporting competition. The rivalry between Wojnarowski and Charania may not even be real, but it’s too convenient for NBA fans to ignore. There are dozens of photoshops of Shams dunking on Woj, and vice versa. And Charania’s breaking tweets now get the “SHAMS” replies that are very familiar to anyone who is used to seeing exclamations of “WOJ!” and “WOJ BOMB” in their feeds.
It’s a fun narrative that’s not going anyway anytime soon. Any time NBA news breaks, people will rush to see who got it first. Then they will rush to see who didn’t have it. The replies will be brutal on both ends and, at the very least, a battle between Wojnarowski and Chamania is much more compelling matchup than anyone in the Association can currently give the Warriors.