As usual, the NBA offseason provided fireworks in 2018, with a ton of player movement and plenty of summer storylines to monitor. In the recent past, though, some of the more intriguing shuffling has emanated from the media world, where NBA players like Damian Lillard have amusingly broken the news of writers changing jobs on the eve of the 2018-19 campaign.
On Monday evening, though, a stunning and interesting bombshell emerged, as Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news that Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins will be leaving his post as a writer in favor of a front office position with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Sports Illustrated has acknowledged the defection of Jenkins and, in something of an official announcement, the 40-year-old writer paid tribute to his now-former employer. Jenkins indicated that he “would not leave for another media outlet” but referred to his new journey as “an extraordinary opportunity” and a chance to see the NBA “from a different angle” in the future.
In addition, he shared extended thoughts with ESPN.
“In our line of work, we ask questions from different angles, assemble information in different ways,” Jenkins said. “We try to put it together like puzzles, until we’ve formed a portrait of a person. I’m going to try to bring that same process to the Clippers in hopes it will complement what their incredible group of evaluators already accomplish. This team is interested not just in what players do but who they are — how they’re wired, how they’re motivated — and that’s an area I love to explore.”
While rare, this is not the first transition from writing to an NBA front office, as John Hollinger famously left ESPN for a role with the Memphis Grizzlies (one he still occupies) and, more recently, Luke Winn left Sports Illustrated for a role with the Toronto Raptors. Still, Jenkins does not have the traditional background for this kind of move, as the path of Hollinger stemmed from an analytically inclined approach, while Jenkins is best known for his tremendous work in the area of storytelling and feature writing.
From a big-picture perspective, it will be interesting to see what the Clippers’ vision for Jenkins and his new role will be, particularly with a title like “Executive Director of Research and Identity.” More narrowly, Jenkins leaving the basketball writing world will leave a void in that his work in the space was highly memorable.