Monday, December 10, 2012

Lee Jenkins Feature on LeBron James

The latest issue of Sports Illustrated had an excellent cover story by Lee Jenkins on SI's 2012 Sportsman of the Year, LeBron James.

Most of the stories I'm writing on and linking to here are grouped together with other related pieces, but this James profile seemed to lend itself to an entire post as I was struck by the subject, the quality of the writing and probably most importantly, the construction of the piece.

In terms of James himself, I love the idea of someone who has been through different experiences than others as well as someone with great talent who also works harder than others. From a quality of writing perspective, Jenkins combines together excellent prose with what feels to be an exceptionally well organized and developed piece. To this end, below was how the structure seemed to lay out:

Section 1 (by opening photograph of James) - Jenkins creates a form of suspense by making reference to James having a goal, but not stating what that goal actually is.

Section 2 (the actual start of the piece) - Open question around the goal is resolved with an anecdote about James chasing the "best of all time" distinction. Section then went to cover how James has always been a great athlete, and especially in recent years has put in the work to improve upon that natural ability.

Section 3 - Jenkins follows up on the prior section with detail around how James through the years has both matured and improved as a player.

Section 4 - Additional detail is provided on the level James has reached through his work and mental preparation.

Section 5 - Jenkins goes back to James outside of the game and covers what he's done through his foundation and the impact on kids in Akron.

Section 6 - More detail provided on what James has both contributed to the community and provided in terms of leadership on the court. Related to this is in mention of the friendly rivalry between James and Kevin Durant (with Durant chasing James).

Section 7 - Jenkins closes off the profile with detail around the obligation James feels in each game played.

Just an excellent overall piece by Jenkins that provides some great anecdotes (an indicator of in-depth reporting) with stellar organization. Again, just my take on the writing, but short-version structure would be (A) hook, (B) hook payoff, (C) James as someone different than others... and who maximizes his ability, (D) more on James the player, (E) James the person, (F) James the player and person brought together.