At the top of his game

AT JUST 24, CHICAGO NA­TIVE IS A HIGH-PRO­FILE NBA RE­PORTER

Red Eye Chicago - - Sports - By Adam Lukach

In life, ex­pe­ri­ence rules. This is the con­ven­tional wis­dom, but, of course, there are al­ways ex­cep­tions.

In the case of Shams Cha­ra­nia and NBA re­port­ing — where the bar to en­try is gen­er­ally quite high — he stands as an ex­treme anom­aly.

At just 24 years old, Cha­ra­nia al­ready stands as one of the most-fol­lowed, high­est-pro­file NBA re­porters in the biz. In a league where player move­ment and off­sea­son drama have taken cen­ter stage, scoops have be­come cur­rency for me­dia mem­bers, and few folks get scoops like Cha­ra­nia.

The path he took to reach this point might be even more im­pres­sive than his work: Cha­ra­nia made his own way, es­sen­tially, cold-con­tact­ing peo­ple in the league be­gin­ning at age 17 and re­lent­lessly work­ing (and net­work­ing) from there. He has been break­ing news since his teen years, even­tu­ally gain­ing a na­tional pro­file and a job at Ya­hoo Sports with some of the big­gest bas­ket­ball re­porters in the biz — all the while at­tend­ing Loy­ola Univer­sity in Rogers Park.

This sum­mer, Cha­ra­nia broke some news of his own: Af­ter sev­eral years at Ya­hoo, he moved to The Ath­letic, a bur­geon­ing net­work of dig­i­tal sports pub­li­ca­tions that has landed sev­eral high-pro­file sports­writers in re­cent years, in­clud­ing Cha­ra­nia. He’s now se­nior NBA in­sider and an­a­lyst for The Ath­letic and Sta­dium.

With the NBA sea­son ap­proach­ing, Cha­ra­nia spoke about his plans for his new gig, the Bulls’ up­com­ing sea­son and what it was like bal­anc­ing break­ing news and go­ing to class dur­ing his time at Loy­ola.

Q: Ya­hoo was where you re­ally made your name. Both emo­tion­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally, can you talk about ev­ery­thing that went into the de­ci­sion to move to The Ath­letic, and what led up to it?

A: I’ve al­ways tried to be so fo­cused on the work, so it was def­i­nitely in­ter­est­ing in talk­ing to Ya­hoo and ev­ery­one else that be­came in­volved in the process. But just through­out it all, I got the best sense from The Ath­letic and Sta­dium about their hunger and their de­sire to cover the league at a re­ally high level. Both plat­forms are re­ally de­vel­op­ing and grow­ing, and I see my­self the same way. I'm still de­vel­op­ing. I'm still grow­ing. So to be able to in­volve my­self with that made all the sense in the world.

Q: Yes, that was a great crew over there. What was that like as a young per­son?

A: A lot of it for me in gen­eral has been just the con­fi­dence that I’ve able to get. There were days, nights, dur­ing my se­nior year of high school, my fresh­man and sopho­more years of col­lege, I’d be driv­ing three-and-a-half hours from In­di­anapo­lis, and I would have like a fi­nal the next day, or I’d be driv­ing home from Mil­wau­kee at like one or two in the morn­ing af­ter a play­off game and af­ter writ­ing. I would be like, “What am I do­ing?”

A lot of it was wing­ing it, and just try­ing to put in the work and be present. That’s why I think be­ing present is so im­por­tant. But yeah, just to get the val­i­da­tion from a lot of writ­ers that I looked up to — Adrian Wo­j­narowski, Lee Jenk­ins, Brian Wind­horst — those are guys that I idol­ize. So it was def­i­nitely a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Q: You men­tioned con­fi­dence. How did you, at such a young age, fake that con­fi­dence or de­velop that con­fi­dence?

A: Fake it ’til you make it, right? I think the big­gest thing was that no one knew how young I was when I was first cold­call­ing, cold-tex­ting, cold-email­ing. Not in a nega­tive way, be­cause if any­one ever asked, I would tell them. But it’s not like the first ques­tion peo­ple ask you on a daily ba­sis, if you’re talk­ing to them over the phone or email or text mes­sages. It’s not, “Hey, how old are you?” It’s more about get­ting a sense of the per­son. It’s about re­la­tion­ships at the end of the day, and I’ve al­ways had to put that first and fore­most.

Q: The NBA off-sea­son seems like it’s al­most be­come as much of an event as the games them­selves.

A: No ques­tion.

Q: What is your ap­proach is to the sum­mer­time crazi­ness, as well as your thoughts on that time of year and how it’s grown?

A: I loved this trans­ac­tional and be­hindthe-scenes stuff grow­ing up. This is what all my friends in mid­dle school and high school grew up re­ally pay­ing at­ten­tion to: We were scrolling RealGM and Hoop­sHype. At that point — in 2008, 2007, 2006 — Twit­ter wasn’t re­ally as ac­tive as it is now, but we were def­i­nitely re­fresh­ing Hoop­sHype and RealGM. That’s how I grew up, and I think that love and that pas­sion for that as­pect of the in­dus­try and the NBA and bas­ket­ball as a whole drives me ev­ery sin­gle day.

Q: I wanted to ask about your time at

STA­DIUM

Chicago na­tive Shams Cha­ra­nia, re­porter for The Ath­letic.

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