At the top of his game
AT JUST 24, CHICAGO NATIVE IS A HIGH-PROFILE NBA REPORTER
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
Chicago native Shams Charania, reporter for The Athletic.