An Interview with Wendell Maxey jr

Wendell maxey jr

Wendell Maxey Jr.: Interviewed on December 1, 2006

Position: New York-based NBA reporter, Basketball News Services; shipping/receiving manager, Pottery Barn

Born: 1974, Osmond, Nebraska

Education: Portland State, 2003, liberal studies, black studies

Career: shoe salesman, 1995; Nordstrom salesman, 96; used car salesman, 97; Pottery Barn 98 – ; Basketball News Services (Hoopsworld.com and Swish Magazine), 2004 –

Personal: married, one daughter (Piper, born November 27, 2006)

Favorite restaurant (home): Sushi a Go Go, Manhattan “never enough but always so good – being from Nebraska I’m a meat and potatoes type guy and sushi doesn’t fill me up – I have to order a lot”

Favorite restaurant (road): Baja Fresh, Portland, Oregon “Mexican fresh -missionary style – I crave it”

From the Basketball News Services website:

Basketball News Services is a full service basketball specific news resource. From first hand interviews and game reviews to back-end content and content services, Basketball News Services provides a full range of professional, collegiate and amateur news products to print, radio, interactive and television media outlets.

Q. You’re a new father – congratulations.

A. Thank you. It’s amazing how things look different – stepping outside even the sunset looked a little different last night.

Q. How does a kid from Osmond, Nebraska get to New York?

A. I’m the youngest of 11 kids. My family moved to Corvalis, Oregon in 1976 and my siblings began to head out on their own. When I was 16 my Dad lost his job and moved us back to Beemer, Nebraska, where my older brother was living and working. I went to high school in Beemer (population 600) and junior college in Norfolk for a year. In ‘95 I moved back out to Portland – where I met my future wife – and we moved to the city a couple of years ago.

Q. How did you get into this line of work?

A. My girlfriend suggested I go back to school – I didn’t want to but she made me – and I started taking classes at Portland State – as a history major before I switched to liberal studies with a minor in black studies. When I finished I didn’t know what I wanted – but I loved writing. I figured if I could do a 13-page history paper what could I do writing about something I was passionate about. Being a country boy from Nebraska sports is part of growing up – especially with 11 kids. I always loved basketball – but I really wanted to write baseball. I’m a diehard Sox fan – one of the first games I remember was Game Six of the 86 Series. I fell in love with the Sox out of sympathy. When we moved to New York in 2004 they had clinched against the Yankees – my wife was crying because we were leaving Portland and I was crying because the Sox were in the Series.

My first thought was writing for a website. I didn’t think I was equipped enough to look at papers. There’s a lot of websites out there – anybody is going to shoot the moon and go for espn.com – but realistically you have to look for smaller websites. First I got connected with collegehoopsnet.com after I sent them a couple of pieces and they liked what I had to say – I did something on Sebastian Telfair. Then I came across hoopsworld.com at Basketball News Services – that’s where I’ve been for the last two years.

I thought it might be a steppingstone to get me in the direction of a newspaper or magazine or quarterly publication – I lacked the knowledge of what they’re looking for from newspaper reporters – and I thought of it as a resume builder to get where I eventually wanted to go.

Q. What do you want to be doing?

A. I think I’ve found it – I’m really excited about where I’m at now – to see how the site has grown with Basketball News Services – putting out a quarterly magazine – and now its getting advertisers. It’s a growing company.

I’m like any writer – I want to write as much and as often as I can for whomever I wish. The beauty of being a writer or sportswriter is not punching the clock, per se, but just moving in that direction – which led me to Hoopsworld. I’ve been rewarded with being credentialed and covering the Knicks the last two seasons, and contributing to Swish Magazine.

Q. Your take on the regular Knicks reporters?

A. I get envious in the media room when I see Marc Berman of the Post or Frank Isola of the News – the beat writers. Maybe it’s like a lockerroom where you have a clique – they see each other more than they see their families – it’s a community. They’re at early shoot-around every day, on the beat, and here I come trying to get my feet wet.

My editor is telling me I have credentials for the Knicks and Nets – but what background do I have? How do I go about it – they don’t tell you – they pretty much throw you into the fire – which is great.

Experience may be the best way to learn rather than J-School – so I feel I have a leg up. But I look around and see guys who have been doing it for 10 years and I’m thinking I want to do that – for the long haul. To have the satisfaction of doing a job and loving it and swapping stories and schmoozing at the arena about away games – I miss out when they’re on the road.

When they’re at home I feel like I’m in there with the beat writers when they’re trying to make their deadline at 11:30. I write after the game – so they can see we’re working toward the same thing – I want to show them I’m not just writing for the website. I want to experience what they are – it’s a kind of osmosis – that’s why I write after the game – I could go home and write. I’m looking to go home to my wife, but when these guys are sitting there writing it’s just so motivating. I want to sit there and hear them sigh or mumble or drop an f-bomb about somebody and be in that element. That’s where the fuel for the passion comes – to be there and hear the keys going – it’s motivating.

Q. So you look at beat reporting as a desireable fraternity?

A. It’s always part of sports. Loving sports as much as I do you love the things that surround it – as a kid you watch the post-game coverage and see the guys in the lockeroom and you wonder how they got there.

Have you seen the trailer for Will Smith’s new film, “The Pursuit of Happyness”, where he says to the guy with the fancy car, “What do you do and how do you do it?” Same thing I think about these guys – watching them covering the games – I’d love to do that. I’d love to be at the arena and feel in the moment – like you’re part of it.

I’m not even in the first four rows. At the Garden sometimes they stick you up in Row 300 with Joe Public. When I covered the Nets and Heat last year in the playoffs I was seventh row baseline. I felt more a part of it.

Q. You have a day job?

A. Yes. I’m a shipping and receiving manager at Pottery Barn. Have been for nine years – 40 hours a week – 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. That’s my regular job.

It’s a company that is people first – they want you to have family outside of work – everybody has side jobs and things they’re aspiring to do. Some love the work. It involves lifting 400-pound dining tables and schlepping to get boxes out – it’s a grind. You have a lot of time to think about what it is you really want to do. Listening to customer is one thing but listening to your heart is more important.

Q. How much time do you spend covering basketball?

A. More than my wife wants me to – I get up at 5. We’re assigned teams to cover and do game coverage – I have the Knicks. Being from Portland I still do a team report on Portland on Saturday mornings and the Cleveland Cavaliers are assigned to me Monday and Thursday.

My first year I covered on a game-by-game basis and I established a relationship with the Knicks. I used the summer to work my tail off and write as much as possible and make contacts and I earned myself a credential for every home game. If the Knicks are at the Garden Monday, Wednesday and Saturday that’s an additional three stories. My editor also likes a one-on-one interview. We work on a daily deadline usually so I have to have something up seven times a week – maybe five or six if the Knicks are on a road trip – but never less than four. You really have to be hungry for it and work for it – that’s what I used the summer for.

Q. What’s a typical game like for you?

A. I might get to the Garden and do a pre-game interview – it might be an exclusive with Jamaal Crawford or Nate Robinson and I might put it up before the game. I always get there at 5:30 for the pre-game shoot-around and grab somebody coming off the court – they’re eager to get out but they’ll take five or six questions before heading to the lockerroom. I try not to run with the pack – if six guys are talking to Marbury I’ll go to David Lee in the corner – to get something unique or exclusive. We talk while they’re walking to the lockerroom.

Then I’m required to do a game-time story – setting the tone beforehand – or I might do it afterward and give the rundown. Do I need to write after the game? – no – but that’s the difference between Bob Ryan and the guy who left as soon as he got his audio and was out the door. One night I stayed late and a week later NBA TV contacted me and interviewed me before the Knicks-Rockets game – 10 minutes. I felt like it was a godsend – if I hadn’t stuck around to write that story they wouldn’t have asked me.

They wanted me to elaborate on Isaiah getting tossed. I took one year of broadcasting at a community college in Nebraska 10 years ago – I looked at what I did and picked it apart – I shouldn’t have said this and I rambled here and needed to be tighter there.

Q. When do you write at home?

A. Usually early in the morning – from 5 to 6. Then I work from 7 to 4, and on game nights I come home, shower – I want to look good and feel good – and get to the Garden by 5:30. On days I’m home I’m researching and constantly checking my e-mail – I feel I have to continually write because you’re only as good as your next story. Why wait for a deadline – there’s so much to write about – especially here.

I’m good with four or five hours of sleep – I don’t know if it’s been God’s way of saying you’ve got a baby coming – but it’s worked for me.

Q. You get by on four to five hours of sleep?

A. I have to. And I want to. I pray about it all the time and that definitely helps. My Dad – Wendell Maxey Sr. – passed away a couple of years ago. He worked non-stop – with 11 kids you don’t have any choice. He worked at a paper mill for years and years, and he worked putting up irrigation systems in Nebraska. He worked construction. He was always at work – when I think about him not being here I think he had to do that – he couldn’t say I want to be a writer – he loved working with wood and crafting but he had to support a family and he was gone all the time – he had to grind it out. It was mixed blessing for me – he passed down his work ethic but he also made me consider going after something I’m passionate about – maybe he wanted to but he never had a chance.

Q. You minored in black studies – does that help you cover the NBA?

A. It definitely does. Different cultural upbringings and lifestyles don’t faze me. Hey, I’m a product of my environment just like African-American people are. I grew up listening to rap – to Public Enemy. I read Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. Why not try to understand where somebody else is coming from? I take everything I learned in black studies – it makes me value people more – and I try to see where people are coming from. The idea is to be tolerant and find common ground – so it does help.

Q. Writers you admire?

A. Early on it was Bob Ryan. Most of my impressions of reporters came from “All the President’s Men”, and “Shadow Box” by George Plympton, and “48 Minutes” by Bob Ryan. Those are books you cling to – I always go back to those see how Mr. Ryan turns a phrase or describes details at the Garden. Now that I’m at the Garden more I read the beat writers – Frank Isola just doesn’t pull any punches but he knows not to bite the hand that feeds him. He’s entertaining and candid on his blog – he shoots from the hip and I love that. I read Howard Beck (NY Times) – he does a good job of representing the Times, which I view as a prestigious side of journalism.

The Post and Daily News might be considered rags – they do tabloid journalism – but when I’m at games I see these guys working and I just have to admire them.

Why wouldn’t I want to stay late and work beside these guys and see their work ethic and what they get in their papers. First thing in the morning I look at their stuff to see how they did it versus how I would have approached it. I use their stuff as a training tool – what did they see and hear that I didn’t. When I’m in the lockerroom I observe them to see how they go about it.

Opening night when the Knicks hosted the Pacers I walked into the media room and there was Bob Ryan – Boston was in Washington, what was he doing here – but it’s always great to see these guys.

(SMG thanks Wendell Maxey Jr. for his cooperation)

I get my meals early in the morning or late at night – that’s when I can get food.

Hours a week? 40 hours and 30 hours

When youre hugnery you got to eat – I get my meals early morning or late at night – thts when I can get it

Newborn – c section – Monday – baby girl 9 lbs 4 oz – cutie – piper

Amazed at how things look diff – stepping outside even sunset looked a little diffent last night

I didn’t go to journalist schoool – doing this holding own hand while youre doing it – site gives me insight

Beemer, nebr

Born, Osmond, neb, 1974 (NE Nebraska) similar to beemer 600-700

Covers the New Jersey Nets and The New York Knicks.

Based in New York, Wendell serves as a NBA Reporter for Basketball News Services. Wendell has covered the NBA as media for the past season. Wendell is available for radio and television appearances.

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By Basketball News Services

Jan 18, 2004, 12:20

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