The day I shot Lebron

When I went to USA Men’s Basketball practice on Thursday, Aug. 9, I did what every Clevelander has wanted to do for years. I shot LeBron James.

Well, sort of.

Let’s rewind to the lobby before practice. Tim, Chris and I were sitting at a table making a game plan as reporters from ESPN and NBC stood around us. While they were calm and collected, I sat at the table with Tim’s words ringing in my ears. “Kerry, these are arguably the most famous athletes in the world.” Thanks Tim.

We decided that I would take pictures during the practice while the two boys went out and got quotes. Some people might have been mad that they were not going to be talking to players, but I knew this was the best choice for me. There are few places that I am more comfortable than behind a camera, and the nerves before the practice made it clear that I would not be able to make an audible sentence.

After two hours of waiting, the media was let into the practice. When we walked through the doors, I froze. All I saw was camera crews and reporters surrounding chairs that I could only assume were occupied by athletes. I took a deep breath, and dove into the swarm. That was the first time I shot Lebron. He sat there with his Beats on, microphones just inches away from his mouth as he talked in a low voice. I got some good pictures and went to find Tim and Chris.

The two had asked me to make sure I got pictures of them interviewing athletes. They said it was for their stories, but I know they really just wanted a new Facebook profile picture. After a few shots of them, I was drawn to Kobe. He sat in a chair with media surrounding him as well, but he was much more receptive to the attention. His face was so expressive, and his personality really reflected in the pictures.

I then recognized Coach K, a man that my older sister is a huge fan of. I went to take a picture of him for her, when he was suddenly swarmed with reporters too! It was as if everybody noticed his presence, and then he was the only one in the room. Chris went over to interview him, and when I got in to take pictures, an ESPN photographer shoved me. After throwing a dirty look and an “Excuse me, I’m not moving,” he rolled his eyes and called me sassy. I think that I was made for this industry.

A few minutes later, LeBron started shooting free throws for photographers. I got on the key to get some pictures, when one of the shots rebounded off of the rim and towards my head. I caught the ball and went to throw it back to the superstar, but I froze when he put his hands out to catch it. My jaw dropped and he laughed at me, along with a number of other reporters.

We were shooed out of the gym and back into the lobby, where Chris, Tim and myself had a giddy moment of excitement before heading back to the train. Having the opportunity to shoot some of the biggest athletes at the age of 18 is something that I will always remember, and am extremely grateful for.

USA Men Prepare for Rematch of 2008 Finals against Spain

London, England – The United States men’s basketball is undoubtedly the favorite in the Olympic competition, and anything less than gold would be a shame. However, the team is getting used to the pressure.

“We have expectations on us to win every single game. If we lost an exhibition game, it would be the biggest news,” said Kevin Durant. “We went through that in 2010 in the World Championships. We can’t let that affect us. We have to come out and play our game.”

The United States took home the gold medal in 2008, only four years after they had fallen apart in Athens, claiming only a bronze medal. This team has been put together differently, though. Most of the players have played on an Olympic team and in the World Championships and have put years of commitment into the Gold medal pursuit.

“You feel the pressure, but every athlete here has to deal with pressure,” said Kobe Bryant. “Every event in every sport has a favorite. It’s part of what we do.”

The team will match up with a Spanish team that gave them a close ballgame four years ago. The U.S. won 118-107. The Spanish are led by a trio of talented big men in Pau and Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Durant
USA forward Kevin Durant speaks with media on Saturday before practice to prepare for a Gold medal matchup with Spain.

“Pau is one of the best players in the world. We are obviously very concerned about him,” said Bryant.

Spain is a better team than they were in 2008,” said LeBron James. “They have a great team. I am not surprised we are playing them.”

Spain has been a defensive minded team throughout the Olympics, holding opponents to only 73 points per game. On the other hand, the USA has been dominant offensively, shooting 45 percent from three-point range and averaging nearly 117 points per game. However, the Americans aren’t going to take Spain’s offense lightly.

“Offense will come because we have so many great shooters,” Durant said. “On the defensive end, we have to do what we have been doing by getting steals and forcing turnovers. We all have to be locked in and ready to play.”

Krzyewski prepares Team USA for a gold medal final

Mike Krzyewski locked his hands behind his back as he stood with statuesque calmness in an East London gym, thousands of miles away from the indoor stadium where he’s affectionately known as Coach K.

Mike Krzyewski talks with the media before practice. (Photo by Kerry Crump)

“Really you’re always playing an away game,” said Krzyewski. “We’ve gotten as accustomed as we can to it.”

Krzyewski, the Duke head coach and West Point graduate, has to rally his troop of NBA superstars to perform on an international stage. In London, the stage is one decorated differently from when NBA fans last saw the Heat and Thunder battle it out in late June. A shorter three point line, 10 minute quarters and different substitution rules are just a few of the minor differences.

When it comes to the gameplay, even NBA players with otherworldly talent have to adjust their game if they want to beat their international counterparts.

“You see more zone defense, which makes holes to drive the ball, so you try and drive and kick,” said Oklahoma Thunder forward Kevin Durant.

Durant’s Thunder teammate, James Harden, has found that despite some initial challenges, the adjustment to international basketball after a long NBA season comes easier with this group of players.

“The whole game and style of play is different than the NBA,” he said. “There is no hard part when there are 12 of the best players in the world on your team.”

Even with Team USA’s experience, Krzyewski, Division I college basketball’s all-time wins leader, has been around the game long enough to know nothing is ever a sure thing.

“I get blinders on with everything,” he said. “It’s a huge game and I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a lot of huge games and this is the next one.”

Team USA, who took home the 2010 FIBA World Championship, has glided into the championship round of the Olympic tournament.

“We’re more prepared than most U.S. teams in the past for that, but the guys who have played now longer have become more familiar with it,” said Krzyewski

Sunday, Team USA will take on Spain, the team widely believed to give Krzyewski and his players their biggest scare yet. After telling the Associated Press that this game would be his final one as Team USA head coach, Krzyewski will get the chance to go out on top as an Olympic champion. But if he’s affected by the emotions of a gold medal chase, Krzyewski said he isn’t moved.

“I’m just focused as a competitor,” he said.

Journalism has its perks

This trip is full of surprises. Since I am an aspiring journalist, I don’t mind. I think surprises are what make my life entertaining. Surprises, like the car that speeds by, drenching me with a mixture of puddle water and dirt, or the first taste of cereal when the milk that you poured surprisingly has been bad since a week or two ago.

I love surprises. Little did I realize, I would actually enjoy the surprise I received on Wednesday.

But first, Monday: After class we toured The Guardian, a national British newspaper in Berliner format. It was beautiful. I loved the modern, edgy news station. It had colored furniture, a laid back atmosphere, and coffee everywhere. I could see myself working in a place like The Guardian. My classmate and fellow Londoner, Holly Moody describes our tour way better than I ever could.

Wednesday:

Kayla and I were interested in a couple of the wrestlers on the Olympic team for stories. Coleman Scott, the wrestler from Waynesburg that I mentioned a few posts back, was someone I really wanted to do a story about. He grew up 15 minutes from my house and he has a huge following in that area, and now he was in the games. Kayla and I applied to go to wrestling practice as journalists and our credentials were thankfully accepted. So off we went to the University of East London. This is where Women’s and Men’s basketball practices are as well. We made it just in time at 11 a.m. I saw Coleman just sitting on one of the benches by the mats, listening to music while the rest of the wrestlers were being surrounded by media. I approached him and reached out my hand.

“Hi, I’m Melissa and I’m a journalist from Morgantown,” I said. His face lit up.

When I asked if I could ask him some questions he did not mind at all, he was humble and happy to speak with me. I love when athletes are like this. He was easy to talk to and I enjoyed the interview. I am currently working on getting the story up so I don’t want to spoil it! Keep a look out on ourLondon site! His wife will be here on Saturday to watch him compete. Saturday will be a huge day for him, I wish him the best of luck. Go USA!

Photo by Kayla Hanley
Coleman Scott and I at USA Men’s Wrestling practice

As Kayla and I were leaving the wrestling practice, feeling very good about our interviews and content, we saw Kobe Bryant walking to the restroom right in front of us. I could not believe it!

A few of our friends in our group had access to the practice today, but they could not make it because the practice was moved up to earlier in the day. So Kayla and I attempted to get it. They let us. We walked into the gym to see the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, among many more.

Kayla and I walked around and tried to blend in with the other journalists. We tried to act like we knew what we were doing, but we didn’t and we were too ecstatic to even be there! I could not believe I was staring at these phenomenal players with my own eyes. So many of the players were surrounded by ESPN, NBC and more. It was so hard to get an interview.

Once we saw people leaving LeBron James’s side, we scooted closer. I got the recorder out and Kayla started filming. I noticed he was sort of staring at us. I looked behind my shoulder to see if there was someone else behind me, but there wasn’t. He saw our Ohio University polos, and I knew that’s what grabbed his attention.  As I got closer he finally turned towards me and said, “I like your polos.”

Kayla and I gleamed with excitement. I told him we went to school at  OU. He obviously was familiar with the school. Once we started talking I could  see a gentle smile come over his face. He realized we were so grateful to be there, and he felt that Ohio connection. I could tell he was sick of hearing the same things from the same kind of journalists. I think he felt refreshed by our bubbly presence. I asked him what emotions/feelings were different from the last Olympics and how it has felt to be a part of so many. He also talked about his mom in Akron and how he spends time in the summer there. I asked if it would be OK if we got a picture with him. He said of course. Little did we know, that is not allowed at these media practices and security started rushing towards us as the picture was snapped. LeBron spoke up defensively and said, “It’s OK. They’re from Ohio.”

After living in Ohio for a few years I started to build up my own resentment towards LeBron since many “despise” him. Today that all melted away. I remember watching “The Decision” back in high school. I never thought I would come face to face with the man who was “taking his talents to South Beach”.

Photo by Kayla Hanley
LeBron and I at the USA Men’s Basketball practice

That left my mind today. He was overall a decent, sweet man. I did not expect that attitude or kindness to come from him, but it did. He saw us as just two girls from Ohio trying to chase their dreams. I think he saw a little bit of himself in us deep down somewhere. Today I saw a soft spot in Mr. James’s heart. It was one of the highlights of my life so far to say the least.

Until next time,

Love from London,

xoxo, Mel

U.S. men’s basketball team stays modest, but confident

They’re undefeated. They’re beating their opponents by an average of 37. They beat Nigeria by 83 points, but that hasn’t stopped the U.S. men’s basketball team from recognizing they could get even better.

As Team USA prepares to play Argentina for the third time in 17 days, multiple players harped on the team’s potential to thrive off of defense. While they have given up more than 90 points only twice in the Olympic tournament, large third quarter runs by opposing teams have Team USA ready to step up the defensive intensity.

Lebron James
Photo by Kerry Crump
Lebron James takes a free throw shot during team USA practice Thursday in London.

“The start of the first quarter and the start of the third, we have been kind of lax at times, but I think in these next few games you’ll see a change,” Kevin Love, of the Minnesota Timberwolves, said at Team’s USA’s Thursday practice. “If we play 40 minutes of great defensive basketball, then everything will trickle down and take care of itself and we’ll be able to play great offense.”

While Team USA began the tournament bulldozing its opponents, recent close games have warranted concern. In their last three games, USA has given up 94, 97, and 86 points and won by only five in the 99-94 win against Lithuania.

Deron Williams, who won a gold medal in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, said he was aware of the defensive lapses Team USA has displayed during its last outings.

Deron Williams
Photo by Kerry Crump
Deron Williams speaks with reporters during Team USA’s basketball practice Thursday.

“We haven’t played well in the first half as of late, and we’ve always giving up a run of some sort,” Williams said. “You know we gave up a 12-0 run to start the third against Australia; things we can stop and will stop from happening.”

European basketball features more zone defense, something NBA teams use sparingly. Assisting Team USA’s defensive strategy is Syracuse men’s basketball coach, Jim Boehiem. Relying heavily on the zone defense with his own teams at Syracuse, Boehiem has been able to assist Team USA in implementing a successful zone scheme, as well as developing zone breaking offenses.

Miami Heat forward, Lebron James, who recorded the only triple double in USA basketball history Wednesday against Australia, was hesitant to blame the recent deluge of points on defense alone.

“I think we’ve played alright defensively, but you can’t learn defense in two or three weeks,” he said. “We’ve been able to make up for a lot of mistakes because we’ve talked through a lot of things. We’ve used our length and athleticism to get through a lot of situations.”

With Argentina featuring two of the Olympic’s top five scorers, Team USA is not looking passed the team they have already beat twice in the last three weeks. The winners of the ’04 Olympic games, Argentina has gained Team USA’s respect and attention.

While Lebron and Team USA are taking Argentina seriously, James said America will still have the edge on the court when they meet Friday at 9 P.M.

“They don’t have our number,” he said. “They’ve been in big games before and they play well together, but no, no they don’t have our number.”

 

 

 

 

 

The smaller the athlete, the bigger the story

I was sitting there in the waiting area nearly shaking. Before we entered the gym all I could think about was: What am I going to ask them? Did I iron my shirt enough? Did I forget to put deodorant on this morning? What these guys are actually cool and I get to talk with them one-on-one? How am I going to keep my composure? I was about to get some of the biggest interviews of my life, ones that some journalists still dream of.

I was as excited and nervous as I think I’ve ever been in my life, sweaty palms and all. I had gotten no sleep the previous night because I had stayed up researching every player on the USA men’s basketball team down to their shoe sizes and thinking about the three trains that I had to catch to the training facility at the University of East London all by myself. I am proud to say that I navigated London quite well and arrived there ahead of time.

To my surprise when we walked into the gym after an hour restlessly waiting and saw stars like Chris Paul, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant less than 10 feet away from me all my stress melted away and my journalist mode kicked in.

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers discusses the teams upcoming matchup against Argentina during Sunday’s practice at the University of East London. Photo Credit: Holly Moody

I walked right up to Kobe Bryant snapped a couple pictures and move towards Carmelo Anthony who was a very nice guy.

But then we went to LeBron who kind of shrugged my peer off when she went to ask him a question. His exact words were “Oh I’m done sweetheart,” in a condescending tone. Rude, right? A few of the players were very short with their answers, and Anthony Davis gave me nothing newsworthy when I spoke to him. It was like talking to a wall almost except I got one or two word answers.

I started to feel like a bother. Believe me, I get it. Reporters are in your face everyday ,you all live in huge mansions with six-car garages and women flock to you like geese.  You have better things to do than talk to a 20-year-old reporter and you have a lot to be arrogant about, but be a little humble. That gold medal is not guaranteed just yet.

The interesting thing is before we went into that practice I got to interview silver medalist archer Jacob Wukie of Fremont, Ohio. He was more than willing to talk, didn’t come off cocky at all and was a bit long winded, which he apologized for but as journalists we love it when our sources actually want to talk. I had a better time talking to him than I did with some of these big shot NBA players, and I didn’t even have to fight for a spot to stick my recorder in his face or get a question in like I did in that practice.

Don’t get it twisted. It was still the opportunity of a lifetime to get to be in the presence of the dream team but in those few moments I realized that it’s the athletes that don’t get as much shine that I want to talk to and make for the best stories.

Olivia Arbogast and Holly Moody interview silver medalist archer, Jacob Wukie of Massillon, Ohio on Sunday.

We did a preview of their matchup against Argentina, which they won, just as every other reporter probably did when they got back to their newsroom. But our Q&A with Wukie is something that other publications won’t have. A lot of publications seem to be concerned interviewing the major athletes not the ones that are new to the Olympics, especially archers.

The experience taught me a little something about what type of reporter I want to be. Jacob Wukie might not have been the worlds most renowned athlete but he had a big story to tell about his journey to the Olympics and all of the work and dedication that he put into becoming a silver medalist archer.I want to report on the athletes that are not in the spotlight and that don’t take one bit of an opportunity like this for granted because they will be the ones to give you a good story.Getting to meet the dream team was nice but meeting Wukie was far more rewarding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. prepares to take on Argentina after close-call game

After two practices off, the U.S. Men’s Basketball team will face Argentina at the Olympics tonight, one night after a close call against Lithuania.

“We are fine … everybody is fine,” Forward Carmelo Anthony said. “We talked about what we didn’t do yesterday; we talked about what we are going to do.”

Anthony added that the team is in a great place, and all they have to do is continue to make good plays to continue winning.

“It is crazy when you schedule us to play teams where we beat them by 20, 30 or 40 points,” he said. “When we have a close game like we did (Saturday), nobody knew … we had to win the game and make some plays … and LeBron (James) did come through to make some great plays to win the game.”

Guard James Harden said the game against Argentina will be a challenge for the team.

“Obviously they have a couple of NBA players – it is going to be a tough challenge for us,” he said. “But we’re up for it and looking forward to it. We played them in exhibition, so it is going to be a rematch.”

Harden added that U.S. is familiar with Argentina and their big names, so that gives them an advantage as well.

“They make big plays, so you just have to be ready for it,” he said.

Anthony Davis, who is the youngest player on the U.S. team, said that in situations like the Olympics, players have no time to get scared. They just have to play the game.

“You might be nervous before every game, but you can’t be scared,” he said. “I think we just have to keep working to keep working hard over here.”

Anthony said that they know how Argentina plays, but the U.S. will not play “dirty” like the South American team.

“We are going to try to slow the game up a little bit,” Anthony said. “We played them once before in Barcelona. It was a sticky game – it was a dirty game. You know, that is what they like to do – play dirty. We like to play dirty; it is just a matter of who they let get away with it.”

He added that Argentina is one of the best teams, and that they will challenge the U.S. when it all comes down to the end.

“It’s not a revenge thing,” he said. “There is a little bit of a rivalry though. We always say it is going to be a good game when we match up with them, so we are looking forward to it.”

Harden said the team will do what it takes to win because in the end. That is what they travelled here for.

“No matter who we play, we are trying to win,” he said. “We are going to do whatever it takes to win – just not Argentina, but every other team. They are a very good team, but I think that we can get it done and play our game.”