Adrian Wojnarowski, the news-breaking NBA insider at Yahoo Sports, is being heavily courted by multiple media outlets – led by Sports Illustrated – to create basketball’s version of Peter King’s The MMQB, multiple sources tell The Big Lead.
The buzz in Cleveland this week at the NBA Finals was that with Wojnarowski’s contract up later this year – before the 2015-2016 NBA season begins – multiple outlets are pitching him on the idea of creating an NBA vertical that would become the internet’s top destination for basketball fans.
Wojnarowski didn’t return a text message seeking comment.
Sports Illustrated, which took Peter King from NFL insider and gave him a 24-7-365 football website, is said to be the leader to try and pry Wojnarowski from Yahoo Sports. Several writers at the NBA Finals claim that SI’s success with The MMQB has been a huge selling point, and it has a deep roster of basketball writers already on staff – Lee Jenkins, Phil Taylor, Pete Thamel and Chris Ballard, to name a few – who could contribute to the project.
Ultimately, the question will be whether or not Woj – who has a TV deal with Fox Sports – will want to leave Yahoo, where he and Dan Wetzel have been the driving forces behind the creation of its powerful sports section. ESPN, which has a lengthy, lucrative TV deal with the NBA, has come after Wojnarowski before.
Vertical websites built around one big writer have been hit-and-miss. Joe Posnanski tried to build one (mostly) around baseball and it – Sports on Earth – failed spectacularly and he left the site within the first year. ESPN built Grantland around Bill Simmons, and depending on what metrics you’d like to use – money, traffic, clout – it has worked or it hasn’t.
Simmons recently left ESPN, and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen to Grantland (NBA writers who spoke to The Big Lead anonymously for this do not think ESPN would let Zach Lowe leave Grantland anytime soon). Besides those sites, there’s The MMQB and the forthcoming “The Undefeated” from Jason Whitlock at ESPN.
The MMQB has been successful because its writers have the resources and editorial support to develop relationships across the league and pursue interesting, original storytelling. Unlike island sites at other outlets, they have this freedom while additionally receiving the full weight of SI’s portal distribution.