NBA memories with LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Brad Stevens
Jeff Goodman started his career after graduating from the University of Arizona covering college basketball recruiting. He discovered that patrolling this middle ground allowed him to look up, to the NBA, and down to AAU where it’s possible to form early connections with players.
He continues to cover basketball at all three levels 26 years later. He knows LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Jayson Tatum from meeting them during their earliest years. Leonard gave him his first major interview at San Diego State and he watched James and Tatum in AAU. Cedric Maxwell hosted him on his CLNS Media podcast this week to reminisce on that career arc.
Goodman, now covering basketball for Stadium and CLNS from the Boston area, couldn’t believe when he received a call in 2013. The Celtics hired Brad Stevens as their 17th head coach. Jeff remembered the first time he discovered the now-heralded head coach he continues to cover.
“I was actually at a game his rookie year … at Southern Illinois,” he said. “They win the game on a half court shot, and what does Brad do? Nothing. No emotion. Zero emotion. He shakes hands and walks off, I’m like who is this dude?”
ESPN sent Goodman to cover the introduction at Boston’s practice facility. He learned then, a career-long writer, he would appear on Sportscenter. That TV appearance put him on track to becoming a prominent on-camera, sideline analyst for the network before following the Ball brothers to Lithuania during their infamous, unconventional road to professional basketball.
Connections don’t always promise access. Goodman couldn’t get LeBron James to talk about his rumored helicopter ride from Springfield after watching Bronny play before a Celtics game. Leonard doesn’t remember him, but Goodman used that experience to talk to him through the common connection.
“I went up to him and said hey, I’m doing a story on your former coach,” he remembered. “No problem. Spent like 10 minutes with me … Kawhi talking about other people, he will do. Kawhi talking about himself, he has no desire.”
Goodman and Maxwell also debated the Kevin Durant experience one year later. Max questioned why Durant left a situation where he was assured winning and continued front-line status. Goodman backed his decision to go to the Nets, comparing it to his own career leaps as both media and basketball have moved away from talent staying in one location. Max also re-told his story of what the former reward was for winning Finals MVP.
Goodman also told the story of his on-air appearance from Las Vegas in 2014. As he staked out LeBron’s free agency decision, ESPN told him Stephen A. Smith would take the following day’s TV appearances. When Stephen A. backed out, Goodman needed to take the air all day after a night out in Vegas.
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