Lee Jenkins, SI’s lead NBA writer for the past eight years, is departing to become executive director of research & identity for the Los Angeles Clippers.
According to the Clippers, Jenkins’ position is the first of its kind for any NBA team. He will use his extensive reporting background and interviewing style to contribute to the franchise’s amateur and professional scouting infrastructure.
“Sports Illustrated called on my 30th birthday, the greatest gift of my professional life,” the 40-year-old Jenkins said in an article by the magazine. “I was one of those kids who grew up running to the mailbox on Thursday afternoons. SI taught me to read, and then, to write. With dream jobs, reality often disappoints, but everything about SI only exceeded my imagination. I’ve worked alongside my idols, Tim Layden, Tom Verducci and S.L. Price, and with my friends, Michael Rosenberg, Chris Ballard and Greg Bishop. There is no honor in this business like sharing a page with them.
“SI remains the ultimate platform for sportswriting and I would not leave for another media outlet. But I was offered an extraordinary opportunity to work in the front office of an NBA team and see the league I cover from a different angle. I’ve been privileged to tell a lot of triumphant basketball stories over the past decade. With Steve Ballmer and Jerry West, Lawrence Frank and Michael Winger, Doc Rivers and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, I’m going to try to help build one.”
Jenkins will work with Clippers president of basketball of operations Frank and general manager Winger in the franchise’s reshaped front office.
“Lee has spent his career profiling elite athletes, including most of the top players in the NBA,” Frank said in a Clippers release. “Given Lee’s talent, knowledge, and credibility, we hope to blend his approach with our existing evaluation systems and highlight the personalities of our players. He is the NBA’s preeminent storyteller and adding him to the team is a reflection of Steve’s commitment to innovation and building a best-in-class organization.”
The other SI writer who recently departed was Luke Winn, formerly a senior writer who covered college basketball, baseball and the Olympics before he was hired by the Toronto Raptors as director of prospect strategy in August 2017.
On Monday night, Jenkins told ESPN: “As a reporter, I can ask a hundred questions to a hundred people, but I could never know what really goes on behind the curtain. The deadline. The draft. Free agency. All the strategy and gymnastics and prep work that goes into those events, but also the everyday of an organization. On a personal level, I came to the realization that no matter how many player profiles I write, I still have a ton to learn about the NBA, and the best way to learn it is through immersion. …
“This team is interested not just in what players do but who they are — how they’re wired, how they’re motivated — and that’s an area I love to explore. But I have to be honest with myself. This is all very new and there will be trial and error. All I know for sure is that the Clippers have the tools to build one of the great sports stories, and I’m excited to contribute.”
Jenkins joined SI as a senior writer in 2007. His primary beat has been the NBA since 2010.
–Field Level Media