Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
I’ve been thinking for a while about where to start when it comes to writing about the first five years of City of Basketball Love.
All along, my policy has been to be as honest and forthright as possible, so I’ll go with that -- when I think about the last five years, it’s somewhat overwhelming. Mostly because of you -- the players, parents, fans and coaches that make up CoBL’s readership and support base.
How can I put into words what this has become?
I never could have expected, when I made the decision that night five years ago tonight (June 2, 2012) to start up the site with Andy Edwards, that it would last this long; for those unaware, I was preparing my first year of law school at the time. It ended being my only year.
This year was supposed to be my third of being a lawyer. Instead, I’m going into my seventh overall covering basketball in this city -- six with CoBL, and my introductory season with Philahoops. I’m certainly not complaining.
By far, the best part of the last five years has been getting to know and become part of the Philadelphia basketball community. Not that you need to be told this, but it’s a vibrant, energetic, diverse, constantly-shifting landscape in and around the city, full of folks who are absolutely obsessed with basketball.
That includes the coaches, no matter at what level, no matter if head coach, associate head coach, assistant coach or otherwise; the players, from the stars to the last guy on the bench; the parents and friends, all slightly crazy about their kids, but it’s understandable; and of course the journalists and scouts and videographers who populate the baselines and sidelines and spend literally endless hours debating the minor points between Player A and Player B, loving every second of it.
Without all of you, there would be no CoBL.
I don’t think “thankful” or “grateful” even go far enough to describe how I feel. I don’t want to get too sappy here in my professional world -- writing about myself is not my most comfortable style, though I feel like this time you all deserve to get a little glimpse behind the curtain -- but my whole life growing up I had a tough time fitting in anywhere. CoBL has given me an in to a world where I feel accepted...even if my actual basketball abilities are pretty terrible. (If I could go back in time and tell 10-year-old Josh one thing, it would be to spend more time out on the driveway hoop with my dad).
If you’re someone I talk to on even the most infrequent of occasions, still count yourself amongst the group I’m thanking personally. There are far too many names to type.
The coaches, for helping me out with my basketball acumen, sharing the tricks of the trade, what they're looking for in recruits; the journalists (I'll mention two, Josh Newman and Mike Jensen, who have both been invaluable mentors the last few years, but there are a lot more -- Mike Bullock, Matt Chandik, Aaron Carter, Matt DeGeorge, Andrew Robinson, Marc Narducci, you've all helped me whether you knew it or not) who give pointers about everything from interviewing to lede writing.
Every year that passes with CoBL brings with it new lessons, certain changes, fresh experiences.
What’s becoming more of a joy each season is getting to see each new class come up through the high school ranks and beyond, with many of the young men we covered in high school succeeding at the college level. Now, for the first time, student-athletes we covered in both high school and college are getting ready to start their professional careers either on or off the court.
Getting to tell their stories not just in a specific snippet of time but as they develop from one level to the next, deal with setbacks and triumphs alike -- that’s something I look forward to every day.
Just as enjoyable has been watching my former writers flourish as they move beyond CoBL. The writers from the first two years, like Andrew Koob, Anthony Bellino, Andrew Albert, Garrett Miley, Jeff McDevitt, Jeff Neiburg, all going on to do great things in the media realm. Getting to see their bylines in all sorts of places, on sports at all levels, moving up in the professional world, and know that we all got our start together means CoBL has been a success on multiple levels. And we’ve got some current writers on the team who will be that next group to go out and do big things.
People keep asking me what’s next for me, when I’m going to move onto something “bigger.” To be honest, I have zero plans or interest to. I don’t want these first five years to become the only five years. I want to keep growing it, past 10 years, past 15 years, past 20 years. It’ll take a few more advertising partners and a few more camps, but we’ll be able to add more writers, grow the organization, continue doing what we do best.
And it’s really become a family business. My mom, Shelley, deserves unending thanks for helping keep the business side of CoBL running smoothly, not to mention helping out at all of our camps. My amazing girlfriend Abby designs our flyers, advertisements and Snapchat filters.
As we move into Year Six, we’ll be slightly changing our in-season coverage, moving away from typical “game story” coverage and providing more feature-based coverage of all levels; this won’t be a massive change, as we’ll still be at just as many games, but gone will be those collegiate “Quick Reports” and our stories will be less game-detail-oriented and more looking at the players, coaches and teams themselves.
We hope that you enjoy the upcoming year’s coverage, and as always, we appreciate any and all feedback. See you on the courts!
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