We're ringing in the New Year with a promise.
Remember William Wesley? Brian Windhorst of the Akron Beacon Journal put it perfectly: "he is either one of the most powerful and well-liked men in the NBA or everything that is wrong with the underbelly of pro sports."
He is said to be on close terms with just about everyone, including Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Joe Dumars, Allen Iverson, Magic Johnson, Larry Brown, Jay-Z, and Dan Gilbert. He is said to be an important person in lots of the goings on in the NBA--from Larry Brown's dalliance with leaving the Pistons to become the president of the Cleveland Cavaliers, to LeBron James decision to ditch his agent earlier this year.
In 2006, we're going to find out who he is. In 2006, you'll learn, right here on TrueHoop, what he looks like, how he got to be so important, how he wields his power, why he's so secretive, and most importantly, how he supports himself (I'm pretty sure it's not by cutting Brooke Shields' hair, directing Lou Diamond Phillips in crappy movies, rapping Canuck-style, marrying into Stalin's family, or being tiny).
And we're going to conduct the investigation in a new way. Welcome to open-source investigative journalism (as discussed in The New York Times and carried out at TalkingPointsMemo). It works like this: I'll keep blogging away as always, putting all of the William Wesley news I can get my hands on in the new "Who is William Wesley?" category you'll see on the right.
I will also pick up the phone and even leave the comfort of my office to conduct actual reporting. If the people I'm talking to will go on the record, the interviews will be recorded and shared here in podcasts and/or transcripts--so that you can judge the story for yourself.
But you will also do a lot of the work. I'm counting to readers of TrueHoop to help in a lot of important ways.
Tips. This guy is the worst-kept secret in sports. Everyone who is anyone already knows him. Some of you readers must know a lot about him. Anyone and everyone who knows anything about William Wesley (someone we should interview, things he has done, how he supports himself)--please comment, e-mail, or call (908-237-1222).
Searching online and off. I'll tell you what we're looking for, and you'll help find it. The first request, for instance, is a simple one: I have read or heard of articles about Wesley by Scoop Jackson of ESPN, Fred Girard of the Detroit News, and Brian Windhorst of the Akron Beacon Journal. If you can ever find anything that mentions William Wesley, let us know. Anyone?
Photos. The Detroit News published a photo of William Wesley. Google Images can find a thumbnail, but the big one isn't around anymore.
Chronology. As we learn more, one thing that would be extremely helpful would be for someone to find dates for just about everything we know about him, with a hyperlinked source. If John Canzano says he was in Portland in November 2005, and Brian Windhorst reported this June that Wesley is 40, and John Canzano says his birthday is August 14, which makes his date of birth August 14, 1964. Let's keep track of all those things, with notes of their sources, in one place. If someone feels like going through everything we have already for dates then that would be great. Reports have put him at Dajuan Wagner's high school basketball games, and LeBron James' football practices. Let's re-create the man's calendar as much as possible.
Sightings. Once we get some photos up on the web, let me know if you see the man. If he's courtside at a game you attend, snap a photo with your cellphone camera and e-mail it to me. (It probably won't help the investigation much, but it sure seems cloak-and-dagger, doesn't it?)
Fact-Checking. If I hear a story, you can help me find out if it's true. I have done some checking around and it seems like when it comes to William Wesley, plenty of people will talk, but precious few will talk on the record. The rule of thumb most news organizations use is that stories like that need to come from two sources before they can be made public. Open source reporting is in its infancy and I'm sure we'll make lots of mistakes. So work with me on this one. But I propose a variation on that theme. How about this: I'll tell you the rumors I hear, identify them as rumors, and hope that you out there can confirm or deny them with evidence. Then hopefully, together, we can turn rumors into facts and move on.
Why harrass poor William Wesley? I kick off this project with absolutely nothing against the man. For all I know, he's a great guy. I know that a lot of the people he is associated with have strong reputations as upstanding people.
But I am convinced that Wesley has become a very important figure in the NBA, yet for some reason he is also intent on being very secretive. I say have one or the other: if you want to make things happen in an arena as public as the NBA, then do so out in the sunlight where we can all see you. On the other hand, if you value privacy above all else, well then find some other line of work besides mingling with celebrity, ostensibly for money.
I have loved the NBA my entire life, and I don't want it to be run in secret. I think I speak for fans everywhere when I say that I'd like to know who's pulling the strings. I want to know the truth.
And, I'll plead guilty to this too: by being so secretive (John Canzano's article about meeting Wesley during the NBA finals isn't available for free, either, but it's like meeting the Godfather) Wesley has made it seem like it would be fun to figure out his story. period.
So here we go.