Brandon Jennings' Progress Report -- Media Relations Edition

While the rest of the basketball world was marveling over Brandon Jennings' on-court exploits during his 55-point explosion last weekend and poring over highlight reels of the game, Steve Shenbaum's evaluation consisted not of Jennings' incredible game, but of the rookie's post-game interviews with the media. Sure, Shenbaum was as dazzled by Jennings' performance as the next fan, but as a consultant who teaches athletes across the sports landscape on how to interact with the press, he was looking to see how his star client at GameOn -- Shenbaum's communications company -- handled himself in the moments after the final buzzer sounded.

Back in July, we caught up with both Shenbaum and Jennings just as the Bucks' point guard was starting his work with Shenbaum. Four months later, how is Jennings progressing as a communicator.

Here is Shenbaum’s review of Brandon Jennings' interviews after his Double Nickel, with the two primary postgame appearances (the first with Fox Sports North, which occurred just after the game ended; the second with the studio team at NBA TV a few minutes later):

Interview with Fox Sports North

  • Obviously, Brandon was just leaving the court and was both tired and excited. These can be some of the more difficult interviews because the emotion of the game and the excitement, etc. is still present. I thought he did a great job. Brandon is a kid at heart and this interview allowed the viewer to see the “kid” side of Brandon.

  • I’d like him to find a new cliché besides “it’s all paying off right now!” He used it back to back! Perhaps google “post game clichés” before a big game!

  • Now that he has accomplished something amazing, it’s important for Brandon to show even more humility because he does not need to brag. He can let his game speak for itself.

  • On a personal note, I would like to mention that those who claimed he would be a bust in the NBA might want to rethink that assessment, and it would be nice for them to step up and give him some credit!

Interview with NBA TV

  • The first thing I noticed was how relaxed Brandon seemed to be. Obviously, he was in a good mood, which helps in any interview. I want him to show more excitement in his facial reactions, so the viewer feels his joy before he even speaks.

  • Brandon can sometimes talk quickly, similar to his game on the court. At times, this will help him seem dynamic, but there are times when he may fall victim to some communications "speed wobbles." He has really worked on slowing down. When he slows down, he can also really think about what he wants to say and it’s also more interesting for the viewer because there is variation in his speed and delivery.

  • He did a nice job describing what’s going on in the game and his practice/pre-game routine. He was clear and painted a nice picture.

  • I was very pleased with Brandon’s smile. In the past, sometimes Brandon felt it was not “cool” to be excited. He would say bold statements with confidence but he would not add any facial affectation or he would add a smile when it wasn't necessary. This would sometimes be conveyed as arrogant instead of charming. I felt he was much more charming in this interview...and he now has some NBA statistics to back up his statements.

  • He did a nice job allowing the audience to feel what he is feeling. He needs to find even more place to share his emotions so the viewer can experience the joy with him. It can be non verbal or verbal.

  • I was pleased with the moment towards the end (3:44) where he really has fun with Eric Snow. He lightens up and seems to forget the camera is there but you can tell he is joking, unlike the comments he made prior to the draft about Ricky Rubio. Brandon does not disrespect Ricky. He thinks Ricky is a good basketball player, but Brandon is confident and he likes to have fun. If you put that combination together without facial reactions or any NBA experience, it can cause some issues. 55 points changes the entire perception of one’s words, doesn’t it?

  • He needs to find moments to bring that relaxed style in the Basketball questions as well.

  • He needs to be careful when the interviewer is asking the question. He tends to play with his mouth a bit and chew on lip. It’s not the worst thing but it distracts the viewer a bit.

Shenbaum concludes: In general, Brandon is much more relaxed as a communicator. But more importantly, he now has some credential to back up his "swagger." It's not just that he has changed, the viewer's perception of him has changed because he's not all talk. Action not only speak louder than words. Positive actions, both on and off the court, help support your words and make them more palatable.