The Inauguration of the TrueHoop Network

Today is about change. Mainly, change at the top of the United States of America's org chart.

But there's one other little change I am pleased to let you know about.

Starting right now, ESPN, TrueHoop, and many of the best independent basketball blogs out there are now officially working hand in hand as the TrueHoop Network.

The TrueHoop Network, as fueled by the efforts of a growing list of favorite basketball bloggers (check out that new little drop down on the right), and newly hired ESPN editor, and top-notch blogger, Kevin Arnovitz, will find and foster excellence in online basketball writing.

We will connect the best basketball blogs out there to the best readers out there -- TrueHoop readers.

Not wanting to overstate things, but I think we have an opportunity, over the next several years, to change how sports are covered (more on that in a minute).

The Opening Night Roster
The TrueHoop Network will grow to cover every NBA team and then some. The charter members are:

  • Atlanta Hawks: Since 2007, Hoopinion has focused exclusively on providing analysis of and a place to discuss the Atlanta Hawks. Hoopinion was created and is operated by Bret LaGree who has written about professional and college basketball for several web outlets.

  • Charlotte Bobcats: QueenCityHoops is a source of statistical analysis and discourse on the Charlotte Bobcats. Brett Hainline started the site as the first of his internet ventures, and it remains his passion.

  • Chicago Bulls: By The Horns provides detailed insight into the Chicago Bulls from the perspective of an impassioned fan. It was founded by Matt McHale, who has covered the NBA for both his personal NBA-wide blog Basketbawful and Deadspin.

  • Cleveland Cavaliers: Cavs the Blog is the brainchild of John Krolik, a creative writing sophomore at USC who has written for SLAM and FreeDarko, among others.

  • Dallas Mavericks: The Two Man Game, founded by Rob Mahoney, promises biased and unbalanced Mavericks information. Mahoney, a University of Texas student, has written for the blogs Upside and Motor and Hardwood Paroxysm.

  • Denver Nuggets: Roundball Mining Company focuses on game strategies and player strengths and weaknesses. It was created by Jeremy Wagner who has been watching the Nuggets his entire life, and previously ran the blog Pickaxe & Roll.

  • Detroit Pistons: Piston Powered covers the Detroit Pistons. Dan Feldman, a sportswriter for The Michigan Daily, started the blog this year.

  • Los Angeles Clippers: Clipperblog offers in-depth analysis and discussion of the Los Angeles Clippers. It was founded in 2006 by Kevin Arnovitz, now ESPN editor for the TrueHoop Network.

  • Los Angeles Lakers: Forum Blue and Gold focuses on the on-the-court issues and highlights of the Lakers. It was developed by Kurt Helin, a professional journalist from Long Beach, CA, who has written for a number of publications from NBC online to Entrepreneur.

  • New Orleans Hornets: Hornets247 aims to spread information, provide analysis and encourage discussion for the New Orleans Hornets. Launched in 2003, Hornets247 features the personalities of Niall Doherty and Ryan Schwan, and a knowledgeable community of Hornets fans.

  • New York Knicks: Since 2004, Knickerblogger has offered statistic-based analysis of the New York Knicks and the NBA. The site features an advanced stats page and a half dozen writers, including its founder Mike Kurylo, who provide comprehensive insight into the team.

  • Oklahoma City Thunder: Daily Thunder offers in-depth analysis and discussion of the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was founded by Royce Young, who recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a journalism degree and has covered Oklahoma Sooner sports for the Oklahoma Daily.

  • Phoenix Suns: Valley of the Suns is the home of commentary, analysis and news updates on anything and everything Phoenix Suns basketball. It was founded by Michael Schwartz, who has covered Arizona Wildcats basketball for the Arizona Daily Wildcat and the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers for MLB.com.

  • San Antonio Spurs: 48 Minutes of Hell offers in-depth commentary on the San Antonio Spurs and their D-League affiliate, the Austin Toros. It was founded by Graydon Gordian and is coauthored by both Graydon and Timothy Varner.

  • Toronto Raptors: Raptors Republic is the online community for Toronto Raptors fans everywhere, providing unbiased analysis, podcasts, interviews, events and exclusive tools. RR is the collaboration of five "day one" Raptors fans and veteran bloggers AltRaps, Arsenalist, Dinosty, Raps Fan and Realizar.

  • NBA-Wide: The Wizznutzz are among the funniest sports satirists on the web. They have chronicled the fate of basketball in their own ludicrous and iconoclastic way since 2002.

  • NBA-Wide: Hardwood Paroxysm discusses the wide expanse of the NBA, providing insight, analysis, humor, and perspective on everything in the Association. It was founded by Matt Moore and Matthew Cornelius.

  • NBA-Wide: The Painted Area celebrates basketball in all its forms, with a focus on league-wide analysis of the NBA as well as in-depth coverage of major FIBA international competitions. It is run by the team of M. Haubs and Jay Aych.

What's So Great About Basketball Blogs?
When I was a kid, just about all of my Portland Trail Blazer information came from the local beat writer, a columnist or two, game broadcasts, and maybe a little radio. Once in a while a national magazine might weigh in. Fewer than ten people told me everything there was to know about your team.

Then the Web happened, and it was like somebody dynamited the whole system.

Dynamite is not the most precise tool. On the upside, there were big new openings to see into your team. (Players with blogs! Behind-the-scenes video! A general pulling back of the curtain!) But at the same time, suddenly the best team insight had been scattered to the four winds. It took a lot of time to gather them back together. Instead of ten people delivering your team news, suddenly there were, it seemed, ten thousand. By the late 1990s, for me, following the NBA meant hours a day surfing from site to site to site, putting all the good stuff back together again.

Now we have Web 2.0, which has two marked improvements over the "surf all day" model. First of all, other peop
le can spend a lot of time reading all those sites, finding the good stuff for you, and presenting it all together in one tidy place focused on your team. That just saves time.

At the same time, you get a new group of people telling you about your team, with new kinds of voices.

The Basketball Writers of Tomorrow
Thanks to the web, any writer with a measure of dedication, talent, and insight can be found and read (whether or not they have some crony to help them get hired in this tough business).

I have probably read as many basketball articles and blog posts as anyone over the last three-plus years, and I can tell you that there is fantastic work out there, and some of the smartest, most creative, fastest, and fascinating work is outside the mainstream media.

In my mind, if you were doing an honest compendium of the best sportswriting of these last couple of years, you would simply have to include some blog posts.

Put those talented new voices together with the stuff every sports fan wants to know about their team day in and day out, and I believe you have something that will prove to be must-read. To savvy fans in many markets, those kinds of blogs are already must-read. And they have tremendous promise to get even better over the following years.

The Meaning of a Network
The nuts and bolts of the TrueHoop Network are quite simple. In a nutshell: Bloggers maintain their own sites, which they run as they see fit (even with their own ads they sell, if they'd like). They agree to carry some ESPN stuff on their blogs (like that video player), and to generally be responsible. And ESPN.com promotes the blogs' work and content.

Kevin and I will also foster synchronicity between the many websites involved and the many different parts of ESPN. One small example: Right now I'm working on a post about players who are particularly good at defending other players. Of course I'll be asking these bloggers -- who watch a ton of games -- for their thoughts, and they'll make TrueHoop better.

In the years to come, however, these simple kinds of relationships could yield multi-faceted results for readers. Online there is a never-ending stream of more and better ways for clued in people to collaborate and connect. Video, multimedia, audio, things we haven't even thought of yet ... We're going to have a lot of ways to work together.

If the Hornets are facing the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, I'm just sure Kurt from Forum Blue and Gold will share plenty of notes with Niall and Ryan from Hornets247. Already those two blogs have some of the smartest basketball writing on the planet. Imagine that whole thing in the years to come. Is that conversation in video? Can we see breakdowns of game action? Can we bring in some heavy duty basketball experts?

I don't know all the answers, but I know there's a lot of good stuff to come.

The People
The TrueHoop Network has been a major project of mine for some time, but it's real today thanks to the efforts of all kinds of people, some of whom I'd like to quickly thank.

First and foremost, every single blogger in this network. They have had a lot of work getting to this point.

Kevin Arnovitz is a gifted editor and journalist. In his last job, he was an editor at Public Radio's Marketplace. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, Slate, and a zillion other top publications. We're very lucky to have him.

And finally, we wouldn't be anywhere without the hard work of several sharp people at ESPN, including James Greenthal, Erik Barmack, Marc Horine, Karen Lee, Patrick Stiegman, Rob King, Royce Webb, Chris Ramsay, Kristie Chong, Paul Melvin, Stephen Clancy, Frank Golding, and John Kosner.

Thanks everybody. This should be fun.