A Sports Illustrated senior writer paid a visit to Linfield campus May 6, leading two discussions on the journalism profession and aspects of his career.
Chris Ballard, a nationally recognized writer whose words have appeared on the pages of Sports Illustrated for 10 years, fielded questions from an audience of about 25 students and staff members on the state of journalism and his writing process.
Having attended a Division III college himself, Ballard decided to speak to Linfield students who are starting where he did, pursuing careers in writing.
“In journalism, you don’t spend a lot of time that’s rewarding in that way,” Ballard said. “A lot of time is talking to athletes and then writing in your hotel room.”
In his second discussion, Ballard said his job boils down to connecting with athletes and finding a moment that gives him an interesting angle to expound upon.
And not just any athletes, either. He has interviewed legends in the sporting world, many of whom he creatively probes to find unique narratives.
Ballard was full of stories, such as realizing the type of man Shaquille O’Neal was as Ballard found himself in a drag race with the NBA big man in the Arizona night. Anecdotes included discovering how competitive Kobe Bryant was from a high school teammate who Bryant humiliated during one-on-one games.
While sports articles have been his mainstay, Ballard’s major break came in book form.
After writing for the newspaper at Pomona College and graduating in 1995, he made pit stops at jobs such as a bartender and a vacuum cleaner salesman. Just before this endeavor took him to Australia, a publisher bought his book idea, which was titled “Hoops Nation.”
Ballard began research for his book by traveling the country. For seven months and more than 30,000 miles in 1996, he, his brother and two friends played basketball in 166 cities and on thousands of courts.
His adventures would turn into “Hoops Nation: A Guide to America’s Best Pickup Basketball,” a book named a top 10 sports book of 1999 by Booklist.
Joining SI in 2000, his career has included 14 cover articles on topics such as motocross and pigeon racing. Ballard’s niche and most well-known pieces are those as an NBA beat writer, often covering the Portland Trailblazers. Ballard’s freelance articles have been featured in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Men’s Health.
Ballard’s latest book, “The Art of a Beautiful Game,” was released in November. The book chronicles the intricacies of the NBA’s most elite players.
Freelancer Kurtis Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org