ESPN tells an NBA veteran's emotional story extremely well — and with a strong faith angle

The boss man sent me a link to this story.

"This has positive Bobby written all over it," tmatt said in his email.

In other words, knowing my love for "faith in sports" angles, he thought I'd appreciate ESPN's emotional feature on Kyle Korver, whose brother died unexpectedly a few months ago.

For those who, like me, don't follow the NBA all that closely, Korver is a veteran sharpshooter for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, by the way, are down 3-2 to the Boston Celtics in the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals and face elimination Friday night. 

The boss man was right: ESPN writer Brian Windhorst told this story extremely well. And he didn't allow it to be haunted by a holy ghost.

LIke Korver does so often, Windhorst nailed the 3-point shot. Let's stand at the free-throw line and consider the first two paragraphs:

PELLA, IOWA -- ON a mid-March day in Central Iowa, Kyle Korver and his three brothers were watching the NCAA tournament together in the same room. Despite his alma mater, Creighton, losing, it was a good day and a good memory.
Korver has hung on to that moment and others like it over the past two months as he has struggled with sorrow. At times he has cried himself to sleep in the afternoons before games and woken feeling something he can only describe as his insides trembling. He has relied on prayer to give him the strength to get up and go to work.

Relied on prayer.

As far as hints to readers — and reporters — that there's a strong religion angle that needs to be addressed, that's an easy layup.

But so often, ESPN includes details like that (such as when it mentioned Detroit Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris' baptism in his baseball uniform) and then seems to run frantically from the obvious faith-related questions.

In this case, though, Windhorst doesn't keep his audience hanging long.

Let's keep reading:

A 15-year veteran, Korver prides himself on his consistency and levelheadedness. These are cornerstones of what has made him one of the greatest 3-point shooters in NBA history. His mother, Laine, who once scored 73 points in a high school game, taught him that you're not great until you're consistent. He'd always taken it to heart.
But since a terrible week in March, his balance, that fragile component for all shooters, has been off.
Korver's youngest brother, Kirk, died on March 20 after a brief illness that caught the family and the doctors by surprise. It was devastating for the close-knit family and for the town of Pella, where Kyle's father, Kevin, has been the senior pastor of one of the community's largest churches for 25 years, and the Korver brothers are treated as ambassadors and heroes.
In Pella, though, in the days and weeks after Kirk's death, there has been an element beyond grief, an unexpected uplifting. It started at the funeral, attended by more than 1,500 people at the Third Reformed Church of Pella, when Kyle and his parents spoke with such purpose that it left those in attendance in awe. And it has carried on as each Korver 3-pointer splashes through the net in the Cleveland Cavaliers' playoff run as he plays for more than himself.

At this point, you're probably more interested in reading the rest of the story than hearing anything more from me.

That's good because I've made my two main points:

1. This is a sensitive, compelling feature — it's excellent journalism.

2. There's a crucial religion angle, and — for a change — ESPN nails it.

Go ahead and read it.

Read it all.

 

 

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