I don’t like change. Not one bit. It stinks. I still fondly scroll through photos from high school on my camera roll. I still reminisce about time spent with my middle school best friends. I’m in my final year of college and all I want is to be a wide-eyed freshman again whose biggest concern was finding a house party that would accept a scrawny underclassmen; instead, I’m a senior caught in the job market’s vicious cycle of apply-rejection-apply-rejection.
Needless to say, this next bit of change brings me no joy. I’m stepping away from Liberty Ballers, effective immediately. It’s a decision I wrestled with for weeks but ultimately felt was necessary. I no longer have the requisite time to commit to the Sixers or my content on this site. I’ve watched so few games live this season and all that’s done is bring me stress. Watching games on replay suffices at times but it’s become the norm and significantly dampened my excitement.
I’ve loved every bit of my 18 months here (yes, I counted). This site has truly opened doors for me in the journalism industry I wouldn’t have otherwise. Derek Bodner read my work and thought I was good enough to be added as a freelancer contributor to The Athletic’s Sixers vertical. I covered NBA Summer League on this site’s behalf. Through opportunities like that, I’ve built a resume and reputation for myself. I’ve established connections with people whose names matter in the media world.
I genuinely don’t know where I’d be as a journalist without Liberty Ballers. Without my editors, Sean Kennedy and Kevin Love, who made the decision to hire me 1.5 years ago that keyed so many of the things I’ve been able to do — and write about — since then. Without my creative, passionate, dedicated and insightful coworkers. Without all of you, the readers, who consumed my work, critiqued it and shared it.
I began blogging about the Sixers in June of 2017, the summer following my freshman year. Since then, I’ve had so many people ask me: why the Sixers? I think it’s worth answering that now. I fell in love with Joel Embiid during his first career game against the Thunder. I settled onto the couch in the common room of my freshman dorm, clicked on the TV and watched him go to work. The skill, the fluidity, the joy, the charisma, he was incredible.
In January of that season, I joined my school newspaper, The Gonzaga Bulletin. Over the next four months, I immersed myself in sports journalism. I wrote features, covered too many tennis matches to count and once labored through a three-hour weather delay to pen a baseball recap. But then, summer arrived and those opportunities no longer existed. I wanted to keep writing in some capacity and stumbled upon the sports blog FanSided. After a series of emails, I was presented with my choice of NBA teams to write about; journalism was all about objectivity, so my favorite team, the Blazers weren’t acceptable. The answer was easy. Ben Simmons would be healthy. Markelle Fultz was destined for stardom. Joel Embiid was a Hall of Famer in the making. Sixers (Joel Embiid), it was, and I became a contributor at The Sixer Sense.
Just under a year later, while perusing the list of Vox Media Job Openings, I spotted an opening at Liberty Ballers to run the social media side of things. I applied, reached out to the boss man, Kevin Love, and inquired about the position. Kevin told me it would be filled by someone already on staff but I was welcome to come on as an unpaid contributor. I declined the invitation, only for Kevin to offer me a paid position weeks later (savvy negotiating by me, huh). My first piece was a scouting report on Wendell Carter Jr.
Between that article and this one, I’ve written many pieces of which I’m proud. After his rookie year, I wrote about how to maximize Ben Simmons. I dove deep into the harmonic two-man game of Joel Embiid and JJ Redick. I examined Tobias Harris’ fit with the Sixers following his acquisition in February. I traveled to Las Vegas for Summer League and profiled Zhaire Smith. This summer, I tried to answer whether Philadelphia is equipped to slow down Giannis. There are a bunch of other pieces I’ve omitted, like film studies, breakdowns on the Sixers’ early season defensive woes last year and intermittent columns about random observations. They’ve all been a joy to author and share with you. If you want to keep reading my work, you can find NBA Draft content at The Step Back and Dime UPROXX, in-depth features about Gonzaga men’s hoops at The Athletic and occasional Sixers coverage there as well. I’m excited for what’s in store moving forward, even if writing this and saying goodbye pains me.
I hope this captures how I genuinely feel about the Liberty Ballers community and how grateful I am for the chance to have been part of it. The site is in wonderful hands with everyone who’s still on board. I cannot express enough how appreciative I am of this experience.
Change doesn’t just stink, it sucks. Without change, though, the Sixers would likely still be stuck as a middling playoff contender. Nor would they roster Joel Embiid (ya know, the inception of my interest in this team). So, despite its frustrating qualities, change is also necessary. That’s how I feel about this decision.
Thank you, everyone, for sharing in the past 18 months with me. It’s been nothing but a blast. I will forever be a Liberty Baller.