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Shams Charania’s ways of getting insider information shouldn’t be a big surprise

A recent New York Magazine article detailed how Charania, of The Athletic and Stadium, became the NBA insider he is today, and the influence he has with teams.

2023 NBA All-Star - NBA All-Star Game Photo by Brandon Todd/NBAE via Getty Images

At work, I’m preparing for the end of the first quarter. That’s next Friday in Loudoun County! Thankfully, I’ve graded most of my students’ work, so this won’t be too much of a problem.

I’m also 100 percent sure that some of my students know I am the site manager here and wonder how Mr. Lee can write so many posts each week. It takes time, dedication and sometimes erratic hours, like writing at 1 a.m. after grading and watching games simultaneously.

That said, my schedule pales in comparison to Shams Charania’s.

In a recent article by Reeves Wiedeman of New York Magazine*, Charania said in an interview that he is often on his phone, looking for scoops 18 hours a day. During a recent vacation, he was online for closer to 12 hours. Charania said “I’ll do anything to get the text off [to someone in the NBA]. I’ve used my nose before.”

And I thought writing a game recap or two off my iPhone was dedication!

Anyway, Wiedeman’s article details how Charania became an NBA insider, starting in high school. From there, he got his first major break into journalism by Adrian Wojnarowski, who worked for Yahoo. Today, Wojnarowski is Charania’s biggest rival for scoops.

Some of the tactics Charania used early in his career to develop relationships with NBA team executives, coaches, agents and players include:

  • sending messages multiple times an hour
  • sending holiday messages
  • driving long distances to cover teams.

Ultimately, Charania developed a long list of contacts to where he’s sending over 500 texts a day.

Things get interesting with the influence Charania and Wojnarowski have in the NBA. While this article didn’t focus on Wojnarowski, Charania hasn’t just become a reporter who gives scoops. He has also served as a quasi-mediator between teams in deals to where he is getting quid pro quos, or “you do me a favor and I’ll give you the same.”

It’s murky for sure, and something that SB Nation’s James Dator wrote about earlier this week.

My take on the Charania article is as follows. I’m not particularly surprised that he is (and Wojnarowski are) getting quid pro quos from around the NBA to further their careers and personal brands. Quid pro quos like “let me know if X player is available and I’ll give you a scoop on our team” can be a gray area in tampering.

If Charania and/or Wojnarowski are just giving information and getting scoops in return, I hate to say it, but that’s how reporting inside information works. Journalism may require strong writing skills, but to be an insider like Charania, it’s also necessary to be great at “cold calls/communication,” as Wiedeman’s article detailed. After a time, these cold communications can lead to relationships where the reporters can often get information more freely, such as through a quid pro quo.

If Charania and/or Wojnarowski are getting cuts for the big player contracts they report on with their quid pro quos, that is another matter entirely. So, for now, I’m impressed at how Charania rose from being a high school student who dove right into his passion, NBA basketball, and how that has turned into a lucrative career a decade later.


*The New York Magazine, like Bullets Forever and SB Nation, is a Vox Media brand.