When it comes to what is written about sports and politics, it’s easy to find schlock. Everyone is an expert with an opinion, and we all know what is said about opinions. But the stuff that actually gives a reader some insight about the games and the players, now that is as rare as the Sacramento Kings making the playoffs.
Enter Ray LeBov.
Most folks around the Capitol know Ray well from his many years as a lobbyist and, since 2006, as the man behind Capitol Seminars, the lobbyist-training seminars that have shown a whole new generation of aspiring lobbyists how to do things the right way. What most don’t know is Ray’s daily obsession with rooting out the very best information on NBA basketball, which he presents on his increasingly-popular blog, Basketball Intelligence. For up to four hours every morning, LeBov scans the Internet to find and aggregate the very best news and insight relating to the NBA and professional basketball. It is no easy task.
“I spend a minimum of three and as many as four or five hours a day on this,” he says, not something he originally envisioned. If anything, he thought it would be more interactive, “a place where intelligent people who had intelligent things to say could get together and have conversations about basketball.”
Sadly, it didn’t work out that way. Some of that is due to the wide array of technologies people use to access the site – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. – which tends to keep discussion scattered. But it is also true that many of the sports fans commenting on blogs are in no danger of ever being called cerebral. So now his focus is almost solely on aggregating the very best content he can find.
“I have what I call my ‘Four-I’ test,” he says. “A story I link to has to be intelligent, insightful, informative and interesting.” That can be a tall order, he says, noting that “maybe one out of every 500 pieces I come across is worth even spending a few seconds on.”
Clearly he has found his rhythm. His site is fast becoming a must-read for serious hoops junkies around the basketball universe. LeBov says he only has about 180 official subscribers, but through social media the reach extends much further, with the site garnering 50,000 hits in February. The list of regular readers now includes a fair number of former players and even some current NBA personnel folks.
Count Dean Oliver, Director of Player Personnel and Analytics for the Kings, among them. As a scout, he says, it’s a challenge for him to stay on top of what every team is doing. The content on Basketball Intelligence helps him learn things about a team that are worth knowing for someone in his position.
“Just today he ran a really good story about Utah’s perimeter defense,” Oliver says. “I can go search those things out myself, but I just don’t have time for that. Having such good daily content concentrated all in one place is pretty helpful.”
Ironically, although Ray played some high school ball his love for the game has always been more as a fan. He is the executive director of the Association for Professional Basketball Research and was a longtime friend of the late John “Super John” Williamson, one of the great players of the ABA and a teammate of Julius “Dr. J” Erving when both were on the great New York Nets teams of the 1970s. But LeBov says basketball also helped him make friends with a pretty epic figure around the Capitol: John Burton.
“Burton was an All-League basketball player at San Francisco State,” LeBov says. “We could talk about basketball forever. We’d loan each other books on the game.”
“It’s funny, for the longest time he was probably the only around the Capitol who knew about my passion for the game,” he adds.
Based on the success LeBov is having with Basketball Intelligence, the secret is out.
Ed’s Note: Rich Ehisen, a regular contributor to Capitol Weekly, is the managing editor of the State Net Capitol Journal, where he covers public policy trends around the nation. His Twitter handle is @WordsmithRich.