An Agentâ€™s Access to the NBA
Gary George got the chance of a lifetime when he was assigned by Pomonaâ€™s Inland Valley News weekly to cover the Los Angeles Lakers 2008-2009 season and playoffs.
For his day job, Gary George works as a right of way airspace agent. George works with several public and private entities that lease space on Caltrans right of way in downtown Los Angeles. George has worked for District 7 for 19 years, first as a maintenance electrician (12 years) and now as an right of way airspace agent. Before joining Caltrans, George was a physical education teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. While off-duty, George serves as an assitant minister at the Victory Community Church in Upland.
George went from just being a loyal fan and spectator to being able to gain access to the 2009 NBA World Champion Los Angeles Lakers organization and the National Basketball Association (NBA) that most fans could only dream to experience.
As a lover of basketball and a Los Angeles Lakers fan, George moonlights as the sports reporter for the Inland Valley News.
After a casual discussion at his church with the Inland Valley News general manager Joann Washington, George was given the assignment to cover the Lakers’ home games during the middle of the season. “Covering the games really worked out since I work in downtown everyday and I am a Lakers fan,” he said.
Now George’s adventure into the world of sports reporting began. Although this was George’s first journalistic experience, he had to hit the ground running.
George interviewed the Championship Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant, coach Phil Jackson, Lamar “L.O.” Odom, Pau Gasol, Derrick “D Fish” Fisher, and Andrew Bynum, to name a few.
While George was walking from the Los Angeles Union train station, a former Caltrans employee called George over to talk and said, “I saw guy who looked just like you at the last NBA playoff game in Orlando. Was that you?” George humbly smiled and handed his friend a copy of a newspaper and said, “Here, read this.”
George handed his friend a copy of the Inland Valley News with an article written by him about the Lakers victory parade at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
George’s friend was right. He did see George on television during one of several post-game press conferences during the 2008-09 National Basketball Association (NBA) playoff games. George’s Inland Valley News press pass got him more access than some of the most diehard fans (even Jack Nicholson).
The first game George covered was when the Minnesota Timberwolves visited Los Angeles. “Being introduced to the Lakers players and the entire organization was an experience of a lifetime,” said George describing his experience during his first post-game press conference. “There were big time [sports] reporters like Jim Hill, analysts with ESPN, and media personalities crowding around the players in the locker room asking the key Lakers players questions. The whole experience was a very challenging learning process. You really have to hit the ground running and feel your way through.”
When the playoffs arrived, George was able to follow the Lakers to see them play the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, and Denver Nuggets.
When the finals arrived, George was given a press pass to attend the games in Los Angeles and Orlando. “I was hoping that the Orlando Magic would make it to the finals. I would rather be in Orlando instead of Cleveland since I had never been there,” said George.
As George became accustomed to interviewing the players and coaches during the post-game press conferences, television cameras began to focus on him. “I received almost preferential treatment being new. If a commercial during the Super Bowl costs a million dollars a minute, I am sure that I had over $10 million worth of coverage,” said George of the few times people at work and church said they saw him on television.
During the finals, in addition to talking to the players and retired NBA greats such as Charles Barkley, Kenny “The Jett” Smith, Norm Nixon, and Magic Johnson, George was able to rub shoulders with reporters from all of the world. To his surprise, the NBA interns began to bring him the microphone during press conferences while several reporters jostled to get their questions heard over the rest of the press corps.
George was able to be present at all of the playoff and finals games to cover the Lakers. After the Lakers won the last game, he was honored by the Lakers hall of famer coach Phil Jackson. “Phil Jackson comes off the podium after a winning a championship, and I got to ask him the first question,” said George.
“Not every reporter gets to ask questions. Either they liked the questions I was asking or they wanted me on camera to ask them,” said George. “The Inland Valley News is on the map and so is Gary George.”
“Gary is a tremendous asset to the Inland Valley News. He is willing to be out in the field and has a great rapport with the [NBA] players, even Phil Jackson calls him by his first name,” said Joann Washington, the General Manager at Inland Valley News.
Recently, George visited the NBA summer league games in Las Vegas to interview some of the upcoming and new talent including number 1 draft pick Blake Griffith, selected by the Los Angeles Clippers and number 2 draft pick Hasheem Thabit, selected by the Memphis Grizzlies.
As George sums it up, “God empowered me to do it.” George is also thankful to Tommy and Gloria Morrow, the publishers of the Inland Valley News for giving him the opportunity and their support.
As George continues to develop his craft, he will continue to follow the Lakers and Clippers and bring to the readers of the Inland Valley News in-depth sports reporting and great stories to his fellow workers.