My favorite story in David Maraniss’ Best American Sports Writing 2007 is the “Ultimate Assist.” The Ultimate Assist features semi-professional basketball player Kwame Jones’ life changing moment on December 22nd, 2001. Jones was flying from Paris to Miami on American Airlines flight 63 when shoe-bomber Richard Reid tried to blow up the plane.
The Ultimate Assist is testimony that sports journalism goes far beyond game previews, stats, and game recaps. Sports journalism is a growing field that includes personal stories, scandals, effects of weather, and legal issues. It is in a sense a new era of sports journalism as well.
At any point, a sports journalist can be faced with the task of covering an event not sports related. Nobody expected an earthquake during the 1989 World Series, but sports journalists had to capture the moment. The Motown Brawl involving the Detroit Pistons Fans and Indiana Pacers was not an event, but became the main story that journalists had to talk about.
The reason the Ultimate Assist was so effective because the main point of the story was Jones’ efforts on flight 63 and not his efforts on the basketball court. Author Jon Wertheim was able to capture Jones as a person and not as a player, which is extremely tough to do.
The way Wertheim is able to capture the moment of Jones’ coming in contact with shoe-bomber is unbelievable. “James looked down, saw a small Koran under the captive’s seat, and fixed his gaze on the wires poking out from the tongue of his black boot.” (Maraniss, 294).
The wording puts you there, letting you know exactly what Jones saw and what we would have saw.
Jones’ story became a sports story because of his background. He was not famous, but he was involved with sports and had a story.
The story was well put-together as well. It started with Jones’ background in basketball, brought you to the moment of the shoe-bomber, talked about the after effects on Jones, and then continued with his playing days. It really mixed well between sports and the story.