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11 weeks in the bubble: AP writer’s exhaustive NBA report goes well beyond the games

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Through 78 days at Walt Disney World, AP basketball writer Tim Reynolds proved himself virtually unstoppable, turning out game stories on deadline while also spinning insightful pieces that examined the major topics of 2020, from coronavirus concerns to racial injustice issues and the presidential election – not to mention the league’s work stoppage. The so-called bubble may have confined him to an arena in a central Florida suburb, but Reynolds’ relentless NBA coverage reminded readers that sports illuminate our lives in ways big and small.

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Miami Heat’s Jae Crowder, left, goes to the basket defended by Milwaukee Bucks’ Marvin Williams in an NBA conference semifinal playoff game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Sept. 8, 2020. – AP Photo / Mark J. Terrill

In all, Reynolds wrote an eye-popping 200-plus stories and – no surprise – the scoops piled up.

His exclusive interviews included:

– Andre Iguodala, Miami Heat forward and National Basketball Players Association officer, the only player to speak on the record during the first full day of the work stoppage, spoke on the impact and implications of the three-day pause,putting AP more than 12 hours ahead of the official announcements on when the season would resume.

– Meyers Leonard,Miami Heat forward, on his decision to stand for the national anthem.

– Michele Roberts,executive director of the NBPA, on the value interacting with players inside the bubble.

– Monty McCutchen,NBA vice president and head of referee development, on adapting to work in the bubble.

– Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce on coaches’ participation in the racial justice movement.

– Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative on his role in coaching NBA coaches on conversations about race.

Reynolds capped his efforts with his insightful analysis of LeBron James’ legacy after James led the Lakers to their record-tying 17th NBA title. Reynolds’ work play widely, with members widely crediting AP for his efforts.

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A small number of protesters briefly block an NBA-chartered bus from entering the Walt Disney World campus in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Sept. 12, 2020, in a photo made through the windshield. The group called on LeBron James and other top players to take notice of the case of Salaythis Martin, a Black man who died after being shot by an Orange County deputy. – AP Photo / Tim Reynolds

The interviews didn’t come easily. Reynolds was initially quarantined in his hotel room at Disney for 14 days,unable to leave except to be tested. He worked several days of what was supposed to be his break,providing a major assist by remotely covering players who opted not to play because of another police shooting. Thanks in large part to Reynolds’ hard-charging reporting,sharp writing and strong sourcing, he was able to thrive in this mentally challenging environment.

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Referee Tony Brown blows his whistle, covered by a small cloth bag, during an NBA game between the Toronto Raptors and the Portland Trail Blazers in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., July 26, 2020. NBA referees added a baggie to their standard whistles to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. – AP Photo / Tim Reynolds

His reporting from the bubble wasn’t limited to text. Reynolds snapped photos of protesters and referees, whose whistles were covered with bags intended to catch spittle. In addition,he shot short video clips that were used on social media. His efforts didn’t escape notice by his former paper,the Post-Star in upstate New York, which did an extended profile on their former sports writer with photos of Reynolds on the job in the bubble.

For his exhaustive – and exhausting – multiformat work that went well beyond the games in the NBA bubble, Reynolds wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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