I spent 36 years at Sports Illustrated, leaving in 2016 as the longest-tenured writer on staff. Besides covering basketball at all levels, I filed from the Olympics, soccer’s World Cup, the World Series, every Grand Slam tennis event, and the Tour de France. SI story assignments took me to China, Cuba, and Iran, and dealt with such issues at the intersection of sport and society as race, ethnicity, gender, drugs, the environment, education, youth development, business, armed conflict, and ethics, as well as cultural themes like art, style, food, and the media.
I’m the author or co-author of seven books about basketball. They include The In-Your-Face Basketball Book; Raw Recruits, a New York Times bestseller that examined college basketball recruiting; Big Game, Small World: A Basketball Adventure, an account of a year spent chasing the game around the globe to take the measure of its impact, which was named a 2002 New York Times Book Review Notable Book; and The Audacity of Hoop: Basketball and the Age of Obama.
I also edited and introduced a collection of basketball writing for the Library of America, Basketball: Great Writing About America’s Game, published in 2018.
In March 2021 Atlantic Monthly Press and Grove UK will publish Endpapers: A Family Story of Books, War, Escape, and Home, with DuMont Buchverlag of Cologne releasing a German edition in Fall 2021. The book explores the lives of my grandfather and father, both German-born men who became American citizens. Kurt Wolff, a book publisher of Jewish descent, went into exile to escape the Nazis and founded Pantheon Books in New York; his son Niko, who because of a divorce remained behind in Germany, was left to fight for Hitler before landing in the U.S. in 1948.
My writing for Sports Illustrated includes three pieces that appeared in The Best American Sports Writing. In 1996, with Hoop Dreams filmmakers Steve James and Peter Gilbert, I collaborated on Team of Broken Dreams, an Emmy-nominated documentary short that detailed the impact of the Yugoslav crisis on basketball players from the Balkans. Broadcast on NBC and based on one of my SI articles, the film won the International Olympic Committee’s Media Award.
As a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton in 2002, I taught a seminar called Writing About Sports and the Wider World. In 2010 I served as commencement speaker at Springfield College, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame honored me in 2011 with its Curt Gowdy Media Award for contributions to the game as a print journalist. As president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, I helped found the USBWA’s Full Court Press journalism scholarship and seminar program, and I’ve taught at the New England Young Writers Conference at the Bread Loaf Campus of Middlebury College.
At Brighton High School in Rochester, N.Y., I co-captained the varsity basketball team. In 1980 I earned a B.A. in History with honors from Princeton after having taken a leave to play basketball with a club team in Switzerland. In 2006 my wife Vanessa and I founded the Vermont Frost Heaves of the American Basketball Association, whose birth and life I chronicled in SI and on SI.com.
Vanessa and I have a son and a daughter and live in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.