Most budding sports writers get their start in college by writing about
athletes. Bleacher Report’s Featured Columnist of the Month for January, Marshall Zweig, got his by writing for
At Michigan, he once wrote an essay for friend and future Los Angeles Clipper Loy Vaught.
“It wasn’t exactly cheating,” Zweig says. “Loy just hadn’t had time to read the book—it was ‘The Natural,’ as I remember. And he knew the book was different from the movie. So the deal I made with him was, he had to listen to me recount the book, kind of like human Cliff Notes. Plus he had to play Nerf basketball with my roommate Jeff Roder, who’s maybe 5’7″ in hightops but actually stood a chance with a six-foot rim on his home court.
“And Loy had to help me get back a girlfriend who’d broken up with me. So I’d say we came out even-steven.”
And then some. Zweig later took his late father, Eugene, to a Wolverines game. Vaught had a career night, with 25 points and 18 rebounds. After the game, he was being swarmed by media types and, as Zweig describes it, “hordes of some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen.” Vaught bypassed them all to shake Eugene’s hand first.
“I never forgot that,” Zweig says. “Lo-D is a class act.”
Between his birth in suburban Detroit and becoming one of the top Featured Columnists on the NBA team, Zweig has had a smorgasbord of career experiences. Among the accomplishments on his résumé: published author, produced playwright, optioned screenwriter and magazine contributor. He spent most of the last 12 years creating Little Caesars television, radio and print advertising.
When a new head of marketing came along and wanted to use an ad agency, Zweig was out. So he turned to his lifelong passion: sportswriting.
He took his shot one night when he couldn’t sleep.
“My mom is a ballsy person, and she actually went up to the late Bill Davidson at two separate parties, and asked him why he fired Rick Carlisle and why he didn’t hire Isiah Thomas,” he says. “So I kind of had a scoop nobody else had. I wrote up a piece about it, and Casey Crowe at B/R thought enough of it to give me a shot. I was never so grateful for insomnia.”
And so it began. Zweig initially started out with the NBA team as a Pistons Featured Columnist, but with demand high for Rockets coverage after their acquisition of James Harden and Jeremy Lin, Zweig jumped at the opportunity presented by his editors.
He also felt that the current Rockets team was of the unselfish variety, which reminded him of his beloved 2004 Pistons, who conquered the heavily favored Lakers in the NBA Championship.
“Zweig is a supremely talented and creative writer who just happens to be an amazing hoops mind as well,” Assistant NBA Editor Joel Cordes says. “Read through any of his articles, and you’ll find a new concept, observation or turn of phrase nearly every time.
“This originality will have you hooked, and like so many others, you will gladly go out of your way to read his next offering.”
Zweig has become a passionate fan of Bleacher Report. “Writing for B/R is an absolute joy day in and day out,” he says. “I go to sleep thinking about it, and wake up excited to do it again.”
Zweig’s unique perspective on the NBA, and to a greater extent, basketball, can be traced back to a bizarre string of basketball related events. A few of the highlights:
- He once went on a date to a high-school basketball game where his date’s younger brother played. After the referee had to leave the game injured, Zweig volunteered to ref and was picked. He ended up officiating the game (terribly) while running up and down the floor in dress shoes and enduring shin splints.
- He used to meet Chris Webber to play video games at Tel-Twelve Mall in Southfield, Mich. “The one I remember is this four-person volleyball game. He was on the other team. I have no idea who won … I just remember being in a daze because I was playing video games with Chris Webber.”
- He did the “rock-your-head-in-time-with-the-music thing” with Isiah Thomas to “All the Girls Love Alice” at an Elton John concert in Bill Davidson’s suite.
- In the ’90s, Bill Laimbeer poked fun at a camera used on a talk show Zweig helped produce to an it’s-not-funny-anymore extent. “The guy’s a first-class jerkwad. You can print that.”
His advice to aspiring writers? Follow your dream.
“I had a sucky 9-5 job with AT&T right out of college,” he says. “I quit and became an actor, then a writer and a producer, and now a sportswriter. What I learned is, following your dream doesn’t mean life becomes a dream. It’s filled with stresses, worries, deadlines, unfairness and the like. The big difference is, in addition to all that, I have fun. You have no idea the difference that makes till you try it.”
Check out Zweig’s published body of work on Bleacher Report here and follow him on Twitter at @ihavethewrite.
Sean Swaby is Bleacher Report’s Featured Columnist Coordinator.