As a boy growing up in Princeton, Alexander Wolff ’79 was too young to remember Bill Bradley ’65’s time on the hardwood at Dillon Gym. But when Wolff’s parents, who were not basketball fans, followed the star forward’s career, Wolff said he had “this vague sense that I was missing something important.”
In the last three decades, Wolff has not missed many important basketball stories, chronicling the game at all levels – and in several countries – for Sports Illustrated. On Thursday, Wolff and broadcaster Jim Durham will receive this year’s Curt Gowdy Media Awards at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. The Gowdy Awards, first presented in 1990, recognize writers and broadcasters who’ve made “outstanding contributions to basketball.”
Wolff joined Sports Illustrated in 1980, shortly after graduation, but his first experiences as a reporter came during his undergraduate years at Princeton. His family had left for Rochester, N.Y., when Wolff was 12, and when he returned as a freshman, Princeton’s basketball reputation was reaching another peak, following its 1975 NIT Championship. Wolff typed play-by-play reports for the athletic communications office at Tiger football and basketball games, and he wrote news stories for the Trenton Times as a member of the University Press Club.
In 1976, Wolff was at his family’s home in Rochester for holiday break, and Pete Carril’s Tigers came to town for the Kodak Classic. Wolff offered to cover the games for the Trenton Times; longtime columnist Harvey Yavener agreed to use the stories. Wolff’s “first real taste of basketball journalism” ended with a Princeton championship – the Tigers beat Ohio State and St. Bonaventure to claim the tournament crown.
In addition to covering basketball, Wolff has written about tennis, cycling, the Olympics, and several other topics. Most recently, he reported on prosthetic limbs and paralympians in the Aug. 8 issue of Sports Illustrated.
“If it’s a good story, I want to be a part of it,” Wolff said. “I’ve found that basketball delivers a good story pretty reliably.”
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