This continued through the lottery, with Charania disclosing picks directly and Wojnarowski using coded language like “focused on” and “zeroing in on,” seemingly to avoid violating the letter of the agreement, if not its spirit.
The pick-tipping phenomenon began in earnest at the 2011 N.B.A. draft. Wojnarowski, a Yahoo Sports reporter at the time, had scoops on half the first round on Twitter, then a nascent platform for breaking news. Wojnarowski was a well-known N.B.A. columnist, but that 2011 draft signaled his arrival as a draft disrupter and frequent news breaker. His tweets are now greeted with replies of “WOJ BOMB” by his more than two million followers.
After struggling to compete with Wojnarowski, ESPN hired him last year.
“For people to say that Adrian Wojnarowski is the guy who could tell you who is going to get picked a minute or two before Adam Silver announces it, to say that is who he is is insulting to Adrian Wojnarowski,” said Druley. “Woj is the single best insider covering the N.B.A. today.”
ESPN’s attempt to muzzle a reporter it considers the best was always in conflict with his personal beliefs about draft coverage. “The draft and the announcement is a ceremony,” Wojnarowski told The Times in 2015. “I don’t care about anybody’s ceremony. I don’t wait for things to be announced. I would never accept any edict not to report the news.”
In an email before the draft, Wojnarowski said, “I will be aggressive in breaking news, including trades, trade talks and delivering our audience up-to-the moment reporting and direction on which players teams are planning to select in the draft.”
Charania’s employer, Yahoo Sports, was purchased by Verizon last year, and in January expanded its agreement with the N.B.A. Verizon now offers N.B.A.’s streaming subscription package for sale through Yahoo Sports, and is the exclusive mobile seller of subscriptions.
“The coverage, commentary and reporting we’re planning around this year’s draft will be awesome for fans, and goes well beyond any upside to a 30 second spoiler on the event,” Geoff Reiss, general manager of Yahoo Sports, said in a statement before the event.