Work

Sam Laird

Longer stories
These stories all run 1,500 words or more.

The Ballad of Kiwi Gardner: A YouTube Legend Fights for His Basketball Future
The inspiring tale of one young man's quest to make it in pro basketball was a features-writing finalist in the 2014 Online News Association Awards. (approx. 4,500 words)

The Golden Voice
The beautifully strong bond between a tortured fan base and a veteran broadcaster sweetens one of the most amazing seasons in NBA history. (approx. 3,000 words)

A Song of Beer and Weed: How Lagunitas Dodged a Drug Bust to Become a Craft Beer Powerhouse
Northern California's Lagunitas Brewing Company is now among the most successful craft breweries in America. But a pot bust nearly derailed the company before it ever really got rolling. (approx. 3,000 words)

Sandra Fluke Gets Even
Two years after Rush Limbaugh called her a whore, the feminist icon finds her voice on the campaign trail. (approx. 3,500 words)

Inside Mavericks, Big-Wave Surfing's Gnarliest Contest
Every year, the world's best -- and bravest -- surfers wait for the call. 
(approx. 1,600 words)

FIFA Go Home: Inside Brazilians' Struggle to Challenge the World Cup
Reporting from Rio de Janeiro on the obstacles faced by activists protesting the 2014 World Cup's human costs. (approx. 1,500 words)


Mixtape Madness: The impresario of viral high school basketball fights to stay on top (The Classical)
At 26, Nils Wagner is the basketball mixtape’s gonzo king. His by-the-bootstraps company, HoopMixTape, has become synonymous with the sport’s culture and helped launch the public awareness of numerous young NBA players like John Wall, Derrick Rose, and Brandon Jennings. His videos have been viewed online more than 120 million times, and he has more than 125,000 YouTube subscribers. Also featured on sportsfeat.com. (approx. 4,000 words)

Jabari Brown Soldiers On (East Bay Express)
Brown is the Bay Area's top basketball prospect in years. But, as his prodigious talent propels him upward, he must navigate the murky, tumultuous, and often nasty waters of big-time amateur hoops. This 4,000-word feature was a May 19, 2010, cover story. 

The Yellow First Down Line: An Oral History of a Game-Changer
How the biggest innovation in NFL broadcasting came to be. (approx. 1,700 words)

"What is Justice?" Inside a Death Penalty Trial (OaklandNorth.net)
In 2001, Christopher Evans murdered two people in East Oakland, poising him to receive either the death penalty or a sentence of life without parole. This 4,500-word feature is an inside look at a the most severe arm of the American justice system, examining
the stakes of Evans' trial, the state of capital punishment in California today, and, ultimately, what a jury of Evans' peers deemed his appropriate sentence.


Shorter stories
These stories all run between 500 and 1,500 words.


Beyond the World Cup's Cushy FIFA Bubble, Real Life Goes On

A dispatch from Manaus, Brazil, the 2014 World Cup's most complicated host city. (approx. 1,300 words)

Outrage Spreads: Was Women's Figure Skating Rigged in Sochi?
Ain't no drama like figure skating drama, folks. (approx. 900 words)

NBA Superstars: Extremely Rich, Yet Also Underpaid
Welcome to the parallel universe of being an NBA superstar. (approx. 1,300 words)

Giants vs. Royals: A World Series That Defies All Logic
The 2014 World Series matchup pits two teams who've ridden improbable mojo through the MLB playoffs. But whose mojo can last one final round? (approx. 1,200 words)

The Incredible Story of a 5-Foot-5 Dunking Sensation

Porter Maberry woke up one morning to find he was famous. Goodbye warehouse job, hello LeBron James. (approx. 900 words)

Shrouded in Viral Mystery, Kai the Hitchhiker Gains a Cult Following
Some call him a hero. (approx. 1,000 words)

The Strange and True Story of the Amercian Dream

An unlikely confluence of current events events, geopolitics and a father's dream for his son. (approx. 650 words)


Glee Over Sochi Problems Is a Problem of Its Own
Quit your whining, folks. (approx. 500 words)

Goodbye Letter to Sochi
Taking stock of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. (approx. 800 words)

Shoe Marketer Who Enriched N.C.A.A. Takes on His Creation (New York Times)
For decades, Sonny Vaccaro revolutionized the merchandizing of amateur athletes, earning millions of dollars for the shoe companies that employed him, the N.C.A.A., and himself. But more recently, as an adviser in a closely watched federal court case, Vaccaro has devoted himself to bringing down the empire he helped create. Feature story, Bay Area section.

To Create a Star, Add Hip-Hop to Hoops and Post to YouTube (New York Times)

For years, Travis Farris has traveled California and beyond to film teenage basketball players with the purpose of stylishly editing their highlights to hip-hop beats and posting the resulting "mixtapes" to YouTube. Farris has become so skilled, in fact, that he's become a basketball kingmaker and may soon go pro. Feature story, Bay Area section. (I later made a video version of this story.)

A Surfing Legend Conquers Addiction, but Prison May Lie Ahead (New York Times)
For years, pro surfer Anthony Ruffo lived a glamorous life of big waves, beautiful women, and corporate sponsors. Then a methamphetamine addiction led him to deal drugs in partnership with a violent street gang. He avoided prison once, but a second charge of dealing could lock him behind bars for more than five years. Rehabbed and reformed, he says his work helping other former addicts should keep him out. Others disagree. Feature story, Bay Area section.


At Mosswood, Hoops Tradition Endures (OaklandNorth.net)

Looking at the past and present of Oakland's Mosswood Playground, hallowed pickup-basketball ground.

Client Publications
A small sampling of the scores of articles I've authored on behalf of a wide range of clients including the San Francisco Giants, Oakland Museum, and UC Hastings.

Walk On the Wild Side (Oakland Museum of California)
Profiling legendary environmentalist John Muir and highlighting an upcoming exhibit celebrating his life and legacy in a cover feature for the Museum's member publication. 

A New Vision for Hastings (UC Hastings College of the Law)
A profile and Q-and-A with incoming dean Frank Wu, for UC Hastings' alumni magazine.

Battle-Tested Defender (UC Hastings College of the Law)
For UC Hastings' alumni magazine, a profile of World War II veteran and longtime defense attorney George Walker '54.

Get Your Kicks (Brown & Toland)
Q-and-A with a local sensei, discussing the health and self-defense benefits of karate for the member publication of health care provider Brown & Toland.

Which A's employee are you? (Oakland Athletics)
Take the quiz from the team magazine to see where you might fit in the A's organization.

A Producer's Life (Oakland Museum of California)
Short piece on a Pixar Animation Studios producer for the Museum's member publication.

Steward of the Sea (Oakland Museum of California)
Profiling a California environmentalist for the Museum's member publication.


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