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HoopsHype.com, from his parent's basement in Spain to the big times

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by HotRocket, Mar 23, 2008.

  1. HotRocket

    HotRocket Contributing Member

    May 19, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Apparently 3 nobodies are behind one of the largest rumor mills for the NBA, and they don't even live in the US!


    General managers, agents, sportswriters and knowledgeable fans of the National Basketball Association log on every morning to Hoopshype.com for the latest in news and gossip.

    The pro basketball Web site has influenced player moves, stoked rivalries and now attracts more than a half-million unique visitors a month after starting from scratch in 2002. NBA coaches read it to check in on their job status, and rumors posted there have put trades in motion. "It's required reading for every member of my staff," says Bill Duffy, an NBA agent in Walnut Creek, Calif.

    It's also been a mystery. For all its popularity, few had any idea who was

    After six years of anonymity, the architects of Hoopshype.com have come forward, and they turn out to be a surprising squad: three 29-year-old men working from their apartments in Spain. Collectively, they've been to two NBA games, although they watch on TV. One of them doesn't even like the sport.

    How three Spaniards became the town criers of a major North American sports league is another reminder of how the Internet is helping displace traditional reporting with specialized sites and forums that feature a mix of rumors, news and opinion. "I like the fact that what I do has an impact on the NBA outside of my country," says Hoopshype founder Jorge Sierra.

    On a recent February afternoon, after the news broke that the Miami Heat planned to trade center Shaquille O'Neal to the Phoenix Suns, the bilingual Hoopshype team gathered in a small third-floor apartment in the Salamanca neighborhood of Madrid to work the story. Raúl Barrigón hunched over a computer in the smaller of the two bedrooms. He scoured the Web for tidbits, trying to make sense of the trade. "He still has to pass a physical, and that's a big 'if' because he's already messed up physically," said Mr. Barrigón.

    In the sparsely furnished living room, Mr. Sierra and Angel Marin sat at opposite ends of a glass-top dining-room table, pecking away at laptops. Mr. Sierra obsessively dialed Danilo Gallinari, an Italian player expected to be a top pick in the NBA draft this June. An ESPN online reporter sent an email saying he needed to change a couple of details before Mr. Sierra could post a link to his story. Meantime, tens of thousands more visitors than usual swamped the Hoopshype site, seeking the latest on the Shaq trade. Mr. Sierra -- thin, with angular features and deep-set eyes -- rested his head in his left hand. He'd been up since 7 a.m., five hours earlier than usual. "It killed me," he said.

    Mr. Sierra created Hoopshype.com six years ago in a bedroom of his parents' home in Valladolid, a town 125 miles northwest of Madrid. The popularity of basketball began swelling here after Spain reached the finals in the 1984 Olympics. Basketball fever spread during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, when a U.S. dream team of NBA stars transfixed the country. The growing interest in the game in the 1980s had spawned a number of Spanish-language basketball magazines, including Gigantes, where all three men worked as college students in 2000.

    In 2001, Mr. Sierra took a job writing for a women's basketball Web site. He says he was shocked to discover that it was making money, so he bought a manual on how to create a Web site and launched Hoopshype.com. It began as a technical and financial disaster, crashing once a week and drawing no advertisers. Mr. Sierra eventually found a stable of U.S. writers to contribute articles at $25 a shot. He used his connections with European pro basketball teams to land interviews with players who were drawing attention from U.S. teams.

    Even when he was running the site by himself, Mr. Sierra rarely rose before noon. He didn't have to. His time zone gave him a five-hour head start on his closest U.S. rivals. He used the time to scour the Web for the latest NBA news so that his summary was ready when U.S. agents and NBA executives start checking the site in the morning. "I think everybody reads it," says Lon Babby, a Washington-based agent who represents 19 NBA players.

    The hub of the site is "Rumors," which are harvested from hundreds of sources, including U.S. and international newspapers, as well as other Web sites and bloggers. Hoopshype taps a lengthy source list of agents, players and executives to confirm stories and break news. In 2004, according to Mr. Sierra, they were the first to report the Lakers were trading Gary Payton to Boston.

    What most distinguishes Hoopshype is the critical mass of movers and shakers who read it daily. Even when the rumors prove false, the site acts as a catalyst. One morning in October 2005, a Hoopshype item caught the eye of Larry Harris, the former general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks: A New York tabloid was reporting that the New Orleans Hornets wanted to trade Jamaal Magloire.

    The story turned out to be wrong. But the rumor prompted Mr. Harris to call the Hornets to find out if they were willing to deal. Two days later, Mr. Magloire was on his way to Milwaukee. Mr. Harris says he routinely calls other general managers in the league based on tips from Hoopshype.

    "If anyone tells you they're not reading it, I'd have to say they're maybe trying to keep a lot of things close to the vest," Mr. Harris says.

    Over lunch at an Asian fusion restaurant in downtown Madrid, Messrs. Sierra, Marin and Barrigón discuss the American sport that keeps them fed. Mr. Marin pulls out the laptop to check how much Internet traffic is being generated by the Shaq trade. He is the bookish, technical guru of Hoopshype and wears a black T-shirt that says, "I void warranties."

    Mr. Marin confesses he attended his first NBA game last year in Los Angeles. "It was boring," he says. He points across the table at Mr. Sierra. "But it's one more game than he's been to."

    The soft-spoken Mr. Sierra is embarrassed to admit he'd never attended an NBA game in the U.S. before he traveled to New Orleans last month for the All-Star game. Before that his only taste of the league had come from a few pre-season exhibitions played in Spain.

    While Hoopshype's proprietors like to point out that Spain has become a major basketball hotbed ("It's not like we're in Uzbekistan," Mr. Barrigón says), they say they've been reluctant to make it widely known that the site is run an ocean away from the nearest NBA arena. "It's not something we're trying to hide, but it's not something we're trying to show, either," Mr. Sierra says.

    Profits began dribbling in about a year after the launch. Two years later, Dime magazine, a basketball publication in the U.S., agreed to sell ads on Hoopshype for a split of the revenue. That arrangement yielded a deal with Nike in late 2004, providing Mr. Sierra with enough money to move out of his parents' house and into an apartment.

    Last year, Fantasy Sports Ventures went looking for him. FSV, based in New York, is building a network of Web sites for advertisers that deliver readers bundled by sport and topic. The firm, which had been acquiring sports Web sites, wanted a basketball site with broad reach. When its representatives started asking NBA insiders to name the sport's most influential Web site, their answer -- more often than not -- was Hoopshype.com.

    It took three months for FSV executives to track down Mr. Sierra and arrange a meeting. In December, they agreed to purchase Hoopshype for a price in the "low-seven figures," according to Chris Russo, the chief executive. Mr. Sierra received the lion's share of the money, but says he insisted on sharing the proceeds with Messrs. Barrigón and Marin, as well as retaining them as full-time employees. The three men continue to run the site.

    It's 9 p.m. in Madrid. The tipoff of the day's first NBA game back in the States is still three hours away. Messrs. Sierra and Barrigón are riding the subway on a break for dinner and drinks. Their work days usually stretch into the middle of the night during NBA season, which runs from October to June. "One of us is always doing something related to Hoopshype until we go to bed," says Mr. Sierra.

    As usual, they're talking hoops. Even in Spanish-inflected English it sounds like an episode of TNT's "Inside the NBA." Mr. Barrigón reminds Mr. Sierra that during the 1992 Olympics the NBA star and U.S. Dream Teamer Chris Mullin made 14 of 26 three-point shots. Shifting subjects, Mr. Sierra says former New York Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy hurt the team by making Latrell Sprewell play out of position.

    They keep circling back to the news of the day, the departure of the superstar center, Mr. O'Neal, from the Miami Heat. For Phoenix, trading the younger, cheaper Shawn Marion for an aging star with two years remaining on his contract after this season "is pretty stupid," Mr. Sierra says.

    As the subway nears its stop, Mr. Barrigón checks his watch. It's two o'clock in the afternoon in Phoenix. Mr. O'Neal will be touching down there shortly. They'd better hurry. Mr. O'Neal might be done with his physical before they get back to their computers.
  2. Drexlerfan22

    Drexlerfan22 Contributing Member

    Apr 6, 2002
    Likes Received:
    I never understood why this site was censored on this BBS. It basically just links to stories from newspapers... unlike another site with a similar name, which just makes things up. They're totally different things.
  3. GAY4WHO???

    GAY4WHO??? Member

    Jun 29, 2006
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    thats intresting...makes me want to do something like that...
  4. Ziggy

    Ziggy QUEEN ANON

    Jun 11, 1999
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    Made me realize I should probably be a GM.
  5. heypartner

    heypartner Contributing Member

    Oct 27, 1999
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    I hate rumors

    They just r e a l l y pisses me off.

    That's why I told Brian Kagy, Jeff and Clutch at Kenneally's after Hakeem's last game when they said "We were looking for you after the game; we went into the tunnels and met Doc Rocket" Brian Kagy said "He's for real." I said..."Don't tell me who he is, because if you do, I will tell Carrol Dawson who Doc Rocket is."

    If GMs want to spread a rumor, they don't need hoopshype. Anyone who spreads stuff that GMs don't want spread, need to be revealed to the organization. They are not helping.
  6. pippendagimp

    pippendagimp Member

    Sep 1, 2000
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  7. hooroo

    hooroo Member

    Oct 16, 2003
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    h-world is censored. i don't think h-hype is.
  8. Invisible Fan

    Invisible Fan Contributing Member

    Dec 5, 2001
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    Nice... a WSJ article. They give a lot of tech entrepreneurs hope worldwide in making a successful site with their passion.
  9. Drexlerfan22

    Drexlerfan22 Contributing Member

    Apr 6, 2002
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    I don't know if it is now, but I'm 100% positive that h-hype was at one point. I never understood why.

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