Sac State alumnus among top NBA writers at The Athletic
Sam Amick was set to cover 2020 NBA Playoffs before COVID-19 pandemic
April 17, 2020
As a 7-year-old boy, Sam Amick found himself at the Super Bowl XIX media day between the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins at Stanford Stadium.
This was not Amick’s only exposure to the sports media world as a boy, as his dad Bob Amick, a sweet-talking salesman, always found a way to get his sports-loving son exposure to the pros.
“My dad was in sales and he was a pretty charming dude,” Amick said. “He had a knack for going to these games and smooth-talking the security guard. We wouldn’t just go to the games, nine times out of 10 we’d meet the players. That left a mark on me.”
From standing among giants in the 49ers locker room after a game to freezing up meeting his idol Will Clark before a San Francisco Giants game, Amick’s childhood provided him with experiences that would later help him in his career as an NBA writer for The Athletic.
“One memory that comes to mind is going to a Niners game at Candlestick Park,” Amick said. “My dad sweet-talked a news anchor into bringing us in with her. Next thing you know, we’re in the Niners locker room and I’m just a little guy surrounded by giants. Matt Millen, an old Niners linebacker looked like the hulk.”
Amick was born and raised in Pleasanton, California, about 90 minutes south of Sacramento, where he attended Harvest Park Middle School. In 1990, during the seventh grade, Amick played on the school’s basketball team where he met someone with a very similar name, Sam Alipour.
“If someone would’ve told us then that you two Sams from Harvest Park Middle School would be working in sports media someday doing what we do, I would’ve told them they’re crazy,” Alipour said. “He was the same guy he is now. Ridiculously nice guy, great teammate, multi-tool player, dependable, competitive and a worker.”
Alipour went on to carve his own path as a senior correspondent at ESPN, where he hosts his “Hang Time” segment with professional athletes. At the time on their middle school hoops team, neither Amick or Alipour dreamed of pursuing a career in sports media.
“Never in a million years would I have imagined both of us going into sports media like this,” Amick said.
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In ninth grade, Amick moved on to Amador Valley High School. Following graduation in 1996, he moved north to California’s Capitol and enrolled at Sacramento State.
“When I went to Sac State, I was a little lost life-wise,” Amick said. “I wasn’t thrilled with the way high school ended, I messed around with some of my grades. Going in, it was something where I had to get my shit together.”
Amick’s career path was directed by an academic misunderstanding which led him to join the school newspaper.
“I picked journalism (because) I thought you had to pick a major and I was wrong,” Amick said. “It was almost like gun to your head, what do you want to major in? Ok well, I like writing and I don’t love math so let’s do writing. The State Hornet was just a real breath of fresh air for me.”
During his freshman year, Amick joined The State Hornet, completed one news assignment and decided it wasn’t for him and left. However, he would eventually return.
By his junior year in the fall of 1998, Amick began enjoying himself as he returned to The State Hornet and started covering sports. He went on to become an assistant sports editor in fall 1999 and the sports editor in the spring of 2000.
“I have this weird mental block about writing about sports where it felt too good to be true,” Amick said. “I don’t know if I thought it was silly to write about sports, if it just wasn’t serious enough or why I hadn’t thought of it earlier.”
Before graduating from Sac State in 2000, Amick got an internship as a sports clerk at The Sacramento Bee. It was “tricky” to secure a job at The Bee straight out of college, which led him to start a new internship at The Stockton Record in the summer of 2000 covering sports.
Amick returned to The Bee in October 2000, writing for “Neighbors,” the weekly regional section in the newspaper. He served as a general assignment sports reporter until 2005 when he became the publication’s Sacramento Kings beat writer.
“It was miserable in the beginning,” Amick recalled. “Marty McNeal was beloved in those circles, the former beat writer. People were not happy that there was a new person on the beat. I didn’t have a lot of friends and had to learn that you can’t really care too much about being liked.”
Amick was able to overcome the early adversity knowing that his future in the business was at stake.
“It was ups and downs but it was a great experience,” Amick said. “I just felt like at that paper, that was the number one beat job. So I just tried to attack it just knowing that if I want to do this for a living, you better not screw up this particular job.”
In February 2010, Amick departed The Bee for AOL Fanhouse, where he served as a national NBA writer for one year until March 2011. His exit opened the door for Jason Jones, his colleague at The Bee since 2002, to take over as the sole beat writer midseason after sharing the duties.
“It was weird,” Jones said. “They didn’t want to say we were co (beat writers) but we had been told different things. It was a lot of miscommunication. He left the paper around February so I finished out Tyreke (Evans)’ rookie year. It was a unique situation but we made the most of it.”
Amick’s next stop was Sports Illustrated, covering the NBA from April 2011 until October 2012.
“He’s a rare combo of highly talented plus strong work ethic, plus a high-quality human being. That’s why he’s got the Rolodex he does. It’s no surprise that coaches, athletes, GMs, they like talking to him,” Alipour said of Amick. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Sam Amick and that’s saying something because we work in a field that can be somewhat competitive and petty at times.”
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As a tenured NBA writer in late 2012, Amick made the move to a national newspaper, becoming an NBA insider for USA Today Sports. He held that position until September 2018 when a new startup sports website emerged, The Athletic.
News broke of Amick’s move to The Athletic before he made it official himself, as Portland Trail Blazers point guard and Weber State alumnus Damian Lillard made the announcement on Twitter.
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Sources: @sam_amick leaving USA Today for a national job at The Athletic … 🤷🏽♂️
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) September 7, 2018
While at The Athletic, Amick has collaborated on multiple stories with Jones, who made his move at the same time.
“When he’s focused on something, he has this doggedness about him,” Jones said. “It pays off. He’s the one who got Dwight Howard leaving the Lakers for Houston first. I’ve seen him do things where he’ll get something, even with the Houston-Dwight Howard thing, you got everyone coming after him telling him he’s wrong and he’s like, ‘No, I’m right,’ and he was right. His determination makes him what he is.”
Amick’s childhood was unique considering how many opportunities he was given from his dad to stand among giants in the sports world. Now, he does it for a living covering some of the tallest athletes in the world.
Amick’s resume includes covering the 2010 NBA Finals and asking the question that sparked the famous Ron Artest quote about the late Kobe Bryant, “He passed me the ball, he never passes me the ball!” and covering the Golden State Warriors five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
Now, amid a pandemic, instead of covering the 2020 NBA Playoffs that were scheduled to begin Saturday, Amick will be at home in Elk Grove thinking of new story ideas. Despite the circumstances, Amick continues to prove he can cover it all.