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Rick Reilly, within his weekly Sports Illustrated column, “The Life of Reilly” sheds an interesting light onto the LeBron James controversy. LeBron James is considered, possibly, the greatest high school basketball player ever and will, in most scouts’ opinion, will be the first player selected in the 2003 N.B.A. draft. However, after a chain of events involving a gift of $845 worth of free basketball jerseys, James was ruled ineligible for two of his team’s high school games. Reilly explains the benefit another player receives from James’ error. Junior Brandon Weems has the chance to step in the shoes no one can fill and play in front of full crowds expecting to see LeBron. This paper will discuss briefly Reilly’s background as well as whom he has intended to read his piece. Furthermore, it will also discuss the rhetorical appeals Reilly has used and the argument structure that is taking place.
Reilly has been a Sports Illustrated writer for seventeen years and has won the award for National Sportswriter of the Year seven times. His career has taken him places such as the golf course with President Bill Clinton, into the cockpit of an F-14 fighter plane, to the daunting task of being present at the Swimsuit Edition photo shoot. Reilly, who started in 1979 with the Boulder (CO) Daily Camera, always tends to put a witty and amusing spin on stories that may seem bland at first glance. It has been said that he has an uncanny knowledge of all sports mixed with the “timing of Jay Leno and the wit of Johnny Carson” (si.com).
The intended audience for the piece, “King for a Day”, is an intelligent crowd that has somewhat of an interest in sports in general, not necessarily basketball. Any current or former high school athlete can relate to the situation that Weems is in. He is a replacement who just wants to have fun when he gets the chance. Anyone who appreciates the story of an underdog who succeeds will value this article. Reilly’s purpose is to show that there are two sides to ever story.
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The rhetorical appeal most apparent in “King for a Day” is pathos. Reilly lets the readers’ emotions guide him/ her through the piece. Reilly portrays James as a spoiled future millionaire while Weems comes across as another high school student with a strong work ethic. “James drives a $75,000 Hummer. Weems doesn’t have a car… James has a squadron of security guards…and a strict no-autograph-during-school policy…If anybody ever asks [Weems], he plans on signing” (Reilly 90). Rick Reilly fills two paragraphs comparing the glitzy high life that James lives to the conservative lifestyle of Brandon Weems. Another aspect of pathos is creating a descriptive picture of the scene in the readers’ mind. Reilly starts his essay this way by just describing the two players’ physical qualities. “…6’8”, 240-pound senior LeBron James-sitting on the bench. And here was a high school nobody- 5’71/2”, 150-pound junior Brandon Weems…” (Reilly 90). But finally, Reilly adds commentary that will bring a smirk to almost anyone’s face. “Brandon Weems had one thing on Sunday that LeBron James did not…his high school eligibility” (Reilly 90). This example may be an example of logos, using the logic that, with all his future millions, he still could not have buy his way back into a high school basketball game.
The argument structure cause and effect is used initially to explain how this situation came about. The cause is LeBron James illegally accepted gifts that would be hard for any teen to turn down. The effect is he is unable to play in his team’s games. Reilly’s argument structure includes also chronological. For example, he leads with the scene of the superstar James on the sidelines cheering on his teammate. He continues his article detailing Weem’s four points scored while playing under what seems like an electron microscope. Lastly, he discusses briefly LeBron’s professional future involving shoe sponsorships and multi-year contracts.
In conclusion, Rick Reilly created an insightful look into what it’s like to be the most watched high school player in the country. “[James’] games were televised on ESPN2 and regional pay-per-view” (Reilly 90). As is the case with a majority of his columns, he uses humor within emotional appeals to express his point to the audience. He used a variety of argument styles to get his point to his audience. Lastly, he accomplished his intended purpose of informing the public about future superstar LeBron James and the controversy he caused in high school.
Reilly, Rick. “King for the Day.” Sports Illustrated 10 Feb. 2003: 90
Sports Illustrated. 23 February 2003. Sports Illustrated. 23 February 2003 <http://www.sportsillustrad.cnn.com/inside_game/archives/rick_reilly/