Sportswriting was Peter Vecsey’s destiny. His father was a sports editor and his mother was a society editor for the Long Island Press. He played basketball at the powerhouse Archbishop Molloy High School and got his first high school job working countless hours as a sports statistician for the Daily News. After two years in the army, he returned to the Daily News as a full-time sports writer. Even at the beginning of his career, Vecsey was in a never-ending competition against himself.
“If you get scooped, that’s the way it is. You can’t have every exclusive, you can’t have every photo, you can’t. You’ve gotta move on and hopefully you have an editor who understands that,” Vecsey said. “You’ll have your own scoops and everybody will be angry. And fine, the more people you can piss off like that, in competition, the better you are.”
Early in his career, Vecsey connected with the best players in the game while writing on the ABA and competing and coaching at the Rucker tournament every summer in New York City. Though he made close friends in the league, like his wedding’s best man Julius (Dr. J) Erving, Vecsey always hunted for an inside scoop.
“I don’t need the agents to set something up, I’ll make friends with the players. You know, if I can’t do that then I move on to other players. You know, if I wanna find something out I’m not gonna go through the agents, you know, I’ll have my own people… And I think the players weren’t saying anything but the wives, man they were talking.”
After fourteen years at the Daily News and a falling out with his sports editor, Vecsey headed to the New York Post, where he became the first-ever single-sport newspaper columnist with “Hoop du Jour.” He reported on the NBA beat for the Post from 1977 until his retirement in 2012 and followed whatever story he could catch. Using his insider locker room perspective, Vecsey championed a new style of entertaining sports writing.
“I had total leeway to do what I wanted. To go where I want to go… One of my first stories was going out to Denver, Larry Brown coaching the Nuggets… I go out there and they’re leading the league and I come out of that with a column saying how negative everyone was about Larry. I mean I had 6 guys on that team that were killing him,” Vecsey said. “[Larry] calls me up, he’s cursing me out… He winds up giving me a second column because he ended up talking about Bobby Jones and Issel being soft.”
People from around the country hunted down copies of the Post every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday to read Vecsey’s column. NBA stars hunted for their names in the column and admired and feared Vecsey’s trusted opinions and exposés. With an insider perspective and the support of a loyal readership, Vecsey came after each member of the league with a sharp wit. His column coined legendary nicknames: Spawn (Shawn) Kemp , Charles (Circumference )Barkley, Spencer (Deadwood) Haywood.
“I never did it for [the hook], I just thought it was funny, that’s all. I always thought it could be entertaining and I didn’t put out, you know, ordinary nicknames,” Vecsey said. “I had a lot of people that used to feed me information and nicknames and jokes and stuff… I always remember who gave me every nickname.”
Throughout his storied career, Vecsey broke the mold of an ordinary sportswriter and worked as a broadcast reporter for various networks — including TNT, NBC and NBA-TV. His ever-expanding reach in the basketball world allowed him to break stories in print and television.
“TNT, as much as they, you know, wanna act like I never existed working for them for 4.5 years, when Kobe was coming into the draft that year, they use that excerpt all the time… I broke the story at that draft that Kobe had been traded,” Vecsey said. “So you know years later, Kobe and I became very good friends and I’ve interviewed him several times for NBC… years later he did a column with me about the draft… and we got into the Nets of course and I said what was that all about would you have gone to Italy and he said “what are you crazy?”, I wanted to play in the NBA. Of course I would’ve played.’”
Even though Vecsey retired ten years ago, he remains passionate about basketball and breaking news. Since retirement, he has published work on Patreon and delivers biting basketball takes on Twitter.
“You know, everyone said when I was on Patreon ‘you can’t break stories anymore.’ Twitter: ‘who’s on Twitter.’ I said nonsense and then I proceeded to break at least two, three, four stories that were big on Patreon,” Vecsey said. “One of them was when the Lakers were messing around with Paul George. The Lakers station out there said oh you’re doing that because you don’t like Magic Johnson. I said wait a second, no. I’m doing it because it’s real. And you know they never came back and apologized to me when the Lakers got fined $50,000 dollars for tampering… And then I broke the LeBron James story to the Lakers in September a year, nine months before he signed. I guaranteed that he was going to be a Laker.”
Through it all, Vecsey is loyal to his roots: New York City streetball, the ABA, the early NBA and Rucker. Today, he works with the National Basketball Retired Players Association, where he talks basketball with historic NBA greats on a podcast titled “Hoop du Jour with Peter Vecsey.” Though Vecsey remains relevant and continues to critique the game, he is a basketball purist.
“I can’t stand watching so many shots being taken. You know I’m waiting for them to take out the carts you know that they have at the shooting contest… [that’s] what I hate worst, and I saw a lot from Boston and it just drove me insane.”
Vecsey has been an honest, groundbreaking and controversial face of the NBA for over five decades. Still, even with a 2009 Naismith Hall of Fame Curt Gowdy Media Award, he is never satisfied.
“I was in competition with myself to break stories and to bust balls. And that’s what I wanted to do… There weren’t too many guys in that era that had been around a long time that were breaking stories,” Vecsey said. “I was always wondering if I did belong. The pressure was always on. And I felt it every time that I went to an arena, if I was writing that day, especially… I was always comparing myself to me.”
Listen to the upcoming podcast for more on Vecsey’s continuing story, sagas with the Nets and Knicks, friendships (and rivalries) with basketball and media icons and views on the game today.