Basketball, She Broke

Indiana Pacers analyst Caitlin Cooper is taking a much deserved break during NBA All-Star weekend, close to a year after she launched her own blog about the team, earning the respect of coaches, players, and fans along the way.
Photo courtesy Caitlin Cooper
Caitlin Cooper, founder of Basketball, She Wrote, a blog about the Indiana Pacers, had a vision for what she wanted her coverage of the team to look like, launched her own Patreon within weeks of being laid off from her former employer, and has found success in a competitive market.

The 2023 NBA All-Star break wasn’t much of a break at all for Caitlin Cooper. She was planning the launch of her new basketball blog.

Cooper, who has “an elite basketball mind,” according to 2024 All-Star starting point guard Tyrese Haliburton, was one of many women basketball, hockey, and soccer analysts who lost their jobs when Vox Media abruptly reduced its workforce by 7 percent in January 2023. When Haliburton was named an All-Star days later, Cooper had no venue to share her coach-like analysis of his game because her platform at SportsBlog Nation, Vox’s sports network, was effectively defunded overnight.

So without missing a beat, she started her Patreon blog, Basketball, She Wrote, where she has continued covering the Pacers through the 2023–24 season.

But in a twist, Cooper and her sister are treating this year’s All-Star weekend as a “mini vacation”—despite the fact that it’s happening in Indianapolis (in case you somehow haven’t noticed). It’s a well-earned vacation, too—and a timely one, as both Cooper and her sister’s birthdays fall within the week—because it only marks a momentary lapse in Cooper’s energetic, nonstop Pacers coverage.

“Mostly what I’m looking for when I watch a game is abnormalities,” says Cooper. “And that could be for good reasons or bad reasons.”

For example, she explains how rookie Pacer Ben Sheppard, who was the third-leading scorer in the Missouri Valley Conference his senior year, has improved his defense and how he has a wide-stanced, two-handed closeout technique on the perimeter. This could be a habit left over from his college days with the Belmont Bruins. Or it could be a technique that other Pacers will begin to replicate on the court.

When asked about another 2023 first round draft pick, Jarace Walker, who was known for his aggressive ball-trapping ability at Houston University, Cooper comments on how his perimeter shooting has developed. He shot 12-of-32 this year from behind the arc, a higher percentage than what he averaged with his 3-point shot in college .

“It’s kind of the reverse of probably what people would’ve estimated,” Cooper says. “We’ve seen shooting development from Jarace, which is probably what you would have thought of from Ben. And we’ve seen defensive development from Ben, which is probably more what people [expected] … of Jarace.”

It’s that level of nuanced analysis of two players who average about 10 minutes a game that frequent collaborator Tony East says he yearned for growing up a fan of the Washington Wizards.

“We’re more informational,” says East when asked about how he and Cooper differ from traditional sports beat writers. “When I wanted to get into sports media, part of what I always thought was missing was good, detailed explanations of certain things.”

East adds that Cooper is “especially good” at explaining the “how” and “why” of basketball, which he says is valuable in new age media. Basketball, She Wrote intentionally centers on the X’s and O’s of basketball, Cooper says, and that’s why she watches slowed-down tape of every Pacers game within hours of the final whistle—so she can blog about what the team’s fans couldn’t have noticed watching the game live.

“Indiana is a basketball state, but it’s never fully been an NBA basketball state,” Cooper says. “When I created Basketball, She Wrote, I wanted to create the niche community that I never had. When I was growing up watching the NBA, I didn’t have friends who watched NBA basketball.”

That niche community extends beyond Pacers fans. Shortly before the current season started, a New York Knicks fan subscribed to Basketball, She Wrote after Cooper appeared on a Knicks podcast. He directly messaged Cooper, mentioning his 6- and 9-year-old daughters’ love of watching her videos breaking down the games.

When Cooper was their age, she couldn’t even find a widely available women’s basketball shoe, much less access to hours and hours of basketball analysis by a woman. She now has both—she recently purchased a pair of Sabrina Ionescu’s signature shoes.

“The fact that she’s going up against Steph [Curry] here in Indy is really special for me,” says Cooper about Ionescu. She plans to attend the NBA All-Star Skills Challenge Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, where Ionescu will defend her 3-point contest professional record against Curry, a two-time MVP winner.

Overall, Cooper says Indiana is beginning to embrace women’s basketball like never before, noting how Purdue University’s Mackey Arena recently boasted a record crowd of 14,876 during a Boilermakers-Hawkeyes women’s basketball matchup, where Indiana Fever fans held signs begging superstar Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, expected to become the No. 1 WNBA overall pick, to sign with the Fever.

NBA players are embracing the women’s league, too. Sheppard, for example, wears Ionescu’s shoes sometimes when he plays—unthinkable at the turn of the 21st century, when the WNBA was in its infancy, and Sheppard wasn’t yet born. 

In fact, when Cooper first met Haliburton at the end of the 2022–23 season, he was wearing a Fever jersey.

 “He noticed me and said, ‘Oh, it’s Caitlin! Can’t believe I get to meet you now.’ That was his reaction to me. And I told him this, and I tell everyone—it says way more about him and who he is as a person than it does necessarily about me and the quality of my work that that’s what he’s willing to do. Because he certainly doesn’t have to be as generous with his platform as … he’s been. … I’m not sure if my [blog] would’ve gotten off the ground as well as it did [without] his support behind it very early on.”

Part of that support came in the form of a post by Haliburton on X that has nearly a million views in which he gave a shout-out to Cooper after she announced she was laid off. And he continues to support Cooper, recently wearing one of her blog’s shirts in the tunnel at Gainbridge Fieldhouse before a game.

Cooper is in a much different spot now than where she was around this time last year. In a screenshot of her Notes app posted to X in January 2023 discussing the end of her time at Indy Cornrows, she wrote, “As a small-market writer, living in small-town Indiana, I’ve never asked for a trade, nor did I ever plan to. But I have to figure out what’s next for me, and I need to give myself space to feel this.”

A mere few weeks after that post, Basketball, She Wrote launched, complete with merch and multiple monthly-based support tiers, and more dedicated coverage than what Cooper was able to produce at Indy Cornrows, which was restarted months later by site founder Tom Lewis. So, it goes without saying: Cooper has certainly earned her “mini vacation” during the All-Star break—though she admits she may still create some blog posts out of it.

“I will be working too much, unfortunately,” says East, who still covers both the Pacers and the Fever on a year-round basis for multiple outlets, including Forbes, FanNation, and Sports Illustrated. He’ll be looking for any angles he can find to add in coverage of either team during the weekend, such as Fever legend and basketball Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings coaching in the NBA Rising Stars game.

While Cooper prioritizes trying to be objective in her discussion of the Pacers, being ever so careful not to come across as too celebratory of their wins or overly critical of their losses, she has a different type of reverence for the Fever.

“I went to a Fever game for the first time in a long time and saw Aliyah Boston play last year. Because of my coverage of the Pacers, it’s kind of hard to tap into your fandom when you’re in it every night, and you’re having to analyze,” Cooper says, “[But] when I went to that Fever game, it was like I got to be a fan again, and it was like the Fever were just for me. So if Caitlin Clark comes here along with Aliyah Boston, I’m going to be a big Fever fan. But I don’t know that I’ll necessarily go right away into expanding into that arena quite yet. But we’ll always see. … Never say never.”