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Riverview basketball player sets social media on fire — and impresses LeBron James

Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn

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Most of the time, reporters find stuff to write about during the day by making calls or receiving press releases or going to meetings.

Sometimes though, stories are found when least expected. Like at 11 p.m. while lying in bed, wearing pajamas and scrolling through Twitter before falling asleep.

This exact thing happened to me on July 26, when my eyes glanced at a tweet from the SportsCenter account and saw the name “Malachi Wideman.” I did a double take. Could that be our Malachi Wideman, the Riverview High rising junior basketball and football star?

Turns out, it could.

Wideman was playing for the E1T1 United AAU basketball team at the Las Vegas Fab 48 event and had thrown down two thunderous dunks, dunks so smooth yet ferocious they might have gotten social media traction on their own. But what caused the frenzy and got the attention of SportsCenter was the reaction of two people in attendance. You might have heard of them: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Wade was there because his son, Zaire Wade, plays for E1T1. James was there because his son, Bronny James, was also playing in the event, though not in Wideman’s game. One of Wideman’s dunks, from the left side, caused Wade to hold in a smile and shoot a look at James, who just shook his head. The second dunk, from the right side, had James stand up from his seat in disbelief and Wade wipe his face.

Print readers: you need to see these videos. Trust me. Just Google “Malachi Wideman dunk” and you’ll find them. They weren’t just covered by SportsCenter, but by NBC Sports, Bleacher Report, SLAM Online, and basically every other sports-centric website.

I had to ask Wideman what the experience of going viral was like.

“It’s cool,” he said. “I got a lot of follows on Instagram.” (As of Aug. 8, he was up to approximately 20,400, in case you were wondering.)

That Instagram is on the top of Wideman’s mind may sound silly, but exposure is everything in recruitment. The more people see his skills, the better shot he has of attending any school he wants.

Wideman also said LeBron told him how nice his dunks were after the game. He had met Wade a few times before, since he plays with his son, but said Wade also had nice things to say afterwards, telling Wideman to keep improving and he’ll be “just fine.”

“They could easily be relaxing on some island,” Wideman said of the presence of the superstars. “It’s cool to see them looking at the new talent.”

The exposure is working. After never being ranked in the Rivals 150 list for the class of 2020, Wideman jumped to No. 95 after the Fab 48 event.

Not that he can think about that now. Football practice has begun, and he’s a four-star wide receiver, too. Whichever sport he sticks with at the next level, you can expect to see him on SportsCenter a lot more. The rest of the country is just getting to know what we’ve known for years: Malachi Wideman is elite.



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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