Wednesday, June 27, 2018 was the last normal day for Andrea Chamblee.
On June 28, her husband John McNamara was one of five people shot and killed in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Md.
McNamara was a beloved reporter who worked at the paper for over two decades. He covered all areas of sports, from the local and college-level to the professional ranks. Many readers and peers remember him for his time and efforts covering his alma mater, the University of Maryland.
Now, a year after the shooting, Chamblee is working to ensure that ‘a sportswriter’ is exactly how he is memorialized.
Since his death, she has relentlessly worked to finish his book ‘The Capital of Basketball.’ A longstanding project of McNamara’s, he began a comprehensive dive into the greatest high school basketball players in the Washington D.C. area. He wasn't able to finish the book before his death, but he had hours of research and interviews in boxes. So, one sleepless night Chamblee determined that she had everything she needed to complete the book.
“[The book] is the last promise I can keep for John and I’m not going to let him down,” Chamblee told NBC Sports Washington. “He was frequently wondering out loud whether he’d be remembered as a sportswriter. And I want to make sure he’s remembered for how he lives, not just for how he died.”
The book is a history basketball in D.C. His research included 150 interviews of those in and around high school sports. It includes D.C. legends Morgan Wootten of DeMatha Catholic High School and the late Joe Gallagher of St. John’s Catholic High School. It follows DC hoops through the rise and the politics, as well as the prejudices and inequalities. It features well-known figures in D.C. like Elgin Baylor and Dave Bing and little-known pillars like E.B. Henderson who brought the game to the city.
For the past year Chamblee’s been writing, proofing, identifying players in photographs, and finding someone who was as knowledgeable as McNamara to fact-check the piece.
The last part proved to be a little tricky.
“We had trouble finding the fact-checker,” Chamblee said. “The fact-checker actually had no comments which makes me think John really did know more than everyone.”
Finishing the book energized her since his death to cope with the loss. But now as the book is complete, it is as if Chamblee must say goodbye all over again.
“[The book] was a diversion, definitely. It feels like it’s a piece of John and now that it’s finished and I have to let other people see it, I feel like I want to keep it for myself. But, I know I have to let it go,” Chamblee said. “In some ways, letting it go is going to be harder than actually writing it.”
The book will be released on November 3 at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Chevy Chase, Md.