ESPN Keeps Focus on Players, Eye on Celebrities, During NBA Finals Coverage

It’s show time, literally, for ESPN as the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics battle once again in the NBA Finals. And for Tim Corrigan, senior coordinating producer for ESPN’s NBA coverage, and his team the classic matchup gives an opportunity to take tools like the Orad MVP system and six Inertia Unlimited Super Mo systems and bring the biggest NBA TV audiences of the year closer than ever to the game

“As always documenting the event is number one but as the ratings go up and more people watch there are more casual fans watching,” he says. “So we need to run the balance between not offending the hardcore fan and educating the casual fan.”

With upwards of 30 cameras in use and NEP Supershooter 25 in Boston and NEP ND3 in Los Angeles documenting the action properly is a matter of finding a rhythm with a larger crew and more capabilities. Supershooter 25, for example, is ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” truck so it can definitely meet the needs of a larger show.

“It’s been tricked out for MNF and we use it during the regular season to get into a rhythm,” says Corrigan. “It’s also one of our host trucks during the Conference Finals and by the time we get to this show the show is as big as ‘Monday Night Football.’”

The six Inertia Unlimited systems are complemented by five Sony HDC-3300 super slo-motion systems and a Grass Valley LDK-8300 system.

“I give props to Ed Acunto and his team for working out deals so it is economically possible to have super slo-motion systems in the corner of the court,” says Corrigan. During the regular season a super slo-mo system is typically only at center court so the additional angles, which also include super slo-mo systems under the basket and one isolated on Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant make a difference.

“It adds to the quality of the replays and shots and makes the show a little more special,” says Corrigan.

New this year is Orad’s MVP system that is used for breaking down plays. During the first game of the series it was used to track how much distance Boston Celtic Ray Allen ran to get open for a shot.

“The Orad system adds a little bit more to the [analysis] and makes it easier for the viewer to understand the game,” adds Corrigan.

It also gives ESPN’s on-air crew of Mike Breen, Mark Jackson, and Jeff Van Gundy a new way to tell the story of the series.

“They take what they’re doing very seriously but they don’t take themselves seriously,” explains Corrigan of an on-air team that is free of any awkwardness. “They’ve been busting each other for years and have developed friendships that translate onto the air and is entertaining. They aren’t trying to find the chemistry.”

As always, a matchup between the Lakers and Celtics is a special event. For ESPN that translates into on-air profiles and stories about classic 1980s matchups, covering the celebrities in the Staples Center, or educating the casual viewer about former greats like Bob Cousy, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, and James Worthy who attend the games.

“Everything changes when you get to the Finals,” says Corrigan. “It’s just so much bigger and when you walk in the building there is a different buzz and you can feel it’s a championship stage.”

A stage that Corrigan, ESPN, and ABC hope is lit until game seven on June 17.