29 October 2016

NBA opener in photos

Well, our opening NBA League Pass VR broadcast, produced by NextVR, is in the books, and we've definitely turned our focus to Tuesday's Pacers-Lakers game as our shows move to Tuesday nights for most of the season.

But I did find time to grab a few pictures / screenshots from Thursday's opener, one our entire crew and the basketball fans of Sacramento will not soon forget:

25 October 2016

Hello, NBA! Coming your way in 2016-17

I am proud to announce that I will call play-by-play on the first full season of live virtual-reality sports this winter when the NBA and NextVR partner to produce at least 25 regular-season games in VR via NBA League Pass!

Official announcement from NBA
Official announcement from NextVR
How to get access to NextVR

On my end, this has been a few months in the works, and as we've gone through discussions and test games and everything, I've been so excited but unable to talk about it beyond my immediate family. So I can't wait to start the season Thursday with the Sacramento Kings-San Antonio Spurs game, the regular-season opener at the new Golden 1 Center in Sacramento! Tip is at 7:30 Pacific Time on Thursday, 10:30 Eastern Time, and fans can watch for free with the right VR headset. (Don't worry: If that sounds a little narrow, the availability is only going to get more widespread as the season goes on!)

For the NextVR team, this has been more than a year in the making, and seeing their reaction to the expansion and fine-tuning of the product has been awesome. It's a great group to work with, one I first met when working their first fully produced soccer game in the International Champions Cup in August, and I'm excited for the season.

USA Today article

Personally, this is certainly a bit of a departure from pro soccer and college sports. I've called plenty of basketball, but it's been entirely in the college ranks, so I look forward to learning some of the intricacies of the NBA, its storylines, and its players throughout this season.

One of my partners on the broadcasts this year will be Julianne Viani, who I've worked with a lot as a college basketball analyst in the New York area, and I know she's going to help make our shows analytical, fun, and successful! Fellow soccer vet Mark Rogondino will also be among those contributing, as various schedules allow, and he brings an awesome perspective and energy that are hard to match.

Upload VR article

The test broadcasts have been exhilarating and illuminating. I've learned some things about how to prepare and how to approach these broadcasts (slightly differently than a normal game), and I've learned a lot about how the NBA operates. As broadcasters and as a production group, we've definitely gotten a better idea of what works and what doesn't, and we've come up with ideas we think can be implemented as the season goes on. We may not have every bell and whistle on Opening Night, but you'll be impressed and enjoy the show!

The VR camera angles work really well for basketball, with the most often used cameras stationed underneath the basket. That means dunks and anything at the rim come right at you, and it also provides a more true look of how teams approach the game in terms of Xs and Os, since you get the same vertical vantage point as the players. Our scorer's-table camera, pictured here, brings some sideline access to coaches and players that you don't see on a normal broadcast. It's absolutey fascinating to watch a game this way.

I don't know how many of you have the ability to watch VR broadcasts just yet, but as somebody who was skeptical before trying the technology out, I can highly recommend that you give it a chance! Basketball is definitely the ideal sport to provide a starting point for sports in virtual reality, and I'm incredibly excited for all the new experiences this winter will bring.

So find a Samsung phone or Playstation and a VR headset and check out our Game of the Week all NBA season!

Again, here's how to get access to NextVR.

01 October 2016

All the highlights and reaction from crazy MLS game

In the second of a three-games-in-four-days stretch, I got an awesome game to call Saturday night at Red Bull Arena.

With only three games remaining before the playoffs, the New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union played a back-and-forth game with a playoff-like atmosphere. Although it was marred by a scary head injury to a promising young Philadelphia player, Josh Yaro, the rest of the game was edge-of-your seat stuff.

Unfortunately, in my case, it was also Jon-on-the-verge-of-losing-his-voice stuff. All the big plays and the goals, coupled with the energy of the crowd, had me doing a lot of yelling. Hopefully it sounded good, but I was definitely a little hoarse by the postgame show. Hoping for a quick turnaround for Sunday's ESPNU broadcast in West Virginia.

At any rate, here are the highlights from an intense night:

And here's how Shep and I broke it down on the MSG postgame show: