30 May 2017

Looking back to top photos, moments from 1st NBA season in virtual reality

Clearly, I've been putting this off for far too long. No posts from the NBA League Pass Virtual Reality opener on Oct. 27 until late May. There's a lot to tell.

In brief, the NBA season was an awesome, exciting, fun, challenging, and lengthy experience. We called one game a week for the entire season for NextVR productions of NBA League Pass VR, finally totaling 26 regular-season games broadcast in virtual reality. While we feel like we always put on a good show, the improvement from No. 1 to No. 26 was substantial and something I was really proud to be part of.

I wrote a whole lot more about the season, and you can scroll all the way down to read it, but pictures are a lot more powerful, aren't they? I can't really do justice to the entire year, but here are a few pictures that I hope capture how much fun it was to cover the NBA in virtual reality!

This is meta: Kevin Durant watching our footage right next to our camera. (via NextVR)
Working my 1st game at Madison Square Garden with Antoine Walker filling in.

Way back during a preseason test when we didn't know anything!
At the Moda Center on a very strange Election Night.
Julianne and I with Jerry West's silhouette.
The courtside atmosphere in Boston was electric!
Everything's bigger in Texas, including the cinnamon rolls!
My first game with Bruce Bowen, and I had no idea what I was in for!
Doing a pre-game hit near trophies in San Antonio ...

... and on a throwback center court in Houston ...
... while this was the view from inside our truck.
I flew high over New York many, many times.
Like Julianne, I always wondered what Mark was doing.
A moment of reflection in OKC ...
... which also hosted one of our most exciting games of the year.

I have no idea which game this is from, but like all of them, we were pumped!

As I was saying, aside from seasons of radio broadcasts that I usually engineered myself, this was the longest stretch of games I've ever done with the same production group, crew, announcers, and personnel. So the camraderie we all felt and the pride each of us took in working on the shows all year was incredibly rewarding, and it was a little emotional when we finished the season with an anticlimactic game in Atlanta on April 11. We didn't get to work any playoff games this year, although it's something we would love to try in the future.

The season was so many different things. To start with, it was fun. Covering the NBA each week, flying into a different city and getting up to speed on everything concerned with the two relevant teams, discussing big-picture league items ... those are all reasons I love what I do. Working on a regular, Game of the Week-type broadcast for an entire season is something I've wanted to be part of in many sports, and I'm really thankful for all the individuals, too numerous to name here, with whom we worked all year. The level of trust that we developed ranks with anything I've experienced in the broadcast world.

It was also difficult. Maintaining intensity and diligence and sharp preparation every week is a (good!) challenge that I was proud to take on. I enjoy the traveling aspect of the job and love getting to see new cities and visit familiar faces at times, but it is tiring. Most of all, it definitely affected my family life: My daughter turned 1 during the season (and we had a game on her birthday!), and being away so much meant new routines and emotions for everybody at home.

I feel tremendously fortunate to have played a role in the first full season of fully produced virtual reality sports broadcasts, and I am really looking forward to all the games I hope to be part of in the future.

The 2016-17 NBA season produced great memories for our entire group. From communication issues and a limo ride in preseason to calling a game courtside in Boston and seeing Kevin Durant go, "Oh, s@*(" when watching our footage on a VR headset, it was an amazing ride. My regular on-air partners in crime, Julianne Viani, Mark Rogondino, and Bruce Bowen, were tremendous to work with every step of the way. They never failed to get and keep me laughing, whether we were cutting up at a production meeting, trying to imitate some of the Aussie accents found on our crew, or debating who should be MVP while killing time during a timeout. This post is too long to list every name, but our production crew was a joy to work with and put in crazy hours and hard work. I'm grateful to every one of them.

Our most memorable shows were mostly the best games, and we had some great ones:
  • Hassan Whiteside's buzzer-beating tip to help Miami beat Detroit in an intense battle of two teams that ultimately both missed out on postseason play
  • An incredibly well-executed sequence of late-game shots by the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks in February, culminating with a C.J. McCollum game-winner in the final seconds
  • Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City overcoming a terrific comeback by the Utah Jazz with a late surge in a raucous OKC environment in late February
  • We saw the Cavaliers twice, and both were more memorable for their opponent, as Milwaukee (Nov. 29) and Utah (Jan. 10) each earned one of their biggest wins of the season by taking down LeBron & co.
  • On the other hand, Steph Curry and the Warriors always seemed to bring their A game for us, edging New Orleans in December and crushing the Mavericks and Timberwolves down the stretch
  • The crowd and atmosphere in Boston's TD Garden at our Dec. 27 game was one of the ones that always sticks with me, as does some of the Isaiah Thomas magic that took the Celtics to the East finals
  • Opening Night in Sacramento and Election Night in Portland are just two of the many other nights that I won't soon forget. Here's to many more to come!

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