Behind The Scenes

Don’t adjust your computer screen: You’re watching TrueHoop TV

An NBA star drills a soccer ball into a teammate’s private parts.

A former NBA coach recalls when a jet plane’s exhaust helped destroy his Honda.

An NBA draft prospect visits his brother’s gravesite.

Since debuting in February, TrueHoop TV has delivered the sights and sounds described above and much more in entertaining, educational and even emotional episodes on ESPN.com.

The latest installments — embedded above and below — debuted Friday.

Look for two episodes per week on ESPN.com as the 2011-12 NBA season finally unfolds beginning Christmas Day.

The series is the brainchild of TrueHoop Blog Network founder Henry Abbott and ESPN producer Jade Hoye.

“We have great bloggers, reporters, and analysts. But we didn’t have a video vehicle [online] for them to express themselves,” said Chris Ramsay, ESPN.com’s Senior Director, Editorial and Special Projects who also works on the site’s NBA coverage.

TrueHoop TV, an extension of the TrueHoop blog, provides that vehicle for analysis.

“I’m always entertained,” Ramsay said.

“I’ve gotten more positive feedback on this than any other video show or stunt we’ve ever developed. They’ve done something very interesting and original.”

Every week, Abbott and Hoye ask ESPN’s extensive web of basketball experts on television, radio, and online — including the bloggers representing all 30 NBA franchises — to contribute their thoughts on a hot topic. The contributors include such names as. J.A. Adande, Bomani Jones, Tas Melas of The Basketball Jones, Marc Stein, David Thorpe and Kevin Arnovitz.

The best of the resulting Webcam submissions are honed into a fast-paced, insightful and often funny video editorial.

“I’ll be honest when I say it’s a bunch of dorks sitting at their computers talking about basketball, which would be really boring if Jade didn’t make it look fantastically cool,” the New Jersey-based Abbott said, chuckling.

TrueHoop Network is 36 blogs with more than 100 contributors “who really spend a lot of time analyzing and thinking about basketball but wouldn’t normally get the chance to do so on video.”

Abbott said he knows the concept is succeeding because of the reaction he gets from would-be contributors, including fans and even former players.

“People see it and they don’t say, ‘I want to make a whole bunch of money being on that.’ They say, ‘Can I be on it?’ People see it and they know it’s a cool thing.”

Hoye blends the TrueHoop experts’ thoughts with outtakes from ESPN and ABC News archives. Anyone from league commissioner David Stern to LeBron James to President Obama to an animated character called “The Real Hector” might surface suddenly.

Somehow, it all seems to work.

“The challenge is making the content palatable,” said Bristol-based Hoye. He juggles producing TrueHoop TV with various other ESPN assignments including another web series Both Sides Of The Ball.

“What’s interesting about [TrueHoopTV contributors] in particular is that they’re very creative in the way they’re delivering the content. It’s not just Joe Blogger staring at a camera.”

TrueHoop TV traffic usually averages more than 100,000 views per episode, which has helped ESPN.com’s NBA site register increased traffic last season.

“I would say that TrueHoop TV is our most popular non-highlight piece of video content,” said Ramsay.

After working together in person at the NBA Finals, Abbott and Hoye reunited to cover the league’s draft.

In the span of a few hours last June, the pair interviewed several prospects in the Good Morning America studios in Times Square, documented eventual Golden State Warriors selection Charles Jenkins at his high school and his brother’s gravesite, and recorded NBA star Steve Nash’s charity soccer game that evening.

“Honestly, I was hoping that Jade would edit and produce all of those things in very short order. Everything was a rush and the poor guy is working solo,” Abbott recalled.

As the soccer game ended, rain fell. The TrueHoop TV duo didn’t have umbrellas.

“I’m running all over the Lower East side looking for umbrellas just as it starts pouring,” Abbott said, “anything to try to keep the cameras dry so we could shoot a little more.”

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