ESPN’s NBA All-Star team covers the event baseline to baseline

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Avery Johnson’s Homecoming

Avery Johnson (Ben Cafardo/ESPN)
If NBA All-Star 2014 was held in any other city, ESPN NBA analyst Avery Johnson would have focused on providing his usual brand of energetic, dynamic commentary on all-things NBA. However, this year, NBA All-Star was in New Orleans. Avery, a NOLA native, was asked by the NBA and the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation to serve as co-chair of NBA All-Star. Amidst media availabilities, NBA Cares volunteer work, and wining and dining with city officials, Avery summed up his excitement about returning home for this big event: “It’s special. When my family sees me participate in this event, it brings a great sense of pride to them. Also, for the young boy who dreams of being an NBA player or coach – like I was 30-plus years ago when I dreamed of playing – I’m hoping I’m a dream-maker for them and a shining example of a New Orleanian who has made it.”[/box]

ESPN had an enormous presence at NBA All-Star 2014 festivities in New Orleans. In total, more than 20 commentators contributed to ESPN’s NBA All-Star coverage on site, including many with crossover assignments across ESPN platforms. From Mike & Mike, First Take and SportsCenter, to the Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on ESPN, the NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Sports Basketball Game on ESPN3, and the comprehensive All-Star coverage on ESPN Radio and, ESPN provided fans and viewers with a steady stream of NBA All-Star news and information throughout the three-day event.

ESPN coordinating producer Bruce Bernstein managed to get a last-minute flight to New Orleans on Friday, preserving his 32-year streak of never missing an on-site assignment. (At one point last week, he thought he might not make the trip to New Orleans.) The planning for SportsCenter’s NBA All-Star coverage began almost five months ago. He spoke with Front Row about how that planning helped to deliver comprehensive NBA All-Star content to fans and viewers at home, as well as how the NBA trade deadline continues to play an ever-increasing role in ESPN’s NBA All-Star coverage.

Editor’s Note: ESPN will televise the NBA Trade Deadline Special on Thursday, Feb. 20, at 3 p.m. ET, coinciding with the trade deadline.

How would you describe your NBA All-Star coverage strategy for SportsCenter?
It’s a fun weekend with a lot of entertainment and show-biz content, but it’s also a really big week for trade deadline news. NBA All-Star has become almost like the Baseball Winter Meetings. A lot of people are talking about the trade deadline so we cover it from all angles. We do many segments at NBA All-Star, so it’s easy to have a sampling of trade news, in addition to All-Star elements. SportsCenter is a hungry monster. They always want a lot of food so we provide them with a little bit of everything.

How did you coordinate having NBA Insiders on site and involved in most of your NBA All-Star segments?
Because some of our NBA Insiders were here for other tasks, we were able to use them for SportsCenter too. Marc Stein was here for ESPN Radio, but we were able to include him in some of our NBA Insider segments. We made sure we always had at least one NBA Insider available at all times for SportsCenter. They are really flexible. That’s one of the things about ESPN personalities – they are used to doing multiple things.

How did you capture the NBA All-Star atmosphere in your SportsCenter segments?
We always have somebody shoot scenic images. We shot Bourbon Street and musicians playing music in the streets and we used those scenic shots to in-bump the segments and welcome viewers back to New Orleans. In terms of planning, we came out in November to meet with the NBA and looked at different locations for our sets. First Take ended up in the NBA All-Star Jam Session, which worked out really well for them. SportsCenter was outside in a nice, scenic spot across from the arena (pictured in gallery above).

Here’s a look back at ESPN’s weekend at NBA All-Star 2014 across social media.

Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game



ESPN Radio Coverage




NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Sports Game



Ben Cafardo contributed to this post

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