Behind The ScenesNBA

Front Row exclusive: Santa Claus, one-on-one

Santa addresses the media in an ESPN NBA spot. (Ben Solomon/ESPN Images)
Santa addresses the media in an ESPN NBA spot. (Ben Solomon/ESPN Images)
SportsCenter preps for Cavs-Heat showdown

SportsCenter will be aired live on ESPN 4-5 p.m. ET Christmas afternoon to provide the latest news from Miami’s American Airlines Arena as LeBron James prepares to meet the Heat for the first time since returning to Cleveland. Anchors Matt Barrie and Linda Cohn host through game time (5 p.m., ABC). NBA Countdown will contribute to coverage from Miami with host Sage Steele joined by analysts Jalen Rose and Doug Collins. Also reporting from Miami will be Mark Schwarz and Dave McMenamin.

He is one of the most in-demand celebrities at this time of year and his recent slate of ESPN commercials in support of the network’s Christmas Day programming, have only increased the requests for his precious time.

Santa Claus is a known recluse who rarely does media opportunities beyond his jovial ESPN news conferences. Still, Front Row was able to garner a few minutes with the big fella just hours before his busiest night of the year.

Which Christmas Day game on ESPN/ABC are you most looking forward to and why?
Cavs/Heat (5 p.m. ET, ABC). I honestly can’t decide if LeBron’s been naughty or nice. I get all sorts of input. If you listen to the southeastern United States, you’ll find heavy amounts of “naughty.” But there’s this one section in the Midwest where the feedback is extraordinary. So, I might have to wait and see until after the game.

Can you let us in on what present [San Antonio Spurs] Coach [Gregg] Popovich will be getting this year?
Something.

Which ESPN commentators are receiving gifts and which are receiving coal this year?
Everybody’s getting at least something this year. [ESPN NBA play-by-play commentator] Mike Breen and [analyst] Jeff Van Gundy asked for matching track suits, so that was a great idea to make sure they both got something.

Which NBA player has been the nicest this season?
[Golden State Warriors guard] Steph Curry. No surprise to you, I’m sure. He’s not just the nicest player this season, he’s been the nicest player in the league for the last five years. I’ll go as far as saying he’s been the nicest human on the planet for the last 26 years. Yeah. That’s real. You probably thought it was some philanthropist or something.

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