Behind The ScenesNBA

Special day at White House with Cavs for The Jump’s Rachel Nichols

The Jump, ESPN’s daily NBA show, continues to demonstrate why the show crosses the borders of basketball and is at the nexus where hoops meets pop culture, news and society.

That’s why today, a special episode of The Jump will air at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2, focused on the show’s host Rachel Nichols and her trip to the White House this week, to document the defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers’ ring ceremony with President Obama and other dignitaries.

As part of today’s show, The Jump will pull back the curtain of the typical White House ring ceremony, and take viewers behind the scenes and beyond the Rose Garden to show what a day with the President is like for today’s athletes. The show will also include a special video essay, written and voiced by Nichols, which will look at how the current administration has widened the net of which athletes and teams it celebrates, including more women’s teams, Paralympians and more.

Front Row caught up with Nichols to discuss today’s show:

As you documented the Cavaliers visit on Thursday, what was your overall goal and approach as you kept an eye towards today’s show?
The “White House visit” has become as ritualized a part of winning a sports championship as holding a parade, and yet other than the few minutes of the public ceremony, most of it happens behind closed doors. We wanted to peel back the curtain to show all the different things a team does when it visits the White House, particularly under the Obama Administration, which has prioritized making these visits about a lot more than just handing the President a jersey. We were so fortunate the White House gave us unprecedented access to hang with the Cavaliers all day, and that the Cavs are such great personalities – it made documenting the whole thing a lot of fun.

Was there a moment that personally struck you and stuck with you about the experience?
It was remarkable watching the team meet with Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The Attorney General wanted to hear about the players’ experiences empowering communities and also to discuss a lot of the police-related issues that have been front and center this year. Yes, these are basketball players, but a lot of them are also among the most empowered and high-profile young black men in the country. It was very cool to see them get a seat at the table for a discussion of national policy – literally – in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

In many ways, this is exactly what The Jump is all about. Describe your thoughts on that premise and how it relates to today’s show?
We’re not a basketball highlight show – The Jump is really much more about how we think about the game, and how the game spills over into so many other parts of our lives. Sometimes it can be in a fun, goofy way, like when Michael Jordan crying face is all over social media. But, sometimes it happens with much more gravity. To be able to take our viewers inside the White House, two days after the election, on the same day President-elect Donald Trump was visiting President Obama to symbolize a peaceful transition of power – that feels very special.

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