For its new Entertainment Issue – currently on newsstands – ESPN The Magazine asked three award-winning Hollywood screenwriters – David Kohan, Adam McKay and Cheo Hodari Coker – to develop a screenplay based on the Warriors’ past season. We spoke with senior writer Sam Alipour and senior editor Justin Ellis about this special project:
How did the concept for this screenplay come about?
Ellis: We recently discussed taking another run at filmmaking – similar to what The Mag did years ago with the Kobe movie. Sports is culture, culture is sports, there’s no denying the connection – so how can we translate that inside the pages of the magazine in a new way? Sam and I were tasked with finding writers and coming up with ideas for a movie. Looking at the NBA this season, it’s hard to find a team with more storylines than Golden State. Between the finals, the record run and Kevin Durant joining up, they had all the elements you needed for a great script.
How did you choose the screenwriters?
Alipour: We were looking for talented screenwriters who also know a thing or two about sports. We were aware that Cheo, the mastermind behind Marvel’s ‘Luke Cage’ on Netflix, was a sportswriter in a previous life. David Kohan, an Emmy-winner for “Will & Grace” and one of our writers on the Kobe Movie, is known in Hollywood circles as an NBA nut. The same can be said for Adam McKay, an Oscar-winner for “The Big Short.” All signed on enthusiastically and then I spoke with each of them on the phone to brainstorm characters and storylines, which was an absolute thrill for me. Challenging too – I so very much wanted to drill McKay with a million questions about “Anchorman,” [which McKay co-wrote] but I found a way to bite my tongue.
Anything else that you’d like to share?
Ellis: I think the biggest challenges for us were figuring out the right tone for the stories, how to strike a balance between fun and drama. Are these workplace comedies, slapstick or a straight up farce? Working with these writers was fantastic, if not surreal at times. How do you give edits to Oscar and Emmy winners? And, like Sam said, how do you not grill these guys with questions on the finer points of Ron Burgundy or Luke Cage? It was a great experience and a really fun way to tell a story in the world of sports. We want to keep finding ways to surprise and delight people.