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How ESPN Improvised To Bring The NBA HORSE Challenge To Fans

" . . . The goal is to provide a distraction for basketball fans who are looking to see NBA and WNBA stars compete in a safe, socially responsible manner."

ESPN has remained laser-focused on bringing sports fans fun, creative content in innovative ways during the sports hiatus.

Mike Shiffman (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

One example is the NBA HORSE Challenge, which made its debut Sunday with the Quarterfinals. The Semifinals and HORSE Championship Game will air Thursday on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET. As part of the event, State Farm is donating more than $200,000 to COVID-19 response efforts.

Front Row> discussed the immense challenge of producing an eight-location event, under quarantine, with Vice President, Production, Mike Shiffman.

“We’re trying something innovative and ambitious amidst unprecedented circumstances,” said Shiffman. “We knew there would be plenty of logistical challenges and quirks, yet the goal is to provide a distraction for basketball fans who are looking to see NBA and WNBA stars compete in a safe, socially responsible manner.”

Given the quarantine and social-distancing guidelines, it was not possible to send producers or camera operators on site, therefore, ESPN had to find creative ways to improvise.

ESPN used Zoom technology and a two-camera set up – with tablets and smart phones serving as the cameras. In most locations, the fixed camera (tablet) was attached to anything from a step-ladder to a patio table depending on the location. The second camera – generally a smartphone – was operated by a player’s family member. ESPN NBA senior coordinating producer Tim Corrigan, director Jimmy Moore, and their staffs then worked with each player to capture their shots, while producing the action from their own homes.

We appreciate the effort and can-do spirit of everyone involved, from the players and their families, to our NBA partner, to our production and operations teams. – Mike Shiffman

Even with an adaptive game plan, there were still unique challenges, including rain, wind, Wi-Fi strength, and more.

“We appreciate the effort and can-do spirit of everyone involved, from the players and their families, to our NBA partner, to our production and operations teams,” said Shiffman. “While there were many obstacles to overcome, the team enjoyed coming up with creative solutions, and we hope that it gave fans an escape while raising money for an incredibly important cause.”

Mark Jones, NBA HORSE Challenge host:

HORSE is a schoolyard game at its roots. Seeing the competition go from trying to figure out what shot to take, to going in for the kill shot. Nobody wants to lose, because hey, a championship is a championship. Plus it’s been great to see the players interact with their families. Some real loving family vibes through this stay-at-home environment we’re in.

https://twitter.com/MarkJonesESPN/status/1249071161960529923

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