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Production Notes: The Making of SportsCenter’s 2020 Year-end Special, By the Numbers

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the course of creating specials like this one (debuting tonight,  Christmas Eve, at 8 p.m. ET, ESPN) hundreds of stories, nuggets and miscellaneous items never make the final product. Front Row’s recurring feature, “Production Notes,” seeks out those untold aspects and some of the people creating the content – and much more.

“The number of different groups at ESPN that were involved in this project was fantastic and everyone was more than willing to be part of it,” said Producer Robbin Dunn. “The collaboration, communication and cooperation among all the groups was just fantastic. Everyone was really open to feedback and made changes as we continued to tweak the [show’s] rundowns.”

Dunn and Senior Managing Producer Vin Cannamela combined to offer these Production Notes (presented with gratitude and awe!):

By the Numbers

Production Elements
Talent Voices
Essays from 10 Writers on 10 Topics
Sound Designers

The Stand-up Shoot with Lisa Salters and Jeremy Schaap

25 Degrees

at the start of the shoot

13" Fresh Snow

13 inches of fresh snow as a backdrop

51 Standups

51 individual stand-ups

16 Members

16 members of technical/directing crew

12 Trees

12 trees on campus dressed with Holiday lighting

Ui vol.1

12-Hour Day

12-hour day for the crew

5 Outdoor Heaters

5 - 1000 BTU heat blowers


5 Boxes of Coffee

(including one with hot chocolate)


2 Cinema Cameras

1 Jib

1 Drone


1 Ice Sculpture

15 Degrees at Departure

Some shoutouts and a sampling of what it took to get the show together, just as the sports world hit its busiest season, mind you!!:

Senior Managing Producers. Jeff Ausiello and Ben Hobbs and SportsCenter Enhancement Unit (SCEU) – Images of the Year; Individual Champion in-bump; Team Champion in-bump; and a mini feature on Diego Maradona.

Managing Producer Terrell Bouza and the Reveal Innovative Studio Elements (RISE) unit – In-bumps/montages, including “Life in the NBA: Bubble,” UFC/Fight Island, MLB Year in Review and Sue Bird’s Year; All show bumps

“That was quite an undertaking since there were so many groups and producers involved with the pieces,” Dunn said. “A huge shout out to Alex Gabriele who cut most of the bumps and made every little tweak we asked for.”

Coordinating Producer Johann Castillo and Content Associate Andrew Wichman, SC@Night team – Top 10, voiced by John Anderson and Kenny Mayne

“What would an end of year show be without SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Year?” Dunn said.

A peek at a project in the works

ESPN’s Features Unit is already working on a story about Chris Nikic, who became the first athlete with Downs syndrome to finish an Ironman triathlon. 

“The Features Unit took this incredible tale and boiled it down into 45 seconds for us,” Dunn said. “It’s an inspirational story that will have people talking.”

Quality, Quickly

“ESPN’s Creative Services team of five designers and animators produced over 30 elements and six toolkits for SC 2020,” Cannamela said. “Associate Art Director Thomas Maloney created the design for the Open in less than two weeks and 12 custom frontends for features were designed and versioned in less than a week.

“For ‘2020 Heroes, History, Hope,’ we produced 10 different essays by 10 different writers on 10 different topics,” he said. “All of the pieces were central to the last year and to the impact felt on sports and society. It was a far-reaching initiative we hoped would help capture the headlines from those who lived it in 2020.”

Poignant storytellers include: Mike Greenberg, Ryan HockensmithTom Junod, Mina Kimes, Holly Rowe, Adam Schefter, Stephen A. SmithWright Thompson and Mike Wilbon.

At the risk of inevitable, unintended omissions, the people in these groups “all played an important role in this project,” Cannamela said.:

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