Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce officials need to be hoping the only thunderstorms during the NBA Finals will be inside Chesapeake Energy Arena to maximize the opportunity for promoting the city nationally and internationally.
Those dramatic aerial shots of downtown will be available only if there's calm weather, as the blimp won't fly during storms. “We're good as long as we don't have any thunderstorms,” said Mark Gross, ESPN senior vice president and executive producer.
ABC, which partners with ESPN on sports coverage, will be pulling out all stops in capturing the 2012 NBA Finals, from an innovative opening segment, to six slow-mo cameras, to bringing its studio crew on site and even using a former referee to provide commentary.
The network's finals planning began when the season tipped off in late December.
“It's a real big show for us,” Gross said. “Not only on the TV side, but making sure we're in lock step with the league on issues such as timing for the starting lineups.”
The unique two-minute opening segment, which will be used on all of the Finals games, uses videomapping technology. “It really transforms a bunch of different fans into seats, and the next thing they know they are courtside at an NBA Finals game. Then the next thing you know they are transformed into different eras,” Gross said.
Gross said all the great NBA champions will be featured, including the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers.
The six slow-mo cameras, of the 32 video sources in use, will provide some of the most eye-opening shots. They also will be used by the referees on video reviews.
“Those are really the shots we use on the controversial plays or whether it's how high LeBron (James) or (Kevin) Durant get above the rim for a dunk,” Gross said.
“ESPN Axis” will create virtual replays, with video from live action processed via computers to create virtual freeze frames from several angles. SkyCam also will provide aerial views of the action.
However, 3-D telecasts won't be available for this year's finals. “We're concentrating on our HD coverage,” Gross said.
The “NBA Countdown” studio crew of former Lakers great Magic Johnson, former NBA star Jon Barry and journalists Michael Wilbon and Chris Broussard will be on site in Oklahoma City and Miami. The crew also will call on retired referee Steve Javie for his commentary, particularly on controversial plays. Javie, who retired before the start of this season because of an arthritic right knee after 25 years in the league, was among the most respected refs in the game.
“We really think he can help people understand the game from a ref's standpoint,” Gross said.
If necessary, the game telecast crew of play-by-play announcer Mike Breen and analyst Jeff Van Gundy and the production truck also can talk with Javie during the game.
National coverage also will available on ESPN Radio will the three-man booth of Jim Durham and analysts Hall of Famer Jack Ramsay and Hubie Brown. Web coverage of the games also will be available on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.
Although Oklahoma City is one of the smallest markets ever to host the NBA Finals, Gross is hoping for good ratings as fans tune in to see two of the league's top players in James and Durant.
“It doesn't matter what size of market it is or where it's located or what time zone it's in,” Gross said. “Let's just get the two best teams into the finals and have some fun with it.”