ESPN Gets Inside Players' Heads for the NBA Playoffs

Arts & Letters tosses up high-intensity :60

"Welcome to gut-check time. Where coming close doesn't count."

With those words, stadium sounds fall away and some of the NBA's biggest stars—including Steph Curry, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo—step into a zone of otherworldly concentration.

A 60-second spot from Arts & Letters Creative Co., which broke last week and promotes the NBA on ESPN, shows players digging deep—in almost existential fashion. Tuning out all distractions, they enter a heightened state of consciousness. In a universe that suddenly consists of just themselves, the ball and the basket, they head into the league's playoffs, which start May 22.

"It doesn't matter if you've already done it. Or if you're just getting started," Nana Dadzie's narration continues. "This is the time to make a run or run out of chances. 'Cause it's either get-one-step-closer-to-trophy time. Or just time to go home."

"Time will tell," he says at the finish.

"We wanted to show the intense mental focus it takes to be a championship team in the NBA by creating a surreal void with VFX to isolate the players and get into their heads," explains Arts & Letters creative director Molly Jamison.

That void—darkness surrounding each athlete, with no bleachers, teammates or opponents in sight—effectively conveys a sense of tunnel vision and single-mindedness. Such visuals bounce notions of celebrity and hype to put championship drives in sharp perspective.

Featured in order of appearance are...

• Steph Curry
• Kawhi Leonard
• James Harden
• Damian Lillard
• Donovan Mitchell
• Jimmy Butler
• Nikola Jokic
• Lebron James
• Damian Lillard (x2)
• Trae Young
• Julius Randle
• Jayson Tatum
• Giannis Antetokounmpo
• Clint Capela
• Kawhi Leonard (x2)
• Devin Booker
• Ben Simmons
• Paul George
• Luka Doncic
• Zion Williamson
• Carmelo Anthony
• Chris Paul
• James Harden (x2)
• Giannis Antetokounmpo (x2)
• John Collins
• Steph Curry (x2)
• Anthony Davis
• Joel Embiid
• Damian Lillard (x3)
• Kevin Durant + Kyrie
• Jayson Tatum + Jaylen Brown
• Luka Doncic (x2)

CREDITS

ESPN

Laura Gentile, EVP, Commercial Marketing, Networks and ESPN
Emeka Ofodile, VP, Sports Marketing
Lucas Ferraro, Director, Sports Marketing
Ruba Sbeah, Manager, Sports Marketing
Maximo Reyes, Coordinator, Sports Marketing

Arts & Letters Creative Co. 

Charles Hodges, Founder/Executive Creative Director
Andy Grayson, Director of Strategy
Rich Weinstein, Managing Director

Molly Jamison, Creative Director
NJ Placentra, Creative Director
Albert Song, Art Director
Whitney Repole, Copywriter

Keith Jamerson, Executive Producer
Griffin Morrow, Producer
Cam DiNunzio, Music Supervisor
Casey Wheeler, Music Supervisor

Theo Abel, Group Business Director
Hill Shore, Business Director
Darius Watkins, Business Manager
Zack Stergar, Strategy Director
Alex Morrison, Strategy Director
Nana Dadzie, Strategist

Lenora Cushing, Director of Business Affairs
Jennifer Kmetzsch, Business Affairs Assistant

Arts & Letters Creative Co. - XYZ
Whitney Green, Executive Producer
Adam Katzenback, Director of Operations
Joe Hobaica, Lead Producer

Geoff Castillo, VFX Director
Colin Stackpole, Lead VFX Artist
Josh Jouppi, Animator

Eric Schoenbrunn, Editor
Pat Blumer, Editor
Stuart Mauck, Assistant Editor

Wave Studios
Aaron Reynolds, Sound Design & Mix
Vicky Ferraro, Executive Producer
Eleni Giannopoulos, Producer

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