Tevin Tavares on Oakland Sports, Damian Lillard, and Directing the Series Top Class

Plus, the unrivaled storytelling of sports

Tevin Tavares is an award-winning writer, director, and producer whose series Top Class: The Life and Times of the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers recently premiered on Amazon's IMDb TV.

At just 24 years old, Forbes compared Tavares to award-winning filmmaker Ryan Coogler. In 2016, his film Numb in America received a College Emmy, and in 2018 his film Through Your Eyes won Best Short Doc at the 2018 Long Beach Indie International Film Festival. 

In getting the opportunity to do films for Nike, his eye and gift for storytelling have reached national audiences. Tavares co-directed NBA All-Star Damian Lillard's first music video for his hit single "Dre Grant," which has accumulated over 2 million views and has been featured on ESPN and in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game. 

In 2020, Tavares wrote and directed the animated film for Springhill Entertainment's "More Than a Vote" campaign, which starred Stacey Abrams, Damian Lillard and LeBron James. Tavares is currently working as a commercial director with Quantasy + Associates.

We spoke to Tevin for our Time-Out series, where we chat with folks in the sports world about their favorite athletes, teams, sports movies and shows, and their love of sports generally.

Tevin, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Oakland, California, but I'm currently living in Los Angeles. 

Your earliest sports memory.

When I was 8, I remember playing in the Oakland Babe Ruth baseball league, for a team called the Blue Jays at Greeman Field right next to the Coliseum. Another early memory I have is when I started playing football for the San Leandro Crusaders. Playing with both these teams so young is when I discovered my love for sports.

Your favorite sports teams.

I'm an Oakland sports fan—I root for the home teams. My all-time favorite team is the Raiders, but I'm also a fan of the Golden State Warriors and the Oakland Athletics.

Your favorite athletes.

Steph Curry brings unmatched energy to the game of basketball. I'm also a fan of Damian Lilliard. I've been fortunate to work with him on multiple projects, including his first music video, and I admire Lilliard's work for the city of Oakland.

Your favorite sports show or podcast.

Top Class: The Life and Times of the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers would be my favorite sports show because it was my directorial debut and an amazing film to make. Top Class was heavily influenced by powerful documentaries and films like The Last Dance, The Dark Knight and Black Panther. I also drew inspiration from music videos from Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott and Baby Keem. 

Your favorite sports movie and/or video game.

Creed, directed by one of my favorite directors Ryan Coogler, is one of the most culturally relevant boxing movies today, and many people relate to its message. As a kid, I grew up playing the Madden series all the time with my older brother, cousins and friends. 

A recent project you're proud of.

Directing Top Class was a great experience, not only because I got to partner with Amazon and Springhill Entertainment, but because it was a chance to work on a project that has the potential to inspire kids and adults around the world. It was LeBron's Nike commercial "The Ring Maker" that inspired me to become a filmmaker, so it was a full-circle moment to direct this documentary about his son's school. It was all a surreal and humbling experience, and I want to continue creating dope art that people respond to. I'm also grateful to the agency I work with, Quantasy + Associates, for encouraging me to follow my passion and helping to make it possible for me to work on the project.

Someone else's project that you admired recently.

Judas and the Black Messiah, directed by Shaka King. When I saw it, I thought it was a perfect film. From the soundtrack to the score to the story, it really inspired me to take my work to the next level. 

What sports can do that nothing else can.

I love sports as a medium because of the high level of storytelling that can't be duplicated—it only happens in that game and in that moment. Real "movie moments" sports events like the NBA Finals and in the Super Bowl—you have drama, tears and suspense all within the three hours it takes to play the game. Those are the pinnacles of great storytelling. 

What you'd be doing if you weren't a filmmaker.

I would be a motivational speaker because I love teaching and being able to help people, especially young people who are just getting started in their lives.

Time-Out is a weekly series, publishing on Tuesdays, where we chat with folks in the sports world about their creative inspirations, favorite athletes, teams, sports movies and more, and what sport means to them. For more about Time-Out, and our Clio Sports program, please get in touch.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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