Translation's Mina Mikhael on Kobe, NBA Lane, and the Medley of SoCal Sports
An Egyptian creative director living in Brooklyn, New York, Mina Mikhael currently leads the NBA group at Translation. He believes Kobe is the second GOAT, Underøath are kings, and Survivor is the best TV you're not watching.
From helping to announce Kobe’s retirement to having Deadpool rag on David Beckham for the World Cup, using Danny Trejo to lift up caregivers, giving Kermit a platform to speak to a greener Adidas future, or giving Michael B. Jordan the keys to a Hoop Bus driving past almost all the 75 greatest players on the fantastical NBA Lane, Mina has spent a decade mashing pop culture into sports storytelling.
Mina spent the last 10 years working at Wieden+Kennedy New York (leading Fox Sports), Johannes Leonardo (leading Adidas and EA Sports), and now currently leads the NBA group at Translation, winning multiple Sports Emmys, Clio Sports Awards, and more in film and design.
We spoke to Mina 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.
Mina, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
My family immigrated from Egypt, landing us in the squarely between L.A. and San Diego, the land of Showtime, super-chargers, quack quack and more.
Your earliest sports memory.
Your favorite sports teams.
You can't ask for a better place to grow up than Southern California.
- THE Los Angeles Lakers—from Showtime to the Lake Show, there's a reason they want to make shows about the purple and gold.
- The never-should-have-left San Diego Chargers—proving the greatest teams in the history of the NFL … might need a kicker.
- The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim—the greatest logo in sports from the greatest movie in sports.
- L.A. Sparks: Leslie dunking on the entire league is still the gold standard.
- Manchester City 93:20.
- U.S. Women's National Team. Spoiler alert: this is the greatest team in sports history, and they're still winning.
- L.A. Galaxy: Donovan, Beckham and Ibrahimovic. The best retirement home in sports.
- Mercedes F1 Team: I see your Red Bull, and raise you the GOAT.
Your favorite athlete.
I was raised by my mother, my father, and Kobe Bean Bryant. Nothing will compare to watching the Black Mamba drop 81, drop double buzzer beaters against the Blazers to end a season, yamming it on Nash when he took his MVP, five titles, that gold medal game, and the best walk-off game in a sports career.
Side note: It should be Mo Salah. He's one of the greatest players alive, and he's from the homeland. He took Egypt back to the World Cup in 2018. He's the greatest role model. Of course it should be Mo Salah. But he plays for that team—never going to support them. Would rather he walk alone.
Your favorite sports show or podcast.
30 for 30. Applying the best in creative and film to retell stories we've already lived through, and make it even more interesting? Unreal accomplishment.
Your favorite sports movie.
Watch Borg v McEnroe tonight. like, turn off your phone, turn off your lights, and see the complexities sport has on people's lives. The film is gorgeously shot, humanity thoroughly exposed, and the spirit of competition—whether tennis or football or basketball—is fully realized.
A recent project you're proud of.
It will always be NBA Lane. It's the project you dream about, and I could not be more proud of how we were able to pull together over 65 NBA legends, players and superfans into a series of films that celebrate what has made the NBA a cultural giant for 75 seasons. And yes, maybe we'll see a Michael Jordan in the Finals spot.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
Mous Lamrabat's spread for April's GQ Middle East is phenomenal, extraordinary. Using NBA jerseys—universal tokens—to bring together the diaspora within Arabic youth culture made me feel seen, made us feel heard. It perfectly captured how, for us, sport is globally uniting, without filter.
Nike "Tiger Would" was layers we weren't ready for. From casting Schoolboy Q—a true golf fan who's invariably part of the sport because of Tiger—to a script cleverly championing competitive drive with diversity, plus a visual that assuredly went against the old guard's image of their sport, gave us a powerful message whether you're fan of Tiger or golf itself.
What sports can do that nothing else can.
It's the greatest equalizer in the world: in any language, any country, a ball and a court are a universal ice-breaker. No matter your status, your upbringing, your beliefs or your age, sport gives anyone the euphoria of challenging themselves and finding success. Counting down the last five seconds of the game, setting yourself up for that final shot? There's nothing like it.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the sports world.
Finding a way to get into it.