Spike Lee is marrying two of the great loves of his life: filmmaking and pro hoops.
ESPN tapped the Oscar-winner — and notorious New York Knicks superfan — to direct and appear in the broadcast opens for the 2021 NBA Finals on ABC. The first of the two-minute opens will debut next week, airing just before the tip-off to Game 1 (the dates for the finals have yet to be announced).
Each game on ABC will air one of Lee’s four episodes, inspired by NBA legends of both yesterday and today. The openers use a combination of video footage and still images, incorporating historical highlights of the players who have made their marks on the league’s championship series.
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“As a basketball aficionado and an orange-and-blue faithful it is my honor and pleasure to direct the NBA Finals opens,” Lee said in a statement provided to Variety. “I thank Commissioner Adam Silver, ESPN and ABC for giving me the opportunity to do what I love — sports and cinema. YA-DIG? SHO-NUFF.”
In the teaser for the first opener, Lee says, “From the blue seats [of Madison Square Garden], to the ticker-tape parade: We’re all in this game together. Every possession, every call, every chant of ‘Defense!’… It’s the NBA Finals, Game 1!”
This year’s NBA Finals will pit the Phoenix Suns against the winner of the Eastern Conference championships, either the Milwaukee Bucks or Atlanta Hawks, who are tied at two games apiece.
Since 1983, Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks has produced more than 35 films. Most recently he wrote, directed and produced “Da 5 Bloods” for Netflix. Lee won an Oscar for adapted screenplay for “BlackKklansman” in 2019, among multiple other awards throughout his career.
Lee’s credentials as a ride-or-die Knicks fan goes back more than five decades. He was in attendance at Madison Square Garden in 1970 for Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, in which his beloved Knickerbockers defeated the L.A. Lakers to capture their first championship title.
Lee “recalls every detail about Willis Reed and the Knicks” from the team’s historic 1970 victory, noted ESPN senior coordinating producer Julie McGlone. “Spike describes these moments as a fan, certainly, but also an active participant of great NBA Finals Championship moments.”
ESPN will produce the NBA Finals, sponsored by YouTube TV, on ABC for the 19th consecutive season.