Award-winning, cinematic and very loud, the Cavalier introductions provide fans with a quick shot of energy before each and every home game. Only a minute long, these videos tend to make 20,562 fans stand on their feet and welcome their team.
But what ultimately ends with the lights getting cut, headnodic beats screaming through arena speakers and a quick dose of fire to warm up the crowd actually begins months in advance and takes the creativity of dozens of individuals, including players and the team’s front office. WFNY had the chance to talk with Jonny Greco, director of video production for the Cleveland Cavaliers, to see just what it takes to provide enough punch to kick-start an entire arena in one minute’s time.
The Cavaliers game entertainment presentation continues to be considered among the top in the NBA, setting the tone for the next 48 minutes of basketball in what they hope to provide as a hostile environment for the opposition. Its for these reasons why the crew, headed by Greco, has won regional Emmy awards as recent as last season for their “My Time” player introductions. But don’t let the awards fool you as this group is about more than the accolades.
“We’ll take the credit, but awards don’t define us. We are proud of what we have done. We would rather be happy with an end product and not win an award then to get something for a product which we were not happy with.”
For instance, Greco references the introductions from past seasons where Cavalier players (then laced with names like Drew Gooden and Damon Jones) were arriving via Bentleys and Maybachs, something the team would later admit was sending the wrong message during woeful economic times. Later, the team would be introduced to Kanye West’s “Stronger.” A great song, but also one that half of the NBA was using at that time.
But once you couple in the cinematography of statues turning into players, including the city of Cleveland and using music that sends a message to all in attendance, you have yourself a winner.
It all starts months in advance via multiple brainstorming sessions and creative meetings. Greco tells WFNY that this year was a bit different due to having to strip the computers of the old logos and colors, replacing them with thousands of new graphics that are effectively used at different portions of the game. From there, there are no boundaries – anyone can provide ideas as to what they think would be beneficial for the fans. From what players and what musical arrangement all the way to the setting and what the team is doing, no ideas go unheard.
All in all, the annual introductory video takes one full day to film. Via the use of efficient stations and an outside (local) production firm – obtained via the typical pitch-and-bid process – the Cavaliers get an afternoon to film the team in various scenarios which ultimately become the video that fans see every home game right before tip-off. Of all of the filming, Greco tells WFNY, only three percent is actually used in the final product.
Seven-to-ten days later, the creative team has a video that aims to not only set the stage for the next few hours, but has to do so over the course of an entire season.
When asked about this year’s changes, including a less glamorous approach which opted more for a raw depiction of a hard-working team and the use of an older song (Eminem’s “Til I Collapse), Greco echoed much of the sentiment that fans have heard since July 8th. It is no longer about the glitz and glam; it is a new team that is moving forward in a new direction and they are working their collective hides off to get there.
A stark contrast to years prior, but one that the team feels sends an excellent message.
“Kanye was a great lesson,” said Greco. ”Everyone used it and it was annoying. The best elements are ones we personalize.”
Thus, using a song that includes the spoken lines “[Because] sometimes you feel tired, feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up. But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength.”
“The song not only makes you want to run through a wall, but the lyrics are powerful,” said Greco. ”The chorus is moving and the message gets across.”
Mix in a beat that can be felt at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a strobe-like view of a Byron Scott led team of players and the Cavs feel that they have another winner. But again, don’t let the award case fool you.
“We won a few Emmys, a few Tellies and a Golden Matrix award,” said Greco. “Those are great for bosses, but they’re not what defines us.”
A few ancillary notes:
- The video is in sync with the LED boards that surround the lower bowl. But once the video is complete and Ahmad turns to introduce the starting five, there are anywhere between 15-20 people on headset that are responsible for putting together the head shots and graphics that go along with what’s occurring on the court.
- The prodcution staff’s biggest concern going through this season is a potential trade of Mo Williams. Due to the video’s big ending, in which Mo rose to perform, it would be challenging to replicate with current resources.
- And finally, when asked, Greco told WFNY that off-script Delonte West was essentially amazing. He was passionate and creative, often providing soundbites better than what the creative team had written up for him. No, he did not bring any hot sauce with him on set.