Robert Cray, Ozomatli and a Jay-Z producer among recording artists re-imagining ESPN NBA theme music

Fans of ESPN’s NBA programming, including Coast to Coast and NBA Tonight, might have noticed some unique twists on the standard theme music throughout the season. Those versions were developed for ESPN by popular recording artists across a variety of different music genres.

Among them are three Grammy-winning artists: Ozomatli, a Latin rock band that fuses many different music genres; Humble Monsta/Mr. Bink, a Jay-Z producer; and the blues-inspired Robert Cray Band. Other participants include the California indie rock band The Mowgli’s, jazz artist John Pizzarelli and The Sweet Tea Project, a group led by Ed Roland of Collective Soul. Two British artists — electro-pop sensation Jacob Plant and rock band The Heavy — also joined the diverse lineup.

Beginning today and continuing through Friday, Feb. 8, fans can vote for their favorite version on the SportsNation section of ESPN.com. The winning version will be featured on ESPN’s telecast of the Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on Friday, Feb. 15.

Front Row caught up with ESPN music director Kevin Wilson to learn a little more about the contest.

How did you select the artists?
Basically, we decided the types of genres that we wanted to feature and then we just started identifying artists that fit into those genres. We came up with a list of really talented, unique artists and started to make our requests.

Why is it important to bring fans into the creative process?
I think it’s just another level of giving fans more information. When I watch television and movies, I’m really inquisitive about what kind of music is used and how it came about. At ESPN, we get a lot of emails asking about the music on the shows, too. I think the more information we can share, the better it is for fans.

Why is music such an important part of production?
At ESPN, music is a key, integral part of our storytelling and the branding of our shows. Theme music serves one purpose and commercial music serves another purpose; but all of our shows feel pretty strongly about its importance.

What do you hope fans take from this experience?
I hope they enjoy what they listen to and appreciate being exposed to new artists. I hope they choose to learn more about the artists we selected because all of them are fantastic.

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