A group of college pals scores a slam dunk with their web-turned-TV series, The Basketball Jones.Five years ago, friends and sports fanatics J.E. Skeets, Tas Melas and Jason Doyle graduated from Ryerson University in Toronto and found themselves stuck in unfulfilling day jobs. For fun, they started a weekly podcast that revolved around the NBA. Skeets and Melas played host; Doyle produced. They called it The Basketball Jones.
“We were talking about how you break into the field [of broadcasting],” Skeets remembers. “We just basically figured, why don’t we make our own thing?”
Their own thing grew quickly, progressing from once a week to twice to daily and then shifting to video. By 2008, The Basketball Jones podcast was one of the most popular sports shows on iTunes.
Each day, the pair broke down the previous night’s games and the league’s running story lines, but it wasn’t just an amateur version of Sports-Center or NBA on TNT; it’s doubtful you’d see Scott Van Pelt hosting in a mariachi outfit — as Skeets did when he lost a bet. And you certainly wouldn’t see Ernie Johnson dancing through the streets pretending to be Orlando Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu, as Melas did for no reason in particular.
The winning combination of information and entertainment led the Score, Canada’s answer to ESPN, to hire Skeets, Melas and Doyle (along with friend and producer Matt Osten), to bring Jones to the network last season. In addition to a daily video podcast, they now have a weekly TV show — not to mention the freedom and the resources to turn just about any idea they can come up with into a reality. (Search for “Like a Bosh” on YouTube for a sample.)
Skeets realizes their good fortune and that the whole thing sounds like the plot to the first Wayne’s World movie. But unlike the cable-access heroes of Aurora, Ill., Skeets and his friends haven’t been elbowed out of their own franchise. Instead?
“That was the exact opposite of coming to the Score,” Skeets says. “They understood why we’d been able to turn something out of nothing.”