The Evolving Role of Music in the NBA Experience

Music's Role in the NBA

When you think about the experience of attending a live NBA game, what comes to mind? The passionate crowd (hopefully), the energy of the players, the smells of concessions, and the music. The integration of music with the game experience has changed over time, just as the sport and the league have evolved. From memorable broadcast themes to Shaq’s rap recording career, music and the NBA are intertwined in myriad ways.

Today, you’ve got Timbaland crafting beats for playoff ads and professional players sharing their pre-game hype up mixes. But younger fans would never recognize the NBA themes of yesteryear. Take, for example, this gem from CBS sports that ran in the 70s. Electric Company style line drawings and goofy lyrics – what’s not to love? A few of my favorites: “Give it all you’ve got, take your very best shot” and “Let’s see how the ball’s gonna bounce today!”

While it’s a standard now, the first in-house DJ wasn’t hired until the 1999/2000 season. The Miami Heat brought on DJ Irie that year, which was actually somewhat controversial with other NBA marketing teams. There have also been rumored complaints from staff over the years that music is too loud or is taking up too much of the spotlight.  But DJ Irie shared feedback from Pat Riley with ESPN that validated his approach:

"You know what? When you first got here, I didn't get it. This guy is loud. He's doing all this crazy stuff. But I'm really happy to tell you now that I get it. And not only do I get it, but I see what you do night in and night out, and I see how the fans react to what you do, and it's probably one of the most amazing things." Phenomenal feedback from Pat Riley!

Another case in point, DJ D-Sharp, the Warriors official team DJ understands his players’ musical tastes and knows what it takes to get both the fans and the players pumped up.

Crowd favorites from this season include:

A Tribe Called Quest – Award Tour

A$AP Ferg ft. Future – New Level – Warriors Edit

Alvaro & Mercer ft. Lil Jon – Welcome To The Jungle – Bay Area Version

Drake & Future – Jumpman

E-40 – Choices (Yup) – DJ D-Sharp Warriors Arena Remix

You’ll notice two custom mixes for the Warriors in that lineup, which is something that DJ Irie has spoken on as well. These days you see more and more artists creating custom tracks for their teams. From LMFAO for the Heat to Lil Wayne for the Lakers, unique mixes of hip hop tracks are now highly sought after by the hometown DJs.

The next step from our perspective is bringing the live experience to fans who can’t be at the game. We have had a blast programming the Pulse of #DubNation throughout the course of the playoffs. Tens of thousands of fans have listened, told us what they like and dislike and we’ve been able to share that data back with the team. As the Finals come to a close, we’re so proud of the Dubs and already excited about curating for next season!