Scott Van Pelt takes us behind the scenes of his 3 favorite 'This is SportsCenter' commercials


I could listen to the masterful storyteller that is ESPN's Scott Van Pelt do exactly that — tell stories — all day long. I could also watch old "This is SportsCenter" commercials all day long.

So when SVP came on Duncan Robinson and Davis Reid's "The Long Shot" podcast from Cadence 13 and ThreeFourTwo Productions, available on RADIO.COM Sports, and recalled his three favorite "This is SportsCenter" spots, it was an amazingly candid and entertaining listen that showed the genuine sports fan inside SVP and exemplified just how amazing a raconteur he is.

But he also answered a question that I've kind of taken for granted: what is the actual process behind these scenes? Did the athletes come up with them? Was it a joint effort? Or was someone else directing them as actors and creating all of the witty ideas?

"The spots were always brought to us, and then things happened in the process of doing it. You know, an ad-lib line here, or a moment," Van Pelt said. "Wieden+Kennedy was the ad agency behind it and then a few years back that ended, which was a shame because it was a hell of a run.

"...It was funny, they were almost like, if you had an idea, they almost didn't want to hear it because it was like there was some intellectual property line and it couldn't be crossed. So it was like, if you had an idea, just don't say it out loud because... it needed to be theirs, but once the spot came to you and whatever you turned it into, you were all good."

In terms of his favorites, they spanned different sports and eras and came with hilarious anecdotes that took us behind the scenes of each one. The first that came to mind was where he and LeBron had a little chair issue in the office.

"...LeBron and the chair, to me, is an all-timer, just because it's visually preposterous and looking back he was still, like, he was young King James. He wasn't fully anointed King James," Van Pelt said. "It was visually stupid and then the back-and-forth. He was great because he's so deadpan, and the funny thing about that is after we did that, I said 'hey, I want that chair.' Like I wanted to get it and put it in my house."

Was he able to? No. The reasoning didn't seem to convince SVP as to why he couldn't take it with him.

"Think what a flex that would be, like somebody came to your house and you have regular nice decorating... oh what's with the red velour chair? Oh, that was LeBron's chair," Van Pelt joked. "But they claimed, oh, it was a prop... that's bullsh--. Someone took that chair and I want to know who has it."

By the time of that spot, SVP was already well established in the world of sports media, but the next commercial that he listed in his top three was his very first "This is SportsCenter" experience.

"The first one I did was with a guy named Rich Beem who had won the PGA Championship, and I was so excited to be in a spot, like this is a 'This is Sportcenter' ad and I get to be in it," Van Pelt recalled. "The joke was, if you win the PGA you win the Wanamaker Trophy, and the Wanamaker Trophy is a big-ass trophy. Like it is this enormous thing, and so he was in this BMW convertible, and the joke was he had the trophy in the passenger seat with the seatbelt on it, and I was in the trunk...

"Well, I'm 6-6 and I was in the trunk, and I got in and out of it like nine times, and I finally said to the director, I said 'listen, whatever you need that you don't have, you need to get on this take because I'm not getting in that trunk again.' And they used the first take, so it was a lesson to me — the first-time eager guy — like give them your best, but at some point you can probably shut it down."

His final favorite was filmed alongside the late greats Stuart Scott and Arnold Palmer, as SVP and Scott witnessed one of golf's greatest legends make one of the world's greatest drinks.

"Stuart Scott and I did an 'Arnold Palmer making an Arnold Palmer,' which is electric. It's 15 seconds long, and it's just Arnold making it, and me and Stuart are watching," SVP said. "That one went so long that, at some point, Arnold said to me, 'I shot movies that didn't take this long,' and I told the director we probably need to wrap this one up.

"The Arnold one with Stuart, the first one I did — just because I'll never forget how excited I was — and then the LeBron just because it wasn't iconic because of me but it was iconic because of the chair and him. Those were the ones for sure."

You can watch the whole interview with Van Pelt here.

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