Mark Tatum Q&A: A Basketball Purist Dishes On The NBA's New Awards Show

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Wednesday March 29th, 2017

The NBA—in spite of our half-hearted protest—is going ahead with its first ever awards show this summer. The winner of the most compelling MVP race of this decade won’t be revealed until after the playoffs, along with more traditional awards such as Coach of the Year and Sixth Man and others that are yet to be announced.  

There are already rumors that Drake will host what the NBA is promising will be a star-studded affair. The Crossover recently caught up with NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum to learn more about the awards show (coming June 26), his favorite Drake song and much more.


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Rohan Nadkarni: Tell me more about the awards show coming up this summer. What are you most excited about?

Mark Tatum: Well, we couldn’t have asked for a better MVP race heading into first NBA awards show. For us to be able to celebrate the outstanding performances in our league in one nationally televised show with our partner TNT, an Emmy-award winning team, it’s another way for us to celebrate the performances of our players on the court. The show is going to be a celebration of the game, it’s going to feature our current players, legends, celebrities and we’re going to not only highlight the traditional Kia performance awards, but we’re also excited about adding a variety of other awards that’s really going to highlight the best of what our game has to offer on and off the court. Those are the things I’m extremely excited about.

RN: So the players’ association tried something similar to this a couple years ago. What do you think will draw people into this show?

MT: What I would say is, first of all it’s going to be live in New York City, it’s going to be in one location, and it’s one night where we’re celebrating the performance awards we’ve traditionally given out. To give out and recognize the most valuable player in our league, and again, in a year where the race for the MVP couldn’t be more exciting, to me that is something fans from all over the world are going to want to tune in to. Mixed with the fact that we’re going to have current players, legends, celebrities—what we’re trying to do is create a fun, memorable night for our fans and for the entire basketball community.

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RN: In the past, the MVP announcement coming in the first round has led to some interesting storylines. Fan to fan, do you think announcing the MVP later changes the spirit of the award?

MT: I don’t think it does. Here’s what I will tell you, it will allow the players to participate and focus completely on the game during the season. Then the celebrations can take place at once after the season. We want and those players have wanted to focus on the game and what’s at stake and what’s at hand and winning an NBA championship, that’s what those players are focused on in April, May and June. This change in time will allow them to do that. Then it’s time for recognition all at one time. As a basketball purist, I agree there were sometimes storylines that got interesting and intriguing, but now, all the stories will truly be about the performances on the court, and the road to winning an NBA championship.

RN: Could you ever see the league changing the voting process so that the award is decided later into the postseason?

MT: No, right now we anticipate this being the same voting process as it has been. We’re always looking at various ways to improve the process. But given that this is the way voting has been done for these specific awards over time, to focus on the regular season, that to me would be the way we continue to have these awards be determined. Because again as a basketball purist, to have that apples-to-apples comparison, I think makes sense. There’s also recognition during the Finals of the MVP of the Finals, and that will continue as well.

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RN: So, Drake kind of spilled the beans and said he would be hosting this awards show. Can you tell us anything about that rumor?

MT: Unfortunately, there is no announcement to make. If Drake wanted to host, he would be a fantastic host of the awards show. He’s a huge basketball fan and a huge fan of the league. He’s one of the biggest pop stars and celebrities globally. But we have nothing to announce at this point.

RN: Does Mark Tatum have a favorite Drake song?

MT: [Laughs] Passionfruit.

RN: I’m sure you notice all the Designated Survivor commercials during ABC Sunday games. As deputy commissioner, are you allowed to be in the same room as Adam Silver? Do they have to sequester you on important nights?

MT: [Laughs] I’m a big Keifer Sutherland fan, too. No, look, Adam and I have worked very closely together. We are completely aligned in terms of business and the game of basketball and what needs to be done. We don’t have any “Designated Survivor” type of protocols in place, but we work very closely together.

RN: David Stern used to get all the boos at the NBA draft while Adam Silver would get all the cheers. Now that Adam is commissioner, do you get more love from the fans?

MT: I don’t know Rohan, Adam is so well-liked that he gets the cheers now at the draft. They need to boo somebody, so I think I get the majority of the boos—despite being from Brooklyn and having the draft in Brooklyn. But I think I’m okay with that. 

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