It’s sometime in 2010. The lights dim at the American Airlines Center, and 18,000 people crane their necks upward. On the video screen suspended above the court appears one of Tron’s iconic light cycles, electric blue with the Dallas Mavericks’ logo and Dirk Nowitzki’s No. 41 on the side. The minute-long video that follows is a spot-on recreation of the stylized look of Tron: Legacy, then on its way to theaters, ending with a smash cut to a title card: MAVS, rendered in the familiar Tron typeface.
Then the lights come back up, and—nothing. An appreciative murmur. A collective shrug. As a mini movie, it was fantastic. The animation, by local visual effects house Green Grass Studios, was perfect. But it still didn’t work. The Mavericks’ creative team wanted to connect; they hadn’t.
Cash Sirois was one of the 18,000 people watching. The Tron video was in production when he was hired as the Mavericks’ creative director, so it wasn’t technically his baby, but he’d adopted it. He brings up the video not to criticize his predecessors, but to illustrate what they learned from it. “Tron looked awesome. But it didn’t have a story,” Sirois says. “Sometimes the story is only in our heads. But it makes you work on every frame such that you are going through the story and eventually hitting this mark.”
In the years since, very few of the clips Sirois and his team have worked on have missed their mark. There is the inspirational video for the NBA Finals in 2011 (featuring local heroes like Troy Aikman and Mike Modano) that they pulled together in just a few days. There is their detailed, cut-and-paste riff on Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” And there is the simple “The Factory,” a surprisingly stirring motivational piece built on only a few phrases. With a mix of topical spoofs, clever spins on familiar make-some-NOISE tropes, and general goofiness, the Mavericks’ in-arena videos have become the gold standard by which all other teams are judged.
A number of them—including “What Do The Mavs Say?,” their take on Ylvis’ novelty hit, “The Fox”—have broken out of the confines of the American Airlines Center. They’ve become the kind of viral sensations that your mom might post on her Facebook page. (You can find most of them at youtube.com/user/dallasmavericks.) But that’s never been the point. “Job one is to always entertain that 18 grand” at the AAC, Sirois says.
The videos have earned such a reputation that Sirois and Jason Seely—both hired by the Mavericks four years ago—have started their own company, The Well. “What Do The Mavs Say?” was the first video produced for the Mavs under the auspices of the new venture. Sirois and I are talking at The Well’s headquarters, his McKinney Avenue loft. Seely is in a bedroom near the front door, editing their next video for the Mavericks, a Breaking Bad takeoff starring veteran swingman Vince Carter.
Sirois says they haven’t really had the time to sell themselves yet, but they’ve picked up a few clients, including the Dallas Arboretum and Chideo, the celebrity video charity project headed by Todd Wagner, erstwhile partner of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. But the Mavs are their main client and top priority.
“I want to build this thing low and slow like barbecue,” Sirois says. “I only want to work with people that feel comfortable with us, are like-minded, and we are comfortable partnering with. When you have a startup company and your first partner is an NBA team, you’re in a very fortunate position.”
Both Sirois and Seely say they are also fortunate that their first partner is this specific NBA team. As Seely says, “One of the coolest things we’ve got is our future Hall of Famers are also the coolest guys to work with.” Nowitzki sets the tone. He’s an NBA champion and league MVP, but he’s still willing to stand in front of a green screen with mouse ears on and spout gibberish for them.
“If any hotshot from some other team shows up,” Sirois says, “and they see Dirk putting on a mouse nose or a Batman outfit or—god, what else?—an astronaut thing, they don’t have any leg to stand on to not be okay with it.”