Hoops and Music with Harvey Mason
Add remaking ‘One Shining Moment’ to his long list of accomplishments.
by Colin Powers
If you were to try and draw up the ideal life, it might come out looking a whole lot Harvey Mason’s. From ballin’ with Sean Elliot, Kenny Lofton & Co. at Arizona, winning three Pac-10 titles and going to the Final Four, to becoming a big-time music producer and collaborating with some of the biggest names in the business, he’s had one hell of a career. Oh, and he also produced ‘More than a Game’, the documentary detailing LeBron James’ high school days.
His twin passions for basketball and the entertainment business have intersected once again as Harvey has just completed a remake of the iconic ‘One Shining Moment’ track that accompanies the ending video montage of the NCAA Tournament each year, this time to be sung by Jennifer Hudson. Anytime you’re dealing with tradition, there’s going to be big expectations and pressure. I caught up with Harvey to talk music, ball, and the amazing trajectory his career has taken.
SLAM: Re-working the ‘One Shining Moment’ track, you’ve gotta be feeling some pressure. What are you and Jennifer looking to do with the song?
Harvey Mason: Well we want to try and capture the emotion and dynamics that are in the Final Four and the NCAA Tournament in general. With this piece of music, you’re just trying to get people to feel something, you want them to feel the rollercoaster environment of buzzer beaters and the ups and downs. All those emotions of the tournament, how you’re up one second, then down, we really wanted to capture that in the song.
And of course, we also wanted to update it so it sounded fresh and relevant to the marketplace without offending the people who loved the original. You know, we can’t go completely crazy and destroy the song, but we wanted to update and make it relevant while staying true to the great emotion of the original song.
SLAM: You’ve worked with some great musicians in your career. What made Jennifer the right choice for this song?
HM: Jennifer was actually the choice of the network, but I’m a huge fan. I think they were probably going through their list of people they love, and I imagine it was because of her voice and the way she delivers song and emotional performances from the heart. Everything she sings you can’t help but feel. She kills records, she tells stories, and the listener really feels her when she’s singing. So I think the way Jennifer can convey emotion to her audience and how genuine she is in her passion made her a great choice for the song.
SLAM: Alright lets talk some hoops. That Arizona squad was pretty strong, winning three Pac-10 championships along with your Final Four run. What made the team so special?
HM: To be honest, it’s kinda a long story, but one of the things was the type of guys who were on the team. Everybody on the team was not the best player in the country. Everyone was a top shelf prospect or recruit or whatever, but we all had good personalities and fit together. Nobody was looking to step on anyone else to make sure they got the recognition. We played for each other and truly wanted what was best for the team above all else. It wasn’t every one of us was looking to be MVP or looking to one up the other guys. We genuinely wanted to work together.
It’s funny, when you go to U of A, after your visit, the returning players on the team actually vote on whether you should join the team. Because of that, I think we had a certain type of guy who was a real team player, gelling with everyone around them. The chemistry was really, really special. You know, we weren’t worried about scoring the most. We weren’t going to Arizona as a stepping stone to the pros. We were going to win, to have a college experience, to grow as a team for four years and look for the ultimate goal of trying to win a championship. I remember after Sean’s junior year, there were all these pro scouts around and everyone was saying how he’s gotta go pro, and we were all shocked. I mean, leave college? That just wasn’t our scene, and it wasn’t Sean’s either, so he came back for another year.
Today, guys look at school as a one or two year stop. And the way they view the school experience changes their whole mentality toward basketball, toward the team, toward everything.
Funny enough, when all was said and done, we ended up with about 10 or so Pros on that team, but that was never what anyone went there for.
SLAM: Y’all were a little before my time, but I’ve always wondered…how good was Kenny Lofton?
HM: He was incredible. He could have played any one of three professional sports. He could have played football, he definitely could have played basketball. He was so quick and athletic. He didn’t always have the exact fundamentals that Coach Olson taught, but he always got the job done. He was amazing defensively, a great clutch shooter, and athletically, I went against him for three years, and he was so tough. He was a lock-down defender; our first two years we were competing for minutes but our last two we started together and we had so much fun. Great guy, great athlete, and still one of my best friends to this day.
SLAM: What do you think of the Sean Miller hire for Arizona going forward?
HM: I really like Sean Miller a lot. I think he’ll do great things for the program. He’s a new, updated version of what Head Coaches need to be. He knows the game and knows how to relate to the new breed of athlete. But he’s also got the old fashion values of doing things the right way, being honest, doing things according to the standard and tradition set by Coach Olson. You know, as our program was built on the standard of Coach Olson, I think Coach Miller is really smart in following that heritage and also bringing what he does to the table on his own. I haven’t really studied his Xs and Os and strategies but he’s brought a new energy and passion while also fulfilling and embracing the legacy of Coach Olson. Kids really like him, they want to play for him, and I know if I was a player today, I’d want to play for him too.
SLAM: Basketball has clearly remained a major part of your life since your official playing days ended. How did you get involved with producing ‘More than a Game’?
HM: Because basketball is such a crazy passion of mine, it actually came about that a kid came to me that had a bunch of footage, recommended to me by my babysitter. He played me the trailer, it was basketball related, a great story, it had LeBron in it, and I just flipped. It was an amazing opportunity to tell a great story. At that point, I told him I’d help him and connect him to a bunch of studios because I had spent a lot of time out in L.A. with the different music and entertainment businesses. After a few months of meetings, people were interested but weren’t really biting. So I just said, lets make this ourselves, and we started a five-year journey from then that’s been really great and something we’re very proud of.
SLAM: Any more work in film, or basketball, coming up for you beyond the great things you’ve done in music?
HM: Definitely, I don’t have anything that I’m excited to announce yet but we have a couple cool TV opportunities in the works and some other things on the burner. I’ve been really lucky, I just feel like I’ve had so many great experiences. Playing in the Final Four was priceless, and working with so many legendary artists has been amazing. I just want to continue to grow and develop as a songwriter and also as an entertainment company, whether it’s film or music or television. I also want to make sure everything I do I’m super passionate and excited about. If a film or product is exciting to me, I’ll go after it. I’ve done plenty of time, paid plenty of dues, so at this point, I just want to do what excites me.