CloseUp360 (CU360) is an Emmy-nominated media platform and production company focused on NBA players, star athletes and sports insiders, and their impact beyond the game.
The arena beyond the game of basketball has become a league of its own. NBA players have never been more active and diverse outside of the sport—from entrepreneurial endeavors and philanthropic efforts to global initiatives and social activism, and much more. They are also among the world’s most popular celebrities, most captivating young stars and most marketable athletes.
Taking a 360-degree view of all things off the court, CloseUp360 offers an immersive look inside players' lives. Topics include players' journeys, personal branding, career development, hometown impact, international growth, lifestyle interests, family connections and more.
CloseUp360 was founded by Jared Zwerling, a sports media and marketing veteran whose career has spanned the NBA, CBS Sports, ESPN, Bleacher Report, the NBPA and Sports Illustrated. Throughout his career, Jared developed a niche in off-the-court coverage, which inspired him to build CU360 with a select team of longtime industry friends who had similar content and business experience in this specialized arena.
CloseUp360’s exclusive global marketing agent is Alliance Media, an established international media company that owns and operates TV stations and OTT services. Alliance Media has decades of experience in the generation, aggregation and distribution of sports and entertainment content across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America, as well as building top sports channels worldwide.
For global distribution inquiries to secure rights for CloseUp360 exclusive content, please e-mail Alliance senior executive Sai Srinivasan at email@example.com.
For general CloseUp360 business inquiries, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Launched in 2020, PlayersTV is a fast-growing television network dedicated to athlete lifestyle and culture entertainment. It reaches more than 300 million households (200 million in the U.S. and 100 million in Europe) through its partners Amazon, LG Channels, Local Now, Philo, Rakuten TV, Roku, Sling, Vizio, Xumo and YouTube TV. Another partner, ReachTV, provides distribution to 1 million hotel rooms and 2,500 airport screens in the U.S.
Pro athlete partners include NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, De’Aaron Fox, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Chris Paul, as well as NFL stars Vernon Davis, Travis Kelce and Russell Wilson.
Ballislife is the biggest basketball network in the U.S. with 22 million followers across all social, including 8.5 million Instagram followers and 4 million YouTube subscribers. Overall, it's one of the top 10 sports media companies on social, according to Shareablee.
ClutchPoints is one of the 6 most engaged sports media brands in the U.S., according to Shareablee, with millions of followers (including 2.7 million on Facebook and nearly 700,000 on Instagram), 35 million monthly unique website views and 50,000 monthly users on its app.
Wave Sports + Entertainment is one of the 4 most engaged sports media brands in the U.S., according to Shareablee. It runs two of the most popular basketball social platforms (@buckets and @sway), reaching 2.4 million and 1.1 million followers on Instagram, respectively.
It was only a matter of time.
The journey began when I started writing for my school newspaper at an early age. I was around eight. My first story was about an ambidextrous starting pitcher on the baseball team. I wondered, How could he throw 90 miles per hour with either arm? Turns out, he had broken his arm at one point and trained the other.
When I was 17, I landed my first professional writing job, as the youngest person on staff at Community Newspapers in my hometown of Miami. With my own business cards in one hand and a camera in the other, I set out to uncover every exhibit, business, restaurant and more in the city.
The rest of the time was spent fueling my burning passion for basketball.
After college and sports business graduate school at New York University, as I started covering the NBA regularly. I wanted to unearth everything surrounding the game: the culture, the lifestyle, the business. I was drawn to the off-the-court space, and it motivated me to successfully create positions covering that world at Bleacher Report, the National Basketball Players Association and Sports Illustrated.
Now, that itch to find and create opportunities has culminated with CloseUp360, syncing with the booming popularity of NBA players around the world. This is basketball’s time. And what happens beyond the game is now its own domain.
Writing, creativity and storytelling had always come naturally to me, but it was really the desire to advocate for players as people, change the content game and influence the youth that sparked CU360.
Seeing my mom run her own community groups and my dad manage a medical practice with his colleagues, I always had the desire to start a company with a purpose. At the root of watching my parents help others was an appreciation for people—who they really were, their lives, journeys, pursuits, emotions and everything else.
Media is in a disturbing state when it comes to truly understanding and profiling players. Today's clouded climate—silly, sarcastic and lazy one-quote content—has caused more players to distance themselves from reporters. The result: an incomplete picture of who players are off the court, and a disservice to kids who need to be surrounded by thought and perspective to develop as students. The NBA is entertainment, yes, but its players and league insiders offer so much more than what happens within 94 feet.
We are here to take you CloseUp to players in a 360-degree way, turning them into three-dimensional public figures, with trust, quality, credibility, authenticity and genuine storytelling at the foundation of the platform.
For everyone who has helped me along the way, thank you. I’m looking forward to continuing my journey with each of you.
Finally, I’m very excited to introduce members of our team. Here are their stories:
After a stellar 14-year NBA playing career, which included winning an NBA championship with Dallas in 2011 and a pair of All-Star appearances with Washington in 2007 and 2008, Caron Butler returned home to Miami, where his NBA career began nearly 20 years ago.
The 2020-21 season marked his initial foray into the world of coaching as he joined Erik Spoelstra’s staff as an assistant coach. Caron, who was universally respected throughout his playing career, was known for both his physical and mental toughness—traits that have made him a valuable asset to both the coaching staff and players.
In addition to Miami, Caron's playing career included stops in Los Angeles with both the Lakers and Clippers, Washington, Dallas, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Detroit and Sacramento.
Upon retiring as a player, the Racine, Wisconsin native also excelled off the court as a broadcaster.
He joined ESPN as a college game analyst in 2017 before joining Turner Sports as an NBA analyst in 2018. He filled numerous roles with Turner Sports, including being featured on NBA TV’s signature studio show, NBA Game Time, and NBA on TNT’s Players Only franchise.
Most recently, Caron earned acclaim hosting the “NBA Together” initiative during COVID and the social justice movement. He has also worked as a studio analyst for Spectrum SportsNet’s coverage of the Lakers and worked as an occasional game analyst for the Wizards during the 2019-20 season. In addition, he recently hosted a podcast, Tuff Juice, and in 2015 wrote an autobiography that's being produced into a biopic.
Caron and his wife, Andrea, reside in Miami and have a son, James Caron Jr. (J.C.), who plays basketball at UC Irvine, and four daughters, Camary, Mia, Ava and Gia.
Brand Partnerships Director
Since I was a baby, I always loved basketball. Seriously. I couldn’t go anywhere without bringing a basketball with me.
Basketball has had, and still does have, a major impact on my life. I grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Vince Carter. My first-ever email address even paid homage to Vince because of how influential he played basketball. Also, easily one of the best days of my life was when I was able to meet Kobe a year or so before his tragic passing … but I’ll get to that later.
Going outside, chanting 3, 2, 1, hitting a turnaround “game-winner” and just working on my game, was always my escape growing up. I really wouldn’t be the person I am today without the game of basketball.
I ended up going to the University of Massachusetts because of their storied Sport Management program. I thought it was crazy that I could go to college to study sports. The first thing my professor said to me in my very first class in college was, “If you don’t have a famous friend who plays sports, you will never become a sports agent.” So, my dreams of being the next Jerry Maguire were sadly shot down, but I was always determined to have a career in sports.
Fast forward some years, and I land my first big gig out of school at Complex Media helping their ad operations team. During my 4.5 years there, including a job switch to help lead and grow their branded content team (which was a term I actually think was created or at least popularized at Complex), I learned a ton about the media space and how to create successful partnerships. And I was able to work with some amazing talent, including Kobe, Kristaps Porzingis, Dave East and many many others.
So, back to the Kobe story. I was invited to a private screening for Kobe’s animated film, Dear Basketball, in January 2018. Kobe’s only requirement was to talk about the process of making the film and answer some questions from director Glen Keane. Instead, Kobe stayed after the conversation wrapped, and made sure to shake hands and truly engage with every single person who was there. He asked me what I did for work, how it was going at Complex and what my goals were in life. My mind was blown with just how personable KOBE BRYANT was with me and everyone who was able to meet him.
Complex helped land me a gig at Bleacher Report, which is where Jared and I met. How we got to know each other wasn’t from working together, but actually through hoops. We’d have a weekly Tuesday night run and I was impressed with Jared’s lefty game. Months after Jared left B/R, he hit me up asking if he could come back to the office, tell me about a company he started called CloseUp360 and pick my brain about the brand partnerships side of business. After that conversation, I knew one day we’d work together in a very meaningful way. Before that happened, I went to GQ to help grow and monetize their newly launched sub-brand, GQ Sports, which I did.
Now present day, I’m helping Jared expand the CloseUp360 business by forging diverse partnerships and seeking brands that resonate with the exceptional content we create, featuring some of the most remarkable athletes worldwide.
If you represent a brand interested in collaborating with us, don't hesitate to reach out. We welcome any inquiries and potential opportunities for exciting collaborations. Let’s build together!
Business Development Advisor
Basketball has always been my favorite sport to watch and play.
My earliest memories of the game of basketball was playing on an eight-foot hoop with a wooden backboard in the backyard with my dad. I loved going outside whether it was rainy or cold and just doing the countdown over and over again, 3...2...1…, and making as many last-second, buzzer-beating shots as I could.
I loved watching the NBA in the 80s and 90s, and trying to imitate shots that the stars took, from Kareem's skyhook to MJ's fadeaway.
Growing up, I loved watching Magic and the Lakers' rivalry with Bird and the Celtics, then came Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman and the Bad Boys Pistons, to Jordan, Pippen and the Bulls' dynasty in the 90s.
I was born and raised in Ohio just like LeBron. Watching LeBron come up in high school, then being drafted #1 overall by my favorite team, the Cavs, and then living up to the massive hype surrounding him was inspirational and unbelievable to witness. LeBron coming home to Ohio after his stint in Miami to rejoin the Cavs, and winning a championship in 2016, is one of the greatest stories ever in all of sports. The 2016 NBA Finals still gives me chills thinking about it to this day.
After graduating from The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Business Administration majoring in Finance and minoring in Economics, the dream was to move to New York City and work on Wall Street. So I packed up my bags and finally left Ohio. I worked in the hedge fund industry for four years until the financial collapse in 2008. While I was in NYC, I met Jared and we became friends, and played ball together in various rec leagues in the city.
After a great experience living and working in NYC, I decided to move to Los Angeles and change gears from the world of finance. I received my MBA degree from Pepperdine University, and worked in the IT Industry for IBM and DirecTV. While in LA, I was always pursuing entrepreneurial ventures in my spare time, and working with startups and starting my own. I became really interested in brand marketing and promotions, particularly sweepstakes. I even developed my own proprietary system, which helped me win many sports-related sweepstakes, including more than $50,000 worth of prizes in less than two years, including all-expense paid trips to the SEC Championship Game, MLB All-Star Game and NBA All-Star Weekend.
I now live in North Texas and have been working on many different entrepreneurial ventures. I’m the co-founder of a tech startup company that was selected as a finalist for CodeLaunch, which is a national seed accelerator competition. I also completed a sports management certificate program in Sports Industry Essentials from Columbia University tied to my role as Business Development Advisor for CloseUp360.
My passion for basketball, brand marketing and startups have led me to help CloseUp360 with business development, brand partnerships and sponsorships, and coming up with creative ways to help us grow.
I jumped at the opportunity to join CloseUp360, excited to apply my business and legal background, as well as experience creating and consulting for startup companies, as the company's Director of Business Operations.
I love basketball. I’ve followed and played basketball since I was a toddler. I played biddy ball every season and pickup ball outside every day after school growing up. I was a small guard—a scrappy dribbler and shooter. I understood the mechanics of the game, so I made an impact greater than my size.
I remember worshipping the legends: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. I grew up when Jordan’s Bulls reigned over the Pistons, Jazz and Lakers. My friends and I ritually played NBA Live 95, usually starting with an hour-long draft of all the best players of the day, and fighting to the death for world domination.
Despite how much we played, I always longed to learn more about the players’ lives outside of basketball.
In those times, Michael Jordan was the pioneer in the emergence of the off-the-court brand. He made money on and off the court. He influenced people. He inspired people. People, most notably kids, aspired to be like Mike. The Nike, Gatorade and Hanes commercials permeated pop culture. “I want to be like Mike” was on everyone’s tongue, which stuck out of their mouths mimicking Jordan’s notorious trademark.
Fast forward to today, when basketball players are so much more than just professional athletes. They’re human beings with incredible stories and journeys. They represent brands and startup companies; host summer leagues; develop clothing lines; design shoe styles; inspire popular workouts, training and dietary regiments; engage in vital philanthropy; and influence a worldwide market that is one of the largest in all of professional sports. They are doing big things off the court, and they have a lot to say.
We’re excited to give our fans an exclusive look into these players’ lives outside of basketball, and share their unique and inspiring stories. We hope fans appreciate our work, engage with our content and crave more, because we’re working hard to deliver.
Our team features top-notch professionals who share my passion for basketball, and all have an unwavering commitment to telling the best and most authentic stories. It’s a privilege and honor to work with them, and we’re excited for the journey ahead.
While growing up in South Florida in the 90s, there was one game my friends and I most loved to both watch and play, and that was basketball. From cheering on our newly formed Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning-led Miami Heat to long summer nights playing pickup games on our suburban driveway hoops, or continuing those rivalries on NBA Jam at the local mall’s arcade, basketball was a part of our everyday life.
Despite always being above average height (I stand at 6’5” today), my attention and love for the game were eclipsed by my discovery of filmmaking at an early age. It started when I was old enough to pick up the family video camera.
I began filming stop-motion shorts with my action figures, and soon turned to making video projects in lieu of all of my homework assignments at school. Once I realized the power of storytelling through video, I was hooked.
While attending the University of Florida, I wrote, produced and directed an independent feature-length film that we made on a $3,000 budget, compiled from donations by family and friends. That experience was in essence my film school and taught me valuable lessons, such as how to stretch a budget while maintaining high-quality, uncompromising storytelling.
Nearly 15 years ago in December 2007, I found myself at a crossroads in life at the very bottom of a freezing cold Grand Canyon on a trip with my business partner. It was there that we decided to leave our former careers behind and focus full time on pursuing our shared passion of filmmaking. We emerged from the canyon determined to succeed in the entertainment business and formed Think Visual Group shortly after.
As the president of TVG, I’ve produced thousands of video projects, including productions that have launched major brands, signed recording talent to labels and even raised billions of dollars in real estate investments for some of the biggest developers in NYC. I’ve also produced multiple entertainment projects, including a PBS primetime concert special that aired nationwide and a feature-length documentary releasing this year that has the great Burt Reynolds in his final interview.
There’s presently a convergence between the worlds of basketball and film. From stars like Curry, Durant and Harden having their own production companies to players going in front of the camera like LeBron in Trainwreck or KG in Uncut Gems, it’s an exciting time to be in a business that crosses both of those industries.
By working with CloseUp360 on our productions, I’m able to combine my passion for filmmaking along with my love for the game of basketball. My mission is to take our content to the next level by pursuing the most interesting and compelling stories, while also employing innovative production strategies that ensure CU360 is a major player in the sports documentary world.
Forgive me if I’m the 8,756,920th person who’s credited the 1990s Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers of the 2000s for their sports fandom, but allow me to explain.
I didn’t root for Michael Jordan in the Finals. Instead, my earliest sports memories were of pulling for Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek and the Utah Jazz to upset the NBA’s dynasty of the day. And while most of my generation of Angelenos fell in love with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal (even as they grew to despise each other),
I was the kid with the Derek Fisher jersey who relished Robert Horry’s bevy of big shots and drew comparisons to Mark “Mad Dog” Madsen on the school blacktop.
Since then, I’ve consistently found myself fascinated by those adjacent—and ultimately integral—to greatness. The winners we all seem to revere and admire didn’t do it alone, and the stories of the losers shouldn’t be lost just because they wound up on the wrong side of history. There are opportunities for entertainment, enrichment and education in each and every one, no matter how large or small their on-court impact may seem.
My time at Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group gave me the skills to serve as CloseUp360’s Editorial Manager. It was Jared’s enthusiasm for stories about players as people, irrespective of stats and accolades, that not only drew me in, but made me want to be a part of this new platform.
Since then, my excitement for CU360 has only grown. I have had the privilege of getting to know “The Mailman” and working with players who, in their day jobs, fill a variety of roles on the court. I have also been fortunate to work with talented, hard-working, resourceful and energetic people, including writers and creators across the country. As much as I can and hope to do to make CloseUp360 worthy of a loyal audience, I understand that doing so requires a team effort and that every person’s impact therein matters.
Which, for all the superstar hagiography from my upbringing, is what I took away from watching the Bulls and Lakers of yore, and why I’m thrilled to be a part of CU360.