CloseUp360, The Players' World Off The Court
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn: @CloseUp360
Video Channel: YouTube.com/CU360
CloseUp360 is a specialized lifestyle media platform and production company focused exclusively on the growing world of NBA players and their impact off the court.
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 globally—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 is a lifestyle media platform and production company for all basketball players, with a primary focus on the NBA—from the stars and role players to the international standouts. CloseUp360.com and its social extensions offer an immersive and comprehensive look inside players' lives outside the lines. Topics include players' journeys, personal branding, career development, hometown impact, international growth and lifestyle interests.
CU360 features weekly content (profiles, features and series) and daily content (news, events and social posts), focusing on players and people behind the scenes who are leaders off the court. The sections include:
Players: Profile pages with video/written features, sidebars and info on each player
Global: The NBA’s international players, events and expansion
Business: The business of basketball and outside entrepreneurial interests
Community: Players’ foundations and charitable work
Culture: Art, food, travel, style, sneakers and more
Insiders: People who are influential in players' off-the-court development and success
News: Updates, announcements, product launches, reaction to news and more
CloseUp360 was established by Jared Zwerling, a 15-year NBA and basketball media and marketing veteran whose career has spanned the NBA, CBS Sports, ESPN, Bleacher Report, the National Basketball Players Association 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.
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, 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 our team. Here are their stories:
I’ve always been drawn to storytelling and sports. As a kid, I didn’t realize I could combine the two.
Growing up watching Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls go from unlikely winners to undisputed champions was my first obsession with storylines in sports. Unfortunately, the story ended after the final buzzer, but I always wanted more. Who are these seemingly superhuman athletes? What are their stories? Where did they come from and how did they get to this point? What did they do off the court?
That’s when I got into sports documentaries and jumped at the opportunity to create features for, at the time, an unknown company called Bleacher Report. What started as a three-month contract turned into a six-year dive into the world of sports. From drinking wine in Napa with Kobe Bryant and Hublot, to documenting Paul George’s comeback from a possible career-ending injury, to covering the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, I became obsessed with all the incredible storylines in sports.
What I love the most is connecting with these amazing athletes—seemingly superhuman, but still people. Everyone loves a champion, but even the loser has a story. Many times, the story of the athlete who fell a little short of glory has the greatest lesson to teach.
At the end of the day, the process of determination is what’s most intriguing to the story. As Creative and Video Director of CloseUp360, I want to tell the whole story behind the athlete—not just focusing on the most popular stars, but rather, the most interesting.
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 Director. 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.
My earliest memory of basketball was of my dad taking me and my brother to Target to pick out shirts. At the time, everyone was wearing Bulls, Lakers or Blazers shirts. My brother picked a Bulls shirt. I didn’t like Lakers colors, so I picked a Blazers shirt.
At the time, my brother made the right choice, as the Bulls had just beaten the Blazers in the Finals. But my allegiance switched to the Kings once I moved to Sacramento, and I’ve stuck with them, one heartbreaking season at a time.
As a kid, I’d spend my days playing basketball, mimicking all the great players of my generation.
I didn’t exactly have the athletic prowess for an NBA career, but I followed the storylines of the top players and teams. From the greatness of Michael Jordan, to the Kings and Lakers rivalry, to watching a kid from Akron exceed the hype, these basketball stories can’t be scripted. (To any Lakers fan, I still contend they had extra help in the 2002 Western Conference finals.)
It’s the emotional connection that makes these stories so great. It got me thinking about ways to bring these stories to fans to create the same emotional connection I felt as I saw these storylines unfold.
I started collaborating with players on original content around the same time more of them started becoming more aware of their brand and opportunities off the court. Working in entertainment, I wanted to combine the storytelling quality of film and television with athlete-driven content. There was white space for quality sports content.
That’s why I jumped at the chance to join CloseUp360. A lot of content creators have popped up, but much of the content feels like news pieces or highlight reels without much of a story. There was a need for a platform with the access and authenticity that can drive the athletes’ voices and create meaningful visual stories.
As the Business Development Director of CU360, I find key partnerships with players, teams, agencies, brands, content distributors and more. I also work on the development and production of long-form content for traditional, streaming and theatrical distribution, and collaborate with our editorial team to create short-form content across our platform.
My goal is to enhance the company’s reach in the media marketplace, and to give the players a platform to share their voices with as many fans as possible. I’m excited to be a part of a great team and to combine my passion for storytelling and basketball.
Growing up, my stepfather was a huge influence on me when it came to sports. We had just moved to Southern California in the early 2000s—the same time the Lakers were in "Prime Kobe" era. Seeing my stepdad express so much excitement and passion while watching a game piqued my curiosity. So I started watching games with him, and quickly became obsessed to the point where my mother threatened to not let me watch games because I got so worked up.
Between the Lakers’ rivalries with the Pistons and Celtics, I was hooked. We watched games together constantly.
Watching Kobe’s “Mamba Mentality” take over during close games was transfixing. As competitive as I am, I lived for those moments as a kid. His impulse to rise to a challenge was what I related to most, and despite all the hate and criticism he got over the years, he was my favorite player. Years later, I had the opportunity to sit courtside at a Lakers game during Kobe’s final season, and it all came full circle for me as it was the first and only time I got to see him play in person. He wasn’t the same Kobe I grew up watching, but he still had that same drive, that unapologetic refusal to lose.
Though sports were always a passion of mine, I also loved movies and pursued a career in film and entertainment after graduating from USC. I worked in theatrical marketing at Universal Pictures and then for a notable movie producer. When friends and family asked me what I wanted to do next in my career, they’d almost always ask me why I didn’t try to work in sports since I loved it so much. But I never felt like there was a position in sports I’d really enjoy.
When our founder approached me about CloseUp360, I saw so much potential. I love the storytelling side of film, but I love the competition and excitement of sports. CU360 is essentially a combination of those two things, so it felt perfect for me—finally something that speaks to all of my passions. As the Multimedia Producer of CloseUp360, I write weekly features, help direct photography, produce video features and help manage all of our social media.
What I hope people will love about our brand is the stories we tell about the other side of the players’ lives. We’re showing who these players are off the court, All-Star or not—divulging their stories, interests and personal lives, and how they relate to basketball. I hope that fans and readers take away something new and different from our brand, as we look forward to sharing our stories with them.
Barry E. Haimo
I jumped at the opportunity to join CloseUp360, excited to apply my business and legal background and experience as General Counsel. My job is working with the team on day-to-day business operations and protecting the company in its legal affairs.
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.