DJ Shawna Talks DJing the NBA Bubble, Going Viral, and Thriving in the COVID-19 Era

(Source: DJ Shawna)

DJ Shawna is the official DJ for the Milwaukee Bucks. She’s also a DJ who twice went viral during the NBA’s just-completed “bubble” season in Orlando, Florida. For the seasoned spinner and former college basketball player, her COVID-19-shortened NBA campaign included championship-level achievements. Shawna made LeBron James dance, Carmelo Anthony rap, and Chris Webber speak at length about the greatness of her skills during a TNT broadcast. In the midst of these accomplishments, she learned self-confidence, increased her skillset, and embraced her success while learning the true definition of the idea that “comparison is the thief of joy.”

Paraphrasing a lyric from Drake, Shawna notes that the scenario that allowed her to travel to the NBA’s bubble “went from 0 to 100 real quick.” She’d been working for the Bucks for four years, and 2020 was her first as the team’s official DJ and in-game producer. “Johnny Watson, who’s the head of all game production at the Fiserv Forum [the Milwaukee Bucks’ home arena] texted me to see if I’d be interested in DJing at the bubble. I filled out a questionnaire that was less than 10 questions long, from the NBA, a few days later. A few days after that, I was on my way to Orlando.”

Once there, the NBA’s short season found Shawna (not unlike WNBA “wubble” DJ, DJ Heat) as one of four DJs (and the only female) for all of the league’s 30 teams. Playing as “home court” DJ for teams from two dozen-plus different cities would seem difficult on the surface, but ultimately proved to create a fun challenge.

“Typically, the teams wanted to hear the same five artists: Pop Smoke, all the ‘Babies’ – Da Baby, Lil Baby, you know, plus Nipsey Hussle, and Drake,” Shawna says, jokingly. She recalls the Miami Heat’s preference for Pitbull, the Brooklyn Nets wanting “non-stop Biggie,” and DJing for the Houston Rockets being fun because she could play numerous Paul Wall throwback tracks. Player warmups would also take two to three hours before the game, so she oftentimes added extended Motown, old school hip-hop, R&B, and disco sets alongside her playlists.

Shawna’s aforementioned viral social media moments were also key parts of the experience. Regarding her shoutout on TNT from Chris Webber and Brian Anderson, Shawna notes that it was the first game back after the entire Milwaukee Bucks franchise’s social justice boycott, “so it was already special.” The Los Angeles Lakers were significantly ahead of the Portland Trailblazers, and with 90 seconds left in the game, NBA Hall of Famer and TNT color commentator Webber took particular note of her work and the work of DJs in the bubble in general. Capping off her unsuspecting call out by playing Sade‘s jazzy ballad “Smooth Operator” as LeBron James celebrated closing out the series, it provided her a tremendous media boost.

However, though she spun numerous times in the bubble, Shawna’s still searching for her self-defined “DJ high” in the midst of a trying year. “I don’t think I got my personal desire to spin in clubs again out of my system. There’s no feeling of ‘call and response’ when you’re DJing a basketball game,” she notes. “Seeing Carmelo Anthony rapping along to Cameo‘s ‘Word Up’ — or anything else that happened in the bubble — filled my heart up with pride differently than a typical festival, bar, or club set. It wasn’t my show. I was in the bubble to add value to the NBA players and the league’s day.”

Related Post: DJ Heat Discusses DJ Life in the WNBA’s COVID-19 ‘Wubble’