While documenting the collegiate golf debut of two-time NBA champion J.R. Smith, Jared Bunder ’22, a cinema and television arts major, captured video that caught the attention of media outlets across the country.
In recent weeks, J.R. Smith, a two-time NBA champion now playing collegiate golf at North Carolina A&T University, has been the feel-good story of the sports world. And, as luck would have it, the 16-year NBA vet made his college debut at Elon’s Phoenix Invitational this week.
This coincidence led to a text – and a request – from recent Elon graduate Isabella Seman ’21 to current senior Jared Bunder. A production assistant for ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” Seman asked Bunder to help secure footage of Smith on the course, and Bunder was happy to assist.
While Smith’s presence alone made the Elon golf tournament noteworthy, an inadvertent step on Oct. 12 made it memorable. While on the 12th hole at Alamance Country Club, Smith was stung by hornets after accidentally running over a nest with his pushcart. The only person with a video of the precarious situation was Bunder.
“I tweeted out some video I captured with my phone and that immediately went viral,” Bunder said. “After thousands of interactions, I started to get direct messages from news sites asking for my approval to use the video. I sent an email over to Bella with the footage as soon as I was able to upload it to my computer. The ESPN assignment desk also sent me a direct message via Twitter and asked for permission to use it for their various platforms.”
A few minutes before midnight ESPN’s late-night “SportsCenter” showed Bunder’s footage. Plus, the Worldwide Leader in Sports used the video on its website.
The Elon senior’s footage was shared across Twitter, and was republished by TMZ, Golf Digest, CBS Sports, The New York Post, The Golf Channel, Overtime, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, Golf.com, Yahoo News, theScore.com and many others.
Why the high interest in Smith’s pursuits on the links? Bunder, an avid sports fan, understands it.
“I think people were drawn to J.R. playing college golf because he’s a 36-year-old freshman, a millionaire and two-time NBA champion who made a 360-degree career turn to accomplish one of his dreams to play golf,” he said.
Bunder is a regular contributor to university events and athletic competitions as a student broadcast engineer. Additionally, he serves on Elon Sports Vision’s leadership team as a secretary and is one of the program’s live event directors.
Work from another Elon student was also found in the national press. Luke Johnson ’23, a cinema & television arts and journalism double major, took photographs of the invitational that originally ran in the Times-News.
With such enthusiasm surrounding the tournament due to Smith’s involvement, the story and Johnson’s photo gallery were picked up by USA Today.
The article and gallery can be found here.