NBA: Nothing but 'Net

I'm often accused of posting stuff on this site that has nothing to do with defense technnology. For once, I'll plead guilty as charged.In February, Fast Company magazine was kind enough to send me to the NBA All-Star Game, to report on the league's forays into digital media. Along the way, I caught the slam dunk contest and hung backstage with Snoop -- officially making this The Coolest Assignment Ever.The article, however, wound up being all business. Here's how it starts:A__dunk.jpg

A thousand things are happening on the basketball court at the Toyota Center, Houston's 18,000-seat arena: Technicians are scrambling. Radio announcers are practicing their game-voice baritones. The pitter-patter of balls on hardwood sounds like a quickening heartbeat. Sitting two rows back, on the second night of the NBA's All-Star Weekend, Brenda Spoonemore takes it all in with ice-blue eyes and a wide grin. Long before she began working for the NBA six years ago, she was the kind of kid who named her pet gerbils after Seattle SuperSonics stars. Now she's the kind of grown-up who spends her vacations in skyboxes, catching games with her family. "How cool is this?" she asks.As the NBA's senior vice president of interactive services, Spoonemore must get a whole new generation of fans hooked on hoops. Ironically, that means changing how the sport she fell in love with is presented. Showing two-and-a-half-hour games helped the NBA grow into a $3 billion-a-year monster. But the majority of that growth came before most Internet connections went broadband, and before wireless networks got beefy enough for video. Now, many fans don't want to watch a whole game, especially on a PC or a 2-inch cell screen. So it's up to a team of dozens at the NBA to digitally repackage the league's offerings around individual plays and players. "Full games, that's this much of what we do," Spoonemore says, her fingers half an inch apart.
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