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NBA Video Archives Stored in Nuclear-Proof Bunker

Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal takes us underground to find the NBA video tape library.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA keeps video-taped archives of its games in an indestructible bunker in New Jersey, rated to withstand a nuclear blast. This interesting bit of news comes courtesy of Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal [subscription required]. Cohen reports that the NBA, along with other sports leagues, has deep interest in preserving its archives in the safest mode possible, thus the professionally-monitored, environmentally-controlled location.

Cohen reports that every conceivable inch of footage resides in the underground facility:

The rare footage of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and today’s highlights of LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo share an unlikely home 50 feet below ground. The facility, built in the 1960s by AT&T, is now operated by a data protection and disaster recovery firm called Vital Records, Inc. It stores millions of tape cartridges in a heavily controlled, intensely monitored environment meant to survive when nothing else does.

The league is not functioning differently than other corporations in its preservation efforts. Its repository is simply more interesting than most.

The irreplaceable corporate archives of the NBA happen to be the world’s biggest collection of basketball highlights, which is why there are backup copies in an indestructible repository, a common practice for sports leagues that preserve their history in a place they hope never comes in handy. “Everybody’s doing it,” Riemann said. “It’s just that nobody knows about it.”

Cohen also reports that the NBA has updated its archiving system to allow ease of access, a priceless practice in a digitally-oriented, high-demand environment:

Any play involving any team from almost any game now is automatically coded with play-by-play statistics, indexed and a couple of taps away. “Within one or two clicks,” said Chris Halton, the NBA’s senior vice president of media technology and operations, “you’re literally looking at the video.”

You can read more about the particulars of the bunker, and reasoning behind it, in Cohen’s piece.