The NBA is Not a Tech Company
On what the NBA's Hawk-Eye debacle means about the league
There was a call with the NBA league office and NBA general managers on Wednesday. A trial balloon of a two-day NBA Draft came out of it as news fit for public consumption, but there were points of discussion the league was less keen on everyone knowing. Specifically, I’m talking about the failure of the NBA’s new player tracking system, Hawk-Eye, an issue that I initially dismissed as too insidery when I first started to get word of it.
It turns out that, the more I look into it, the more Hawk-Eye is illustrative of larger modern NBA themes. The mess isn’t central to the concerns of NBA fans, but it’s one born out of how the league operates, in general, in ways that fans often find annoying. It’s another get-rich-quick scheme, another attempt at treating the NBA like a tech company, another instance of trying to reinvent the wheel rather than make sure the spokes are firmly attached.
To be sure, the Hawk-Eye debacle, and it is a debacle, is quite confusing. I’ve talked to a lot of people with NBA teams, and it’s not easy getting a sense of just what went wrong, why, and how it’s so hard to fix. Analytics staffs are absolutely furious and fuming in these calls with the league office, and nobody quite knows when the problems will stop.