STEM Careers in the NBA

NBA games are fast paced, exciting and attract the attention of millions of Americans. During the 2019 NBA Finals, the average TV viewership was 15.14 million. Yet, whether fans are sitting court side or on their own couch, they do not get to see all of the behind the scenes work that makes NBA games and the cooperation run smoothly. 

Discovery Education and the NBA paired up to create a 30-minute-long virtual field trip that shows the science, technology, engineering and math that go into the everyday work of people involved in the NBA. 

The video begins with head of Referee Development and Training Monty McCutchen. McCutchen talks about how technology impacts referee jobs both on and off the court. Their analytics department allows them to see if they miss certain types of violations, and it often leads to the reversing of a call. The NBA referee staff aims to have 90 percent or higher accuracy in every game in order to stop teams from having an unfair advantage. 

To a spectator, it may look like referees are just running up and down the court making calls that are stopping their team from winning the game. This is in fact not the case. The three referees are trained to focus their vision, work at certain angles and shift their bodies according to where they are standing on the court. Throughout the first part of the video, McCutchen breaks down how STEM plays a large part in proper execution during games. 

“I would highly encourage you to pay attention to the things that interest you because they can lead you down paths that you didn’t understand there was even a pathway to,” said McCutchen

The video then continues to show the impact of STEM on the NBA through the NBA’s Digital Content Strategy and Analytics team. Team member Iveta Karapetian talks about how math and science change the way that fans experience games. Karapetian uses analytics to see what fans want to see on social media to increase engagement. Her job uses statistics and mathematics in order to increase viewership and engagement amongst the NBA’s fans. 

Karapetian said, “technology has changed so much since I was a kid and you guys are surrounded by it. There is so much that you can do with technology and there are so many careers in technology…If you really understand how to use it and you can shape your career around it, you can be extremely successful.”  

STEM’s influence on the NBA extends on the court as well. Charlotte Hornets Forward Marvin Williams talks about how STEM plays a role in how he plays. Williams said math plays a huge part in how he and his team analyze performance and create game plans for their upcoming schedule. 

Williams also talks about the Hornets staff members who focus on helping players prevent injuries, treat injuries, maintain proper diet and stay hydrated- which are all based around STEM. 

On game night, Arena Events and Operations employees are in charge of making sure that all events and screens in the arena work properly. 

“An arena runs very similarly to a city. We have a lot of different entities around our building just like a city does. We all come together to establish one goal. For example, we could have a concert on Saturday night [and] we will get the floor back around 2 a.m… We have to have the Hornets floor down ready for Marvin Williams to do a shoot around at 9 a.m,” said Arena Events and Operations employee Alex MacKenzie.  

Part of their job is to make sure that the arena transitions properly between all the events that are hosted at that facility. The Arena Events and Operations are given a list of standards that they are to maintain each home game in order to keep player and fan experience consistent from game to game. That is everything from court size to arena temperature. 

The goal of the virtual field trip is to give children insight into possible STEM careers throughout the NBA. Science, technology, engineering and math are prevalent throughout all areas of basketball, both on and off the court. By showing children this, they get the opportunity to see what jobs they could have in the future if they continue to pursue STEM and work hard on those subjects in school. 

At STEM Sports®, we illustrate possible jobs that coincide with the module the students are learning. We believe that giving students real-world connection to their STEM lessons both sparks curiosity to learn and allows students to see if this is a career path that they would possibly pursue.

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