A look inside the NBA’s new instant replay center

NBA veteran referee Joe Borgia comes from a family of referees—his father was one of the original refs in 1946. With a long and successful history in the NBA, Borgia has become a booster for the NBA's new state-of the-art instant replay center.

"My dad would be turning over in his grave if he could see the NBA replay center and what we do here, but you have to keep up with the times. If you do not improve, you become old," said Borgia, who is now the league's vice president of Referee Operations and Replay Center.

Located in Secaucus, New Jersey, the $15 million facility was built to help on-court refs make calls when a play is in question. With 20 replay stations on game nights, one person is assigned to every live game to monitor, review and analyze every call.

When a call is in question, an on-court ref signals the need for a replay. The replay center comes alive, pulling up the play. By the time the on-court referees make it to the scoring table, the play is cued up to view through various camera angles and speeds.

"It gives us the ability to put plays beside each other, zoom in, do slow motion. It gives the referees an added tool to get more calls correct," said Rod Thorn, president of operations for the NBA.

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Since the season began in November, 435 plays have been reviewed by the replay center, and 50 have been overturned. The NBA's replay center team isn't just focused on getting the call right, but also on doing so quickly.

"Our sport is a flow sport, so it was very important that we get the camera feeds back for review immediately," said Steve Hellmuth, executive vice president for Operations & Technology for NBA Entertainment, and the architect of the high-speed arena network.

The NBA’s new Replay Center will be connected to all 29 league arenas.
Source: National Basketball Association
The NBA’s new Replay Center will be connected to all 29 league arenas.

Through connectivity with all 29 NBA arenas, the replay center is able to take in multiple, simultaneous HD video streams in real-time. With an average speed of 47 seconds per review, they continue to look for ways to increase efficiency. On a busy night, the NBA says it is bringing in more than 28 terabytes of video—the equivalent of 560 double-sided Blue-Ray DVDS.

The replay center wasn't just designed with referees in mind but was also created as a way to enhance the fan experience. Fans at home can get a live view of what the officials are looking at in the replay center, and fans in the arena can see the various replays on the Jumbotron. If you're not in front of a television, an active Twitter account tweets out replays within two minutes of being reviewed.

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The NBA expects the replay center will review over 31,000 hours of video this season. Upon completion of games, fans will be able to log onto NBA.com, where clips of the reviews will be continuously archived in a digital library, along with a full explanation of calls.

"I think it's great when we can show the fans exactly what we are showing the referees. Having been in the arena watching the replays on the big screen, it's pretty exciting as well," Borgia said.

While the technology continues to improve, and more camera angles are added, don't expect to see referees completely replaced by machines. "I think there will always be a human element involved. There will just be more and more ways that we can help the referee do his job," Thorn said.

Even when a play is up for review, the on-court crew chief still has the final say on a call.