NBA History Lives in a Nuclear Bunker in New Jersey

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Flanders, NJ — Climb mountains, pass gates, iris scans, keypad scrambles, and security checkpoint mazes, and you’ll find amazing secret treasures in a bunker designed to withstand a nuclear explosion.

Hiding in the corner of an underground vault built over half a century ago by one of the world’s wealthiest companies to hedge against natural disasters, unpredictable catastrophes, and risk of existence. Since then, the warehouse it has built has been reused as a haven for the most valuable electronic assets of many other companies, including one prominent company that stores more than 50,000 tapes in rows of unmarked lockers. it was done.

These are backup tapes of all the games in the NBA archive. The best players, iconic games, classic moments in basketball history live in a nuclear bunker.

Rare footage of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul Jabber and today’s highlights of LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokompo share an unlikely home 50 feet underground. Facility built in the 1960s by AT & T,

It is currently operated by a data protection and disaster recovery company called Vital Records, Inc. Millions of tape cartridges are stored in a tightly controlled and closely monitored environment with the goal of surviving when nothing else is done.

“It’s a boring business,” said Ron Lehman, president of the company. “Everything else here is research from spreadsheets, legal information, and medicines.”

The NBA’s irreplaceable corporate archive happens to be the world’s largest collection of basketball highlights. Therefore, there is a backup copy in the non-destructible repository. This is a common practice in sports leagues and saves history where it never wants to be useful.

“Everyone is doing that,” Lehman said. “It’s just that no one knows about it.”

The NBA purchased some of the VRI’s facilities when it became clear that fail-safe options were needed for increasingly sophisticated technical operations that leveraged the efficiency of the robot. The official archive in Secaucus, NJ has 37 petabytes of data, which makes the NBA’s holdings nearly twice the size of the Library of Congress’s digital collection. The gap is widening day by day. The NBA’s data pile grows by a few petabytes each season as each game is recorded in high resolution from 12 different angles.

The tapes that go back to the creation of the league are so huge that the needs of the league are so special that we have built our own management system and recently overhauled an app that handles archiving. It’s called an archive. Paul Hirschheimer, Senior Vice President of Content Production for the League, said:

This is not an exaggeration. Currently, all plays involving teams in almost every game are automatically coded, indexed, and tapped a few times with per-play statistics. “With just one or two clicks, you’re literally watching a video,” said Chris Halton, senior vice president of media technology and operations at the NBA.

The ability to pull clips to send robots, get hard copies and restore footage was especially helpful to the NBA when the league mined archives to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the season. The combination of a vast library and powerful technology gives anyone on the league’s network almost instant access to the reel videos of today’s stars and legendary players of the past.

However, there is so much abundant material in the same place that the league felt it needed to be in another place. Also, another location had to be completely offsite and offline.

“Just in case,” said Halton. “I have a backup.”

Vital Records, Inc. Has a 125,000-square-foot storage in an underground bunker up to 50 feet underground.


Vital Records, Inc.

That backup is a place that NBA executives rarely visit. The 125,000-square-foot league block, which spans the second basement floor, is about an hour away from the primary archive and is hidden at the top of a winding, secluded road in a foggy mountain last morning. Anonymity is part of security. Brian Cassidy, VRI’s Account Executive, said:

The NBA did not build a VRI depot. It just so happened that VRI wasn’t. AT & T needed a strategy to keep the business as usual in the event of an unexpected emergency at a time when it was about to end. So it started digging.

AT & T poured resources into the Underground Neuropsychiatric Center, paying attention to details that might seem trivial if the world above was on fire. There was an office for designated survivors in executive positions, but there were two desks for the company president and chairman of the board, and an independent private with a unique nameplate to discourage post plans. There was space. Apocalyptic corporate shuffle.

These offices currently belong to VRI executives. They left the AT & T route and dial network framed maps hanging like relics. “The recommendation is to put something on the wall,” Lehman said.

Vital Records, Inc. The bunker operated by is equipped with various ready-to-eat meal packets.


Ben Cohen / Wall Street Journal

The unique art is suitable for office decoration, which is the equivalent of mid-century modern and prepper chic. One bookshelf in the meeting room is lined with ready-to-eat parcels that offer a variety of culinary options, including beef patties, beef slices, and beef flanks. On the shelves next to dehydrated hot dogs are the 1960s with titles such as “Radiation Protection Requirements for Surveillance Stations and Personnel,” “National Plans for Communication Assistance in Emergency and Catastrophe,” and “Survival in Nuclear Attacks.” There is a manual for.

“The possibility of such an attack is very low, but it is possible,” reads the Pentagon memorandum in the display case next to the conference table. “We know that if that happens, the consequences will be terrible.”

The overall atmosphere of the bunker, including lack of cellular reception and a light reading about the Nuclear Holocaust, has the confusing effect of stepping into the time machine. When technological advances abolished AT & T’s emergency response plan, VRI realized that the building could serve other purposes as well. The NBA quietly moved the tape here in 2006 after the company purchased the site in 1995. It was the closest they could reach an insurance policy.

Light reading on the bookshelf of Vital Records. Inc’s meeting room includes “Survival in a Nuclear Attack.”


Ben Cohen / Wall Street Journal

There is no logo or label indicating that the locker contains the last surviving footage of Michael Jordan playing basketball. Tape cartridges without identification markers are neatly stacked in dozens of storage racks and organized by a jumble of numbers and barcodes. Even a short list of VRI contacts that have been granted access to the collection will only see the NBA by the client’s official account number.

Backup archives are always available to the NBA. For regular maintenance, VRI will pick up at the league’s office every other week. We also guarantee delivery within 3 hours, even if you request a specific tape at midnight. “We like 2am,” said Lori Young, Vault Operations Manager. “There is little traffic.”

The security efforts of this non-hackable bunker that can handle earthquakes and electromagnetic pulses may look like paranoia, but the point is overkill.

There is another set of work that considers the tape in the NBA locker to be a thing of the past. In sports, it’s history.

“History has no expiration date,” Lehman said.

Write to Ben Cohen at [email protected]

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