Sitting courtside – Cisco & The NBA at SXSW

This is a post by Cisco Chief Technologist Chintan Patel

Last weekend, I had the honor of participating in one of the world’s most engaging gatherings of concepts, thinkers and organizations at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. The SXSW conference and festivals celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, music, gaming and education industries. As billed, SXSW fosters creative and professional growth alike and is the premier destination for discovery.

My time at SXSW was spent doing just that – DISCOVERING. Discovering the amazing places innovation is taking all industries; discovering what exciting possibilities are on the horizon as we push forward; and discovering the tremendous role and potential Cisco has in helping blaze paths for industries as we move towards a more connected future.

Chintan Patel and Clyde Drexler chat during the Facebook Live at a local recreation center in Austin, TX.

To support Cisco’s role in helping the NBA become the most technologically forward sports league, I had the pleasure of joining our great partners for a special panel discussion billed “The Evolution of the Game of Basketball.” The conversation touched on how athletes, media and sponsors have leveraged technology to engage fans, drive new experiences beyond borders and grow basketball into a premier global sport.

I was humbled to sit with distinguished industry veterans, which included ESPN Network’s Sage Steele, the visionary NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and none other than NBA Hall of Famer Clyde “The Glide” Drexler. It was truly an All-Star gathering.

Our day started courtside at the Austin Recreation Center for a special Facebook Live before more than 560,000 SXSW Facebook followers. While I may feel slightly more comfortable on a football pitch – Sage, Mark and Clyde made me feel at home as we warmed up with some jumpshots before going live.

During our stream, Clyde shared stories about his legendary Hall of Fame career, the changes over the years, how players have adjusted and how technology and data facilitated those changes. Mark talked to the globalization of the game – how it is played in more than 215 countries, with 25 percent of players on NBA rosters today having been born outside the United States. Please take the time to watch the Facebook Live here (and please don’t laugh too much at my basketball skills):

Later that day we moved on to the “main event,” our panel discussion at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin for nearly 400 registered SXSW attendees. As the four of us approached our seminar room, I didn’t know what to expect, being my first visit to SXSW. At that moment, seeing the line of people queuing up to enter our room, it dawned on me how many fans this game touches; what this sport means to fans across the globe and the type of passion it evokes.

Sage drove our conversation and we heard Clyde share his insights not only as a player, but now as a broadcaster – using technology and advanced analytics to better do his job for fans watching at home. Mark outlined the blueprint for where the game is today with talk of connected stadium technology (crowdsourcing climate control in individual seating sections at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento) and shared a vision for where the league is evolving to – taking eSports live (the NBA 2K League with 17 teams in its inaugural season). For Cisco, I shared how we are helping along this journey and innovating to build connections to improve how we all live, work, play and learn. I shared a story of where innovation is going in sport. It centered around a project where Cisco was tasked with “connecting” a couch – so as a player on your favorite football team is tackled from behind, you in the connected couch would feel that impact at home. Yes, you read that right, a couch.

Clyde Drexler, NBA Hall of Famer and Broadcaster (far left); Mark Tatum, NBA Deputy Commissioner; Chintan Patel, Chief Technologist, Cisco UK and Ireland; and Sage Steele, Anchor, ESPN Networks (far right) participate in a Cisco-sponsored panel entitled “The Evolution of the Game of Basketball” during the South by Southwest festival in Austin, TX.

For more than an hour, we shared our visions and experiences, and also answered some incredible questions from the attendees. At the end of it all, we ran over on time, yet the crowd refused to let us move on from the room. I will say, that probably had something to do with a NBA Champion and U.S. Olympic Dream Team member amongst us.

Beyond our panel, Cisco’s thought leadership was on full display at the annual gathering in Texas – from Collaboration to Design Thinking to Technology Pitch Events for the music industry to Cloud Security and DevNet, our platform to enable the developer community to create solutions on top of our portfolio.

SXSW was an eye-opening experience. At Cisco we are passionate about innovation, technology and connecting the world in new ways. Experiences like visiting SXSW help me realize that the passion is reciprocal. The people and organizations we innovate for and connect are equally passionate about it. Fans across the globe yearn for that evolution. And it is an honor and privilege to work every day to bring that to life.


Learn more about how Cisco x NBA have partnered for nearly a decade to enable new fan experiences and elevate the way people enjoy the game of basketball at home, on-the-go and in the arena.