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Friday, October 29, 2010
Malcolm Gladwell is making work for NBA referees

By Henry Abbott

John Barr of ESPN's Enterprise Unit writes about Ron Johnson, who was hired to overhaul NBA refereeing after the Donaghy scandal. Barr writes:
A fan of the Malcolm Gladwell book "Outliers," Johnson accepts Gladwell's theory that 10,000 hours of experience practicing one's craft can mean the difference between moderate and extraordinary success.

Ever the number cruncher, Johnson has calculated that it would take an NBA referee 64 years to obtain 10,000 hours of officiating experience solely in a game environment (based on the assumption that each NBA game is roughly two-and-a-half hours).

So Johnson's plan is to develop a combination of Web tests, video-replay reviews and some type of "simulation trainer that will allow a referee with some virtual goggles ... to be able to look at a scenario and make a call." In other words, in Johnson's world, the work of NBA officials will be far from over after they log an estimated 4-7 miles on the hardwood during game nights.

"If we do this right, and we motivate guys to use the virtual experience as much as the real-time experience, you can do it [achieve 10,000 hours of officiating experience] in 9.2 years," Johnson said.

Barr's video report on the state of NBA refereeing airs on Outside the Lines this Sunday.