Kevin Chung, a Bay Area lawyer and basketball junkie, has always loved watching Stephen Curry sink three-pointers. Now he gets paid for it.
The Golden State Warriors home opener Oct. 22 marked Chung’s first as official scorer for the team at a courtside table. The job opened up for the first time in 57 years after the January retiretment of longtime official scorekeeper Fred Kast, who started in 1963 when Wilt Chamberlain played for the team.
Chung won’t even joke about gambling on games, which is strictly banned for all NBA employees, and his friends know not to ask him about Warriors tickets. He doesn’t have them.
“As a lawyer with ethical obligations, I’m used to the straight-and-narrow,” Chung said. “I’m kind of the court reporter, no pun intended.”
By day, Chung is senior counsel for employment law and human resources compliance at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based cybersecurity firm Proofpoint Inc. The former Heller Ehrman and Littler Mendelson associate also worked for VMware Inc. and Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc., which had a Warriors partnership.
Geography and the coronavirus pandemic helped Chung, who grew up a Warriors fan in Richmond, Calif., score his dream job.
Since 2003, Chung has been the official scorer for the men’s basketball team at Stanford University, his alma mater. A former shot clock operator at Stanford who also held the same role for the Warriors put Chung in touch with the NBA team, which was looking for a backup official scorer.
Kast, 89, eventually decided to retire at the end of last season, in part due to new protocols brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 forced the Warriors to consolidate their schedule, creating a tougher grind for Kast.
Chung also had a connection to David Kelly, the Warriors’ legal chief and a former Big Law partner, who has been busy this year hiring lawyers. Chung and Kelly were once both involved with the local chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.
Chung, 49, and veteran Warriors statistician Kyle McRae are now splitting official scorer roles—the job is the duty of the home team—having both spent the end of last season tailing Kast to learn the intricacies of pro basketball scorekeeping.
He now gets his face on television broadcasts of Warriors home games when he sits in his courtside seat. In his inaugural game as official scorer he got to watch Curry score 45 points to help the Warriors prevail over the Los Angeles Clippers 115-113.
The job, however, will remain a part-time position for Chung, who lives in one of America’s priciest cities.
“If I did every side gig, college team or otherwise, each week, it wouldn’t come close to what I earn in my fortunate and amazing job at Proofpoint,” he said.
Changing of the Guard
The journey from Silicon Valley, where Chung has spent the past three years at Proofpoint, is a much easier commute than to Oakland. With a wife and two children at home, Chung knew the travel calculus was in his favor if he wanted to move up in the official scoring ranks.
Chung gets to the Chase Center about 90 minutes before tip off. As official scorer he must approve lineups—some players aren’t always eligible to play in certain games. Like a lawyer eager to be in court on time, Chung would rather be early and not rushed. He’s also usually one of the last to leave the arena at night.
In November, Chung will once again resume scoring Stanford games. Between that job and the Warriors, he could soon be scoring between three and four games each week. McRae is available to take Warriors games if he has a scoring conflict, and his in-house legal job is fairly flexible, Chung said.
His role requires attention to detail and is linked to the team’s media relations department or, at Stanford, the school’s sports information director, Chung said. Rules for the NBA and college game vary and the crews that Chung works with—like the shot clock operator and timekeeper—are different for Stanford and the Warriors.
Being a lawyer helps when it comes to understanding various rules, Chung said. Referees will often consult with him to make sure something is recorded properly, such as how many fouls a player has that could require their disqualification.
Chung, who played basketball in high school, watches the games he scores in real time. Years of experience give him an edge in reacting to keep up with the live action.
“My brain is looking ahead a little bit because things happen so fast,” Chung said. “It’s almost like what I’m seeing is confirmation of what I think is going to happen.”
“I always need to write small in the scorebook and leave lots of room for all his buckets,” he said.
An Impartial Observer
Chung also must keep track of certain variables, such as which players are in a game, what their positions are, and who is likely to shoot or pass. Statisticians keep track of rebounds, points, and assists, but Chung, who has no spotter, needs to be aware of such information when tallying scoring plays.
In basketball, unlike in other sports, like baseball, players don’t have much leeway in lobbying Chung for preferential treatment.
“My job is very objective—I record what actually happens, by rule, such as if a point is scored by a certain player and if there’s a timeout, a foul on somebody or a delay of game by a team, or who has possession of the ball,” he said. “There is no subjectivity at all in that. Everybody in the arena should agree on those data points.”
The way Chung sees it, what he chronicles in his game day book directly affect the outcome of a game. Stats are still meaningful but don’t change who wins or loses.
Chung said he rarely talks to players, although as a Warriors employee he’ll get the occasional fist bump or greeting from one walking by the scorer’s table.
“I’m neutral, I’m not supposed to be rooting for either team,” Chung said. “I don’t want to be viewed as being buddies with the home team or anti the other team.”
During NBA games, Chung’s sole task is recording. If there’s a review of a scoring play, it’s handled by referees and those in the league’s control center in Secaucus, N.J. Chung is informed of any changes in scoring plays so he can record them when compiling the final box score for media outlets and others.
His enjoyment for basketball—and scoring—does have a limit.
The Santa Cruz Warriors, a developmental league team affiliated with the NBA franchise, asked him a few years ago to be their official scorer. Chung turned them down, citing the two-hour drive from his home in San Francisco.
“Doing what you do for fun—and I consider scorekeeping fun—keeps it fun,” he said. “If it becomes your job, then you lose some of that passion.”