Natural gas and oil may not seem to have much, if anything, in common with basketball at first glance. But, as the NBA Finals draw to a close, it’s interesting to note that neither the Cavaliers or the Warriors could be on the court without petroleum products. The balls used by LeBron, Steph and their teammates consist of an inflated butyl rubber bladder covered with leather. The bladder is typically made from components that result from a process known as thermal “cracking,” which is the breaking of a long chain of hydrocarbons into a shorter one.
Natural gas is key to making the nets that allows superstars to aim for “nothing but net.” Today’s nets are polyester, which is made from a chemical reaction involving petroleum. Crude oil is refined to produce a hydrocarbon called naptha, then the naptha is used to make ethylene, which in turn is used to produce PET, polyethylene terephthalate, which is used to manufacture products like polyester. Additionally, another petrochemical, polypropylene – also produced partially from gas, oil and propane – is added to the bottom of the nets to help them withstand those jaw-dropping big dunks.
Uniforms also benefit from the use of petroleum byproducts. In the early days, NBA jerseys and shorts were made from materials like satin, cotton and plain polyester, which are not exactly breathable. In the 1970s, mesh polyester came into play, with moisture-wicking technology improving through the 1990s and early 2000s. Today’s uniforms use mesh technology to help draw moisture and heat away from players as they sprint across the court. This material is a 190-gram polyester blend – you guessed it, manufactured using a chemical reaction involving petroleum.
Those talented enough to actually play in these big games (and many of their fans ) relied on planes, propelled by kerosene jet fuel, for transport to their opponent’s arena. In fact, during the 2015-2016 season, NBA teams traveled more than 1.3 million miles to games – a distance that requires a lot of petroleum products. (To see how far your favorite team traveled last season please click here.)
Whether you’re cheering for Golden State or Cleveland, sitting courtside or on your couch, it’s likely that the electricity powering your television (or jumbotron) and controlling your climate was generated by natural gas – like the majority of the electricity in the U.S. So, regardless of whether you’re cheering for your favorite team and player, or consoling yourself with a cold beverage after a loss, take a minute to pause and think about the contribution that natural gas and oil make to fuel your daily life, even impacting the NBA Championships.