How high tech is transforming the NBA.
It’s no big surprise to anyone that highly technical sports like motor racing have seen huge advancements driven by technology in recent years.
But what’s been more unexpected is the way in which the digital age has affected games like football and basketball. It’s touched on many areas from the statistical analysis of games to pinpointing individual athletes’ strengths and weaknesses – and addressing the latter in a logical and scientific way.
For some technology may be taking away from the pure nature of some sports, but for most of us it has enhanced our enjoyment and increased our knowledge.
This has proved to be useful not just in watching games with a more informed eye, it may even help with understanding the ins and outs of NBA betting spreads. This is because the more we can know about the teams competing in a game, the better we can judge what is and what doesn’t represent good value.
So here, in no particular order, are five ways that tech is improving the NBA for fans and players alike.
Undoubtedly the most significant development if the way that basketball can be analysed has been the introduction of SportVU. Every player, every game official and even the ball the ball are all constantly plotted for their position on the court throughout the game. The software refreshes the visual information being received 25 times a second so databases receive around 1 million different pieces of information from every game.
Not only is this generating a genuine avalanche of stats that are made available to fans via the NBA database, it’s invaluable for coaches too.
Now they can see precisely how players have performed and analyse their effectiveness in specific game-plays. The result: fact-based decision making for the benefit of the whole team going forward.
Player body sensors
In common with most professional sports, all NBA players now carry body sensors to monitor many aspects of their performance on court. Light and unobtrusive to wear in the player’s vest they can generate huge amounts of information.
At its most basic level, a sensor can measure the distance covered in the time that the player’s on court. But it can also record metabolic data such as heart rate, calories being burned and workload.
This has many implications both in terms of performance analysis and optimisation. By carefully monitoring players it can even help with rehabilitation as they return from injury and, hopefully, even prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.
Other areas that it can enhance include refining players’ nutritional and training needs as well as increasing overall levels of fitness.
Virtual and augmented reality
There’s hardly a single field today that is not starting to enjoy the benefits of virtual reality. From training airline pilots to making education more engaging, it has the ability to recreate the real world via the simple donning of a headset.
Some teams have been more eager to employ this technology than others with the Washington Wizards leading the way.
A practical example of this came with the extra training that the team’s reserve center Ian Mahinmi received in finessing his free-throw shooting ability. From a success rate of around 60% before the training, he raised it to a very impressive 87% during one of the Wizards’ pre-season warm-up games last year.
Mobile gadgets, devices and apps
Look around the team benches at an NBA game today and you’ll most likely see a number of the coaching staff closely studying tablets and smartphones as the action goes on around them.
As well as providing a live stream of game information, this is often also where strategies and moves are played out before they’re put into action.
One particularly useful app that almost all teams now use is Coaches Eye. Available with all the major operating systems, this allows the recording and playing back of action to analyse and compare movement. Its slow-motion replay function is one that is used very often when a coach believes there may be a fundamental flaw in the way that a particular move is being carried out.
Although there may well be a number of dissenters, the consensus of opinion is that social media has done a great deal for sports, basketball included.
This direct link that it provides between fans, teams and players can only increase engagement. With fans live tweeting during games it involves their followers too, it creates the perfect viral environment to recruit even more people to the sport.
And, by including links to clips of the action, interviews with the players and much more besides, it may well be the NBA’s most powerful marketing tool yet.
So tech is definitely here to stay in the NBA – and basketball is surely all the better for it.