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How Analytics And VR Are Making NBA Basketball A More Beautiful Game

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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IN DEPTH: Sports organisations see technology as a way of engaging and spreading the word. The NBA says its changing the game too

Two years ago, National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Adam Silver used the league’s annual trip to London to express his belief that although nothing would ever replicate the feeling of attending a basketball match, it was his desire to make the virtual experience as close as possible.

The NBA is not unique among sporting organisations in the trust it places in technology to expand its game, but there is evidence that innovations are having an impact on the court as well as off it. It’s all very well having more TV and mobile viewers but any success is reliant on a good product.

This year’s encounter at the O2 Arena saw the Denver Nuggets defeat the Indiana Pacers 140-112. In total, 27 three point shots were successful during the game, resulting in 81 points. Both figures were above the average of 19.1 and 57.4.

Read More: SAP: Sport is more than just marketing for us

NBA Basketball London 2

Analytical improvements

But both figures have been rising rapidly ever since player tracking was introduced in 2012, giving players and coaches an insight into performance.

“There’s been nothing more influential than player tracking,” Steve Hellmuth, head of media operations and technology at the NBA told the Leaders Meet Innovation event in London. “The player tracking information has contributed to a more beautiful game.

“The game is much more dynamic and a much more interesting sport because of the analytics.”

The NBA publishes this data on a statistics portal built by SAP which provides fans with every box score since 1946, advanced shooting charts, in-depth breakdowns and player pages. The league has worked hard to make the data more relevant and immerse fans in the sport.

Part of this effort has seen the NBA make data available to commentators who can explain the relevancy to fans on TV and there is hope that SAP’s high performance computing capabilities will allow broadcasters to deliver overlays to viewers in real time or during the first replay.

NBA Leaders

Scheduling

But there are other ways tech has improved the game. Even something as trivial as scheduling is having an impact.

The NBA comprises 29 teams located across the USA and one in Canada, all of whom play 82 regular season games as well as post-season matches. That’s a lot of air travel.

A game scheduler aims to take as much stress out of travelling for the players so they can perform at their best while ensuring there’s a level playing field. That’s no easy task, and it’s even harder when you consider that many teams play at venues that host concerts, exhibitions and other sporting events.

There are literally billions of combinations. The NBA believes its cloud-based scheduler delivers the optimum possible schedule each season, contributing to a higher level of play.

Read More about VR & 4K on page 2…