How Analytics is Making Basketball a More Beautiful Game

January 20, 2017
824 Views

nba basketball smallThe NBA is the #1 global sports league — and analytics is helping make it even better.

nba basketball smallThe NBA is the #1 global sports league — and analytics is helping make it even better.

The NBA London Global Games 2017 were held last week, accompanied by an NBA-sponsored Leaders Meet: Innovation technology event in London earlier in the day.

The event was kicked off by Steve Hellmuth, NBA’s EVP Media Operations and Technology, who talked about how new technology is helping optimize the fan experience.

For example, the league has made big investments to ensure that each arena is like a theatre, not just from a visual point of view, but also optimizing the sound experience.

But the biggest benefits have come from investing in advanced systems for gathering and sharing data:

“Nothing has been more important than player tracking, introduced league-wide in 2014. It’s live on our website, thanks to SAP, and has contributed to a more beautiful game.” Steve Hellmuth, NBA

nba rise of the 3 pointerHellmuth explained that play had become more exciting since the implementation of player tracking: three-pointers have increased by over 25% and drives to the basket by 23%, as teams and players have used the new detailed data to optimize play.

Analytics is also and essential component of the NBA’s new high-performance schedule optimizing system, built with KPMG.

The league wants to optimize player health and wellness, by spacing games and minimizing miles travels, but faces thousands of different constraints, including the availability of venues, the preferences of television partners, and the need for fairness between different teams. The scheduling system churns through the billions of different possibilities to find the most favorable combinations.

nba scheduling system

One of the key technology innovations for the league has been the rapid replay functionality. Audiences accessing via mobile devices — particularly outside the US — want to easily see the highlights of the game, in a format adapted to their screens.

The NBA site has statistics for every game since 1946, and lets fans quickly access the video for any shot taken by their favorite team, simply by clicking on the game-play icons. The more interactive stats site introduced in the 2013 season and powered by SAP HANA, has helped increase fan engagement by 66%.

click on icon to see nba basket shot stats.sap.comNext steps for the league will include the use of virtual reality: “It’s an amazing opportunity to give more NBA fans the experience of being ringside”

New sensor-based systems make it easier to collect data about any sporting activity. helping reveal deep information about aspects of the game that were previously left to gut feel.

The analogy with business is obvious. Could data and analytics help reveal and optimize previously hidden processes in your organization, allowing it to “play a more beautiful game”?

You can see more examples of sports analytics, including soccer, equestrian events, and extreme sailing on the SAP site.