4 New Ways the NBA is Mixing Tech & Hoops in 2017

Last fall we got a chance to hang out at the NBA Hackathon, a first for the league. It shined a spotlight on basketball analytics and the way data drives the way franchises compete. Since then, the league has only continued its focus on integrating tech into the way the game is played, coached, and enjoyed by its loyal fans. Maybe it’s a strategy to attract new audiences to hoops, maybe just a way to entertain the existing fans. Either way, we put together four new ways the NBA is incorporating tech into sport that will impact the game as we know it.

The NBA All-Star Technology Summit

The NBA held the 18th annual NBA All-Star Technology Summit two weeks ago during All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. Though it’s an event with a long history, its role in the league is increasingly important as technology touches every part of our lives. Panels touched on investing in the next big sports companies, cybersecurity threats, social media, data and its impact on coaching/roster assembly, and the direct-to-consumer sports media business model.

Drones at the Dunk Contest

The Dunk Contest is arguably one of the most debated and exciting parts of All-Star Weekend. This year, the Magic’s Aaron Gordon came back to win what he was denied last year during a performance that will forever be the stuff of dunk legends. While he didn’t deliver the punch people expected, nor did it net him a win, his athleticism was combined with drone technology from Intel (where his mom works.)

Investment and Startup Side-Hustles

So you’re a highly paid NBA player. But you also have a side hustle. This is the reality for many athletes on the court who spend their off-time learning investing 101 or starting venture capitals firms like Kobe’s Bryant Stibel. Others run startups in their spare time. Steph Curry’s CoachUp marketplace sounds like it’s growing, and he was recently seen posing with New York-based coaches from his training app on his Instagram. Note: We previously covered players and venture capital/startups more deeply. In case you missed it, you can read that article here.

Watching Hoops via Virtual Reality

If you’re not at the game, you’re probably watching your team at home via League Pass or a local station. What you might not know is that the league’s live-streaming rights belong exclusively to NextVR. NextVR is a California-based virtual reality company, and the official League Pass VR partner of the NBA. They had a ton of high-tech cameras at All-Start Weekend to catch footage you can’t experience on typical cameras, and offer all experiences via Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream apps. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to buy individual games via League Pass. We actually sat courtside via a clip on a Samsung Gear VR: it’s not touching hardwood, but it’s pretty wild (and entertaining.)

Image Credit: uploadvr.com

Intel, besides drones, is also making a play for live-streaming in the NBA. Their 360 Replay technology is already helping their newly minted Sports Division make a name for itself, but their acquisition of VR startup Voke VR last fall is a direct competitor to NextVR. No surprise that they’re already competing to grab more sports content real estate. Expect to see game footage and interactive experiences from them next season.
Emerging technologies offer fans new ways to experience the game they love. They also promise to make the game better — smarter roster choices, injury prevention, and player training. Keep watching this space as tech and digital dictate the future of hoops.


Featured Image Credit: “NBA 2K16” by ElegantSkull under a CC (BY-NC) license

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