Sports have changed a lot over the last century. Modifications to the rules have made most sports faster paced and more entertaining. Television rights deals have allowed more fans to watch games than had ever previously been possible. Sponsorship deals have brought in more money—allowing for investment in large stadiums—and driven the wages of players up. The overall commercialization of sports has meant that they are more professional, deliver a more polished product to their fans, and have engaged many more people than had previously been achieved.

NBA Technology
Photo by NeONBRAND, License

One sport where this is especially true is basketball. The shot clock was one of the sport’s major changes that has helped it to grow into what it has become today. In the 1950s NBA games had become slow and dull, with very few baskets being scored in each game. Players and coaches had developed playing styles that saw each team keeping hold of the ball to waste time. To put a stop to this, the NBA brought in the shot clock, giving a team just 24 seconds from gaining possession of the ball before attempting a shot. This revolutionized the sport, making games more exciting and increasing the number of baskets scored.

Since that day, basketball has become one of the most innovative sports, embracing change and technology that could improve the spectacle. From tools to improve engagement with fans to improving the skills and technique of players, technology is being used at every level of the sport. Here is where the NBA is using technology.

eSports

 eSports are a new phenomenon, creating a competition out of video games. The NBA has been one of the first major sports leagues to start its own eSports league, making use of the NBA 2K video game. The league uses Alienware computers, powered by top-of-the-range Intel processors and NVIDIA graphics cards. The teams are affiliated with those in the real-life NBA league, creating a crossover for supporters of each league. The NBA 2K League is aiming to attract young fans and those from other geographic regions into the sport by promoting the main NBA league, as well as attracting its own fans. The league also uses new streaming platforms to broadcast games to fans.

Wagering

Whilst not always under the direct control of the NBA, technology is helping fans to be more engaged in basketball games through sports betting. Bookmakers are launching mobile apps that make it easy for fans to place wagers on games from anywhere, whether they are courtside, in front of a TV, or out and about. Fans can place moneyline bets on the outcome of the whole game or in-game propositional bets like whether it will go into overtime.

Tracking Equipment

 The NBA has become one of the first sports to make use of SportVU technology, having installed the equipment into all NBA arenas. These cameras capture the position of each player, recording statistics on where points were scored from, whether a rebound was contested, how many points each player generated from assists, and much more. The statistics are then made available on the NBA Stats website, providing historical data to help fans detect trends in each player’s performance.

Players are also taking to the court while wearing technology that can monitor their vital statistics, similar to consumer wearable tech like Fitbit. This tech includes tracking their heart rate and movements. It allows the player and their team to monitor their health and find ways to make improvements to their performance.

NBA Tracking Equipment

Photo by JC Gellidon, License

Viewing Whenever, Wherever

Before TV became commonplace in most American households, the only way to watch a basketball game was to watch the match in person. Once a television set was in every home, games could be broadcast to anyone who wanted to watch, regardless of where they were in the country. Cable and satellite services allowed for more games to be televised, but many fans were still not able to watch every game they wanted to see.

By embracing digital streaming over the internet, the NBA has been able to solve this problem. Thanks to the NBA League Pass, fans have been able to pay to access every single NBA game either live or on demand. Fans can stream games from their computer or mobile device, allowing them to catch all the NBA action from wherever they are. Aside from season-long subscriptions, the NBA also allows fans to pay to stream a single game, if they prefer. This is a great option for casual fans who only like to watch major games like the playoffs.

The NBA has been embracing change for decades. Had they not done so, basketball would not be the popular sport that it is today (and players would be continuing to enact their ball-hogging techniques). From the introduction of the shot clock through to the wearable technologies of today, basketball is always striding forward thanks to its willingness to embrace technology.