Technology has an impact on all areas of life, including sports, many of which now implement the most recent advances to improve the fairness and quality of the game. The digital era, specifically, has brought about big changes, with online businesses booming and new opportunities opening for education and training. Though basketball is a relatively new sport, with a less ‘traditional’ mindset, it has adopted new technology rather quickly.
The Ball Itself
Basketball came into existence in 1891, when a Canadian professor sought after a way to keep his students occupied. He needed a game that they could play indoors in the gymnasium, one suitable for the harsh New England winters.
‘Basketball’ came was born out of the rules of the existing game ‘duck on a rock’. It featured a peach basket used to score, and the bottom of the net was later cut out to allow the ball to come back into play more easily.
The first significant invention in basketball was the ball itself. Tony Hinkle, who looked to make the ball more visible for players and spectators, introduced the bright orange, dimpled design in the 1950s. Before this, players used a soccer ball for the game. Changing the ball altered the physics of the game and made it much easier for players to dribble. Though dribbling was previously possible, passing was the only option for moving the ball up the court.
Shot Clock and Breakaway Rims
The shot clock was another technology that changed the game completely, and for the better! Before the shot clock, players used to defensively hold the ball and stall often, making for low scoring games averaging 79 points. The shot clock forces teams to take a shot within 24 seconds or concede possession. Since its introduction, the pace of the game has improved, and scores averaged 107 points only a few years after it initially introduced.
Another problem was the rim and glass around the basket, both of which prone to breaking. The glass would regularly smash, causing a safety concern for players and spectators. Breakaway rims changed all of this. They bend when players grab them and then snap back into place when they let go.
Aside from improvements to the courts, players also received better equipment as a result of technology. Now, athletes have basketball sneakers designed for comfort and performance on the court, such as hyper dunk and Nike Air shoes for higher jumping and easier running. That was the start of the trend of wearable technology that continues today. Nike has recently unveiled a futuristic self-lacing app-controlled sneaker that molds to the athlete’s foot.
Rise of Analytics
Data and analytics have always been a key component in sports. Managers and players used to watch back hours of games and footage and study available statistics to make improvements to strategy and training priorities.
Statistics range from the simple to the quite complex. A breakdown of the performance of NCAA team Duke Blue Devils, for example, shows that their top players average over 22 points per game and that they are clear leaders in the overall NCAA predictions.
New analytics systems make data more important and accessible than ever before. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, says he has used analytics since he started 15 years ago, but that in recent years, the whole team now uses it to improve their personal performance.
More data is also available due to the camera systems installed in every NBA stadium. These motion cameras capture the positions of the players and the ball 25 times in a second, generating four million data points per game for coaches and players to analyze.
Similar technology is applicable during team training as well, with sensors attached to the rafters to give a 3D image of the court, and lightweight sensors attached to the ball and players to offer similar data. However, it is down to the teams to invest in the appropriate software to make sense of all this data and to have the coaching knowledge to transform it into real improvements.