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Democratizing the NBA with data

Last month, Know More discussed a fascinating set of data collected by the National Basketball Association on players’ movements during games. Fathom, a design firm in Boston, has begun to experiment with the data, creating the above representation of a few possessions in a game between San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

The animation doesn’t look like much more than a few dots moving slowly around the screen, a hybrid of basketball and Pong–but keep in mind that these are real players whose actions on the court in a real game are recorded here. For a computer to be able to make sense of camera data on athletes’ movements and reproduce it this way is impressive, and could lead to new ideas about how to play the game.

For example, the group at Fathom found that although the veteran Antonio McDyess didn’t start the game and scored only six points, his presence on the court was crucial to the Spurs’ win. This is the kind of information that, if it could be used systematically alongside or instead of traditional player statistics, would make the game more democratic, revealing how the contribution of each player adds up to a strong team.

Click below to keep reading about the NBA’s data.

Max Ehrenfreund | March 4, 2014 at 3:51 pm
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