The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the world’s most popular basketball league. On average, an estimated 1.6 million viewers watched NBA regular season games last year.
That makes the league a perfect testing ground for artificial intelligence (AI).
During the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Toyota revealed its humanoid robot, CUE. It took three shots at half-time of the match between the USA and France. The robot made a free throw, a three-pointer, and then a successful half-court shot.
An earlier version of the AI robot made over 2,000 consecutive free throws three years prior.
How does this technology help the NBA?
How is AI Used in the NBA?
For the 2022-23 season, the NBA announced the usage of AI and machine learning for All-Star Weekend. The league began using AI in 2014. An Israeli company, WSC Sports, will provide the technology.
The purpose of basketball analysis with AI is to deliver personalized video content. Each All-Star player will get their highlight reel using AI and machine learning.
Videos then get delivered to dozens of social media and digital platforms. It’s a way of increasing the NBA’s reach across the planet.
AI in sports is nothing new. But the ability to use perfected techniques helps professional leagues reach new heights.
For players and coaches, AI technology records movements to enhance in-game strategy. Motion capture collects details about biomechanics and field goal percentages.
Coaches may use that data to create new plays. Simulations then depict team movements to show players how to position themselves better.
AI also analyzes gameplay via “clustering and principal component analysis.” Through machine learning, AI models predict outcomes at macro and micro levels.
These models get evaluated by AI algorithms to help interpret their reasoning. (The open-source data came from NBA seasons between 1980-2019.)
Going forward, this technology might get implemented in a variety of ways. Teams may use predictive gameplay to evaluate strengths and weaknesses. They could also use it as a guide for increasing their chances of making the playoffs.
Basketball shooting analytics also provide helpful data for players and coaches. ShotTracker technology records things like shot location, points per shot, and more.
From helping to draft players and win championships—AI brings massive changes to the NBA.
How is AI Affecting Sports?
The use of AI impacts sports by enhancing strategies while improving player safety. Predictive analysis through wearables collects information to help reduce injuries.
By analyzing historical data, also works to predict player performance. That might help teams to save money on investing in the right players.
Betting companies also use and offer the best possible user experience. As a safety measure, players may choose to gamble online without a SSN.
Companies like SportRadar collect and analyze data for leagues, bookmakers, and broadcast media. They provide real-time data for highlights and statistical analysis.
Coaches use analytics for in-game decisions. That caused a trend in the National Football League (NFL) for teams to punt less. Coaches became more aggressive on fourth down, instead.
Data and analytics also shape Major League Baseball (MLB). TrackMan technology helps to determine the correct calls for balls and strikes.
The technology also measures pitch speed, velocity, release point, and more. Pitching coaches may then use AI to simulate game scenarios. That may determine how to pitch to certain batters or go with a pitching change.
In the National Hockey League (NHL), Face-off Probability is a new AI technology. Developed by Amazon Web Services (AWS), it analyzes face-offs based on historical data.
Probabilities come from game situations, on-ice players, and face-off locations. The technology builds on AWS shot and saves analytics. These real-time stats get shown on NHL broadcasts, as well as helping players and coaches.
Model predictions delivered in less than a second revolutionize the sport. Broadcast companies also use these technologies to increase fan engagement.
Almost every detail of sports gets impacted by AI and machine learning technology.
The Future of AI Technology in the NBA
With the COVID pandemic, the world of sports and entertainment stopped. The NBA may have lost as much as $700 million in ticket sales. That offered fertile ground for the use of AI.
The NBA invested $180 million to finish the rest of the season in a Disney bubble. Virtual ads and fans who logged into a fan wall helped recoup almost $1.5 billion.
Fans participated via Microsoft Teams to watch from LED screens around each stadium. AI technology made it possible.
The possibilities of AI impacting the future of the NBA look bright indeed.