Shield Your Eyes NBA Purists…Moneyball is Coming to the League

Photo Credit: FastCompany

Photo Credit: FastCompany

By now most casual sports fans know the story of Moneyball and the Oakland Athletics thanks to Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and another ‘didn’t do the book justice’ effort from Hollywood.  While many would argue that baseball is prime for such an analytical system due to the increasingly large number of statistical averages used to place value on a player, other sports are beginning to follow this data-driven trend.

Enter SportVU systems.  A company whose technology was originally created to track missiles, now has its place inside various NBA arenas, capturing the tiniest of movements from some of the world’s best athletes.

“SportVU can tell you not just Kevin Durant’s shooting average, but his shooting average after dribbling one vs two times, or his shooting average with a defender three feet away vs five feet away. SportVU can actually consider both factors at once, plus take into account who passed him the ball, how many minutes he’d been on the court and how many miles he’d run that game already.” (via FastCompany)

The concept of data-driven performance analysis isn’t entirely foreign to the non-baseball world, as some of the top soccer clubs have begun utilizing GPS-based performance tracking in their training sessions, though these systems are not permitted for use during game play under FIFA regulations.  This type of analysis not only allows clubs to better understand and improve player performance, but might also serve to reduce the number of player injuries and burnout as well.

The digital industry continues to provide innovations that change the way we think about the world around us, and the hallowed ground of sports should not be exempt from such changes.  While sports may induce a certain unparalleled nostalgia that causes a hesitancy to view the game in a different way, the revolutions in technology have given us access to a whole new world of information that we would be foolish to ignore.  While this new analysis may not incorporate Moneyball’s emphasis on financial efficiency just yet, the similarities are found in an ability to challenge and re-invent pre-existing norms on the way that player performance is gauged.

Call me crazy but I’m looking forward to a day when we don’t see players evaluated by ‘moxie’ or having the ‘it’ factor.

I’m sure LeBron is as well.

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June 20th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

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