NBA All-Stars size up latest data-analysis tool

USA TodayPublished February 27, 2014 by USA Today

NEW ORLEANS — Chris Bosh is a 6-foot-11 basketball superstar who has won two NBA Championships with the Miami Heat and an Olympic gold medal in 2008. He’s a nine-time All-Star with a silky smooth jump shot.

In other words, he’s as accomplished as any baller this side of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Yet when he heard about a new player-efficiency software program in development at All-Star festivities earlier this month here, he sought out its maker, SAP, and asked for an instant demo.

“I’m open to using any tool that helps, especially since we live in the information age,” says Bosh, who attended Georgia Tech for a year before going pro. “This is amazing stuff.”

The pilot program that riveted Bosh, called SportVU, records every movement and action of a player during a 48-minute game. In all, 792,000 data points for the game’s participants are plotted. With a few clicks, an athlete can be evaluated based on their shooting, spacing on the court, speed, dribbling and other factors. A video component of each play is available in a small screen within the program.

The intersection of elite athletes and data parsing is becoming as common in sports as videotape review and pregame shoot arounds. Every major league is increasingly driven to find a sliver of an edge in training and in-game performance. “Tech comes in waves in the way it can transform an industry — first it was banking, then retail, now sports,” SAP Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Becher says.

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