White Coats can Jump: How Science and Technology are Shaping the Future of Basketball


Five versus five. Two very high goals. And the bounciest ball in all of team sports. Basketball is one of the most distinctive and instantly recognisable games across the globe. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. It inspires slavish devotion from its supporters. What’s more, the effort shown on the court from its star players is being repeated by engineers and designers worldwide.

Yes, basketball’s become a science-led sport, moving swiftly with the digital age. It’s an advancement that has seen shooting hoops become as tech savvy as the next generation smartphone. As the first jump ball launches the NBA playoffs, let’s take a look at how the action on the court is being shaped by the progress of today.

The stats don’t lie

This isn’t known as the information age for no reason. It’s a data-driven world and basketball’s playing ball. The digital revolution has enveloped and evolved the way the game is played, planned and, crucially, won.

The NBA amasses a serious amount of data from its matches. From contested rebounds to assists, to shooting percentages and defences, every inch of the game produces a bewildering litany of stats and figures. Hard, quantifiable data from which managers, coaches and execs can make informed decisions. Tangible information that can form the basis of a team’s winning strategy. Need to know which player had the most successful turnovers, blocks and steals? Simple. It’s all there in black and white, providing invaluable data to the wily coach, planning their next victory.

That’s not the only way that coaches keep tabs on their players, however…


Just wear it

Just as many other sports have embraced wearable technology, basketball has been just as, well, on the ball in this regard. Almost. The NBA may have banned wearable tech sensors during official games, but it’s on the court in practice. Literally.

Heart monitors, replay analysers and shot trackers have all become key weapons in the basketball team’s training arsenal. Sensors that feed to the coach information on jump acceleration, rotation and hang time offer invaluable insight into how best to utilise particular players, and how to prevent injury.

Running ahead of the game

Of course, one item of wearable tech utterly vital to basketball usually comes in pairs: the not so humble sneaker. Basketball footwear is as essential to the game as a slam dunk of the sport’s bright orange ball.

Think of the game in motion. A lightning pace. A level of ceiling-threatening athleticism that elicits gasps from fans. Plus a weight of impact from every leap that can take its toll on the hardiest of players. The busy game of basketball is played on a relatively intimate battlefield. Direction is constantly in flow, and the game can turn on a dime. Player’s shoes need to be durable, with strong cushioning and, most often, a high-top to provide vital ankle support. Any professional high end shoe worth its logo needs all those qualities to survive the game and protect the player.


I wish I was a baller

Nike have gone one further. They’ve produced a self-lacing, adaptive basketball sneaker that adapts on the fly. An innovative shoe that moulds around the player’s feet as the game progresses, using a tiny engine embedded within the fabric. Feet swell, contour and change shape over vigorous physical strain; this technology embraces those changes and actively works with them. That’s got to be worth a home-court advantage?

From stats to sensors to sneakers, basketball’s furious pace is matched only by the tech on the court.

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