If it hasn’t become abundantly clear by now, it’s no stretch that technology isn’t only becoming a bigger part of sport, but it’s radically transforming it. It’s not the first time one of the sciences did this (remember the film Moneyball?) but the rise in information technology over the past three decades has created widespread change throughout the sporting world. And it shows no sign whatsoever of slowing down anytime soon.
It impacts all spheres of and around sports. Major technological advances in medicine, basic computing, and instant communication has introduced sweeping changes in everything from injury prevention to referee training and decision-making. Technological advancements have changed the game, in the broadest sense, for all sports, and basketball is certainly not immune to such changes. The NBA, in particular, is doing all it can to make the most of the technological age and attempting to use the information and data available to it in the most productive ways imaginable.
Basketball fans who like to get in on the action themselves by placing a well thought out bet on their favourite team (or even against their favourite team – those traitors) by making use of a site like Sidelines.io will be familiar with a lot of the innovative technologies built around the NBA. They might not, however, have heard of NBA Launchpad, a program from the league to ‘source, evaluate and pilot emerging technologies that impact the future of the game’.
Introduced in the summer of 2023, Launchpad is a program that was designed to look across industries, all over the world, for industry-leading solutions in such crucial areas as ankle injuries and the general development of youth health and wellness. From hundreds of applicants from every corner of the globe, the NBA paired with Pitchtape (a video platform through which individuals and organizations can pitch their ideas) to narrow it down to five companies for the first ever Launchpad class.
This carefully selected quintet of leading tech companies will work with the league and team advisors on research and development projects in the coming months.
Evan Wasch, Executive Vice President, Basketball Strategy & Analytics, spoke about the first year of NBA Launchpad.
Wasch said, “We are thrilled to introduce our NBA Launchpad program with such a diverse group of innovative products and solutions. Each company brings something unique to the table that will improve the game of basketball.”
It is a major honor for any company to be selected in the first Launchpad program, competing as they were with many, many major companies from across the globe. The five that made the cut have a unique opportunity to grow their businesses, while also working alongside key people in the world’s best and most prestigious basketball league. These are those five companies:
BetterGuards, from Berlin, was selected for its cutting-edge technology, which provides improved movement in the ankle while also greatly improving the level of protection from falls or bad landings. An obvious choice in retrospect, considering just how many great, great NBA players have been struck down by knee and ankle injuries.
Vinzenz Bichler, founder and CEO of the company, is quoted on the company’s website saying, “It has always been our goal to create a positive impact on athlete’s performance and injury prevention. The development cooperation with the NBA is a great chance to achieve this goal. We will do our very best to improve confidence in movement and reduce the risk of injury.”
Based in California, Breathwrk is a health and performance app which provides athletes with breathing exercise to help them get to sleep, wake up and increase stamina.
The app is described as a ‘simple yet powerful way to alleviate stress and anxiety, fall asleep faster, energize yourself, or improve endurance’. Indeed, simple breathing exercises have long been highly valued not just by New Age-y alternate health gurus, but by establishment sciens such as psychology, psychiatry and physiology, as an exceptionally effective way to foster better mental health and to prevent being overwhelmed by a high pressured event – such as, for example, playing in a crucial game for the biggest basketball teams on the planet!
Specializing in the combination of sewing technologies and flexible electronics, Nextiles is a Brooklyn company whose specialties will enable NBA teams to better measure the performance of its athletes. Specifically, like all “Internet of Things” companies, they provide wearable technologies that will measure the performance of a player while in action with greater accuracy than ever before.
4. Uplift Labs
Along similar lines, Uplift Labs from Palo Alto is an artificial intelligence-focused firm which looks to improve health and performance of athletes with ‘real-time movement tracking and 3D analysis’. No doubt, by making the best use of both advanced artificial intelligence with Nextiles’ wearable tech, NBA teams are sure to become even more methodical in measuring the performances of their players.
The fifth of the companies is Rezzil from Manchester. Again looking into injury treatment and prevention, Rezzil works in virtual reality and will provide new ways to rehabilitate from injuries and analyze game footage. Effectively offering services that are a combination of all the above companies, Rezzil – like the NBA Launchpad itself – is all about tackling several different aspects of pro sports by allowing teams to run simulations of past matches to get a better understanding of their opponents and their own strengths and weaknesses.
It’s very clear that as the 21st century trots – or is that limps? – along, all fields of professional sport are constantly innovating on and off the court. The Launchpad program may only be the latest such innovation, but it is still a very meaningful step forward for the NBA as it focuses on the issues that matter most to the league in the short and long term, and uses carefully curated technological advancements to target most precisely the most challenging aspects of being a world-class athlete.