New NBA Cameras Could Catch Lazy Players

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The NBA has agreed to install high-speed cameras in all 30 pro arenas to capture the motions of players and the ball 25 times per second. Host Rachel Martin talks to Grantland sports reporter Zach Lowe about the technology.


A little over a year from now, if you walk into any NBA arena, there's a good chance you'll be standing underneath six expensive high tech cameras. You probably won't see these cameras, though. They'll be tucked away up in the rafters, but during the game those six cameras will be tracking the exact location of every player on the court and the ball 25 times a second.

Zach Lowe has been reporting on this phenomenon for the sports website He joins us now from our studios in New York. Hi Zach.

ZACH LOWE: How are you, Rachel?

MARTIN: Doing well, thanks. So let's talk about these videos. This is not something that's going to be used for instant replay. These images are going to be crunched by big computers to give teams some kind of data about their players. So can you give us some examples of how this would actually work?

LOWE: I mean, it could be anything from trivial to deeper stuff than that. But there's one team, for instance, who has a superstar player who they've noticed on the cameras, when a shot goes up and he's not the one who shoots it, he just sort of stand there. He doesn't go in for the rebound, he doesn't get back to the other end of the floor; he just sort of stands. And so that is sort of an actionable piece of data they can go to him and say you've got to do something.

MARTIN: I mean, I have to admit. The guy who's just standing there not really moving down the court, that seems like something you could discern with the naked eye.

LOWE: That was a pretty simplistic example. That's true. I mean, the more high tech stuff will probably be very basketball jargony. What sort of strategies work; literally how many players, two, three, four, should go for a rebound when we have the ball? Should it be four, two, one? You know, what's the best optimal strategy?

What's the best way to play defense against a great three-point shooting team? You know, there are a lot of sort of big mysteries about - not mysteries, but things that we think we know or we maybe kind of know or we assume we know, that this data is going to allow us to get at in a much more sort of quantifiable way.

MARTIN: Because it is, it's just so much data, right? I imagine you're going to have to come up with a way to - so each team can filter it to fit their needs?

LOWE: Yeah, teams that don't have it right now, and I was talking to a couple of guys today, they're sort of more scared than they are excited because it's just going to be an overwhelming amount of information and it's not just getting something out of it. It's having the right people that can get something out of it.

It's having programmers, but also programmers that understand basketball and then taking that and giving it to coaches and general managers and basketball people who don't understand any of this stuff And giving them pieces of information that they can digest and act upon. That's like a whole different challenge of like worlds colliding and culture clashes and stuff like that.

MARTIN: Zach Lowe. He write about basketball for the sports website and joined us from our studios in New York. Thanks so much, Zach.

LOWE: My pleasure.


MARTIN: This is NPR News.


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