The 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto came and went, providing fans a handful of memorable moments; Saturday night’s Dunk Contest went into “overtime” and Kobe Bryant said goodbye to fans around the world in his 18th and final All-Star Game. However, the real heat this past weekend in frigid Ontario, happened off the court, as the NBA showcased they are a league on the forefront of technology.
As we saw last week, Intel’s revamped freeD technology was displayed in full force throughout the weekend, capturing highlights in 360-degree slow motion; but freeD was just part of the pseudo tech conference that was the NBA All-Star Weekend this year.
With all eyes on their city, Toronto unveiled the Raptors’ new state-of-the-art practice facility, BioSteel Centre. The two story, 68,000 square foot training facility will be the new home to the Raptors’ players, coaches, and front office. What makes this facility unique is the interactive operations room “Raptors Insights Central powered by IBM Watson.” This will be used by the team’s front office and was designed by IBM Interactive Experience. The features include interactive screens and mobile devices that will provide a comprehensive overview of data, from trade simulation to advanced league and player statistics. The data will be provided on a high-tech table-tops as well a curved wall touch screens.
Toronto also played host to another major event this past weekend, the NBA Technology Summit. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver helped lead the event that featured panel discussions that were mostly closed to the public. The focus of the conference was centered around how the league can adapt to new technologies in order to grow the game today and in the future. They explored the use of virtual reality, so the 99% of fans who cannot attend games can experience the action as if they are in the arena. A panel discussed how the NBA can advance in the “On Demand Economy,” as well as they how they can use new technology to reach the next generation of players and fans. Lastly, they focused on the ever-advancing topic of how to use technology and analytics to manage players health.
After signing a multi year contract with the NBA PepsiCo hosted Court Vision: An Interactive Virtual Reality Art Experience in Toronto. Mountain Dew presented the art event showcasing Google’s Tilt Brush, a VR app that allows users to paint in 3D. Other companies used the spotlight of this weekend to showcase their 3D technology as well. Holographic company ARHT Media partnered with Mitchell & Ness to sell merchandise at 3D kiosks and holographic stage units.
As we also saw last week, the NBA was the first professional sports league to reach 1 billion likes across social media platforms, and they used that power this weekend. The NBA All-Star Game created 24 custom emojis, one for every All-Star player, as fans submitted their votes for game MVP exclusively on twitter, for the first time ever.
The NBA is striving to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to technology and that point was hammered home, as a holographic Dr. James Naismith (inventor of basketball over 120 years ago) stated at the Tech Summit, “Thanks to the NBA’s embrace of mobile, social and on-demand content platforms…NBA…reaches more fans than ever before… the league will continue to push the envelope with cutting-edge technologies like virtual reality…even holograms.”
NBA All-Star Weekend 2016 was more than a showcase of the league’s top talent. It was a powerful statement of the technology-driven direction the league and its partners have embraced today.