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NBA to use motion-sensing cameras to track players' every move

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TD Garden (Wikimedia Commons)
TD Garden (Wikimedia Commons)

This upcoming season, the National Basketball Association will become the first major US sports league to use motion-sensing cameras to track its athletes in action. In all 29 NBA arenas, a company called Stats will use a six-camera rig, recording data 25 times per second, to track the position of the ball and each player. As first reported by Grantland, Stats will then create reports from this data that offer details as granular what part of a basketball a player touches, a player's speed during a play, and how close defenders get to other players during a game.

Last season, 15 teams used the same camera technology, which Stats calls SportVU, at a cost of about $100,000 per team, Grantland said. So far, teams have used this new information to determine the effectiveness of pick-and-roll plays A new perspective on performance and defensive schemes, and locate where shots often land after bouncing off the rim. With a newly signed multiyear agreement in place, Stats says in a statement that every NBA team will have access to the SportVU data. The length and value of the contract weren't disclosed, but the relationship between the league and the company isn't a new one. Since 2006, Stats has been the company disseminating sheets of statistics to the press during NBA and WNBA games — detailing information such as minutes played, shots attempted, points scored, rebounds, and assists. As such, SportVu will greatly deepen the amount of data that broadcasters and reporters will have at their disposal.

The company also says that some of the SportVU data will result in deeper statistics for use in the NBA Game Time app,, and on NBA TV. Eventually, the company would like to bring SportVU to other pro leagues, such as the NFL. If Stats combination of cameras and software can live up to its promise, it could radically change the way player performance is judged.