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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Stats LLC and the NBA have completed a multiyear deal to have Stats' SportVU motion tracking system installed league wide. Stats had contracted with 15 NBA teams before on an individual basis to use SportVU, and was set to increase that number to at least 20 for the upcoming season. But this new, league-level deal pushes the cost structure from the individual teams to the NBA. Financial terms were not disclosed, but it is believed the NBA is paying a low seven-figure sum annually for the universal access to the SportVU technology. Stats also will be designated as the official player tracking partner of the league. SportVU, based on Israeli optical missile-tracking technology, tracks player speed, distance, direction, shot arc, ball possession and many other advanced statistical measures. The deal also makes the NBA the first major league to track and quantify every movement of live game action throughout an entire season. NBA Entertainment Exec VP/Operations & Technology Steve Hellmuth said, "They've established a track record of success. What this is going to do is fill in the gaps of the data that were there before. With only half the teams involved before, you had an incomplete set of data." Stats intends to complete installation of SportVU cameras in all 29 NBA arenas by the end of next month. Each arena will have a system of six cameras connected to proprietary Stats software. The initial focus of the deal will be basketball operations, but teams also will be encouraged to use some of the SportVU data for game presentation purposes, similar to what the Cavaliers began doing at Quicken Loans Arena last season (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).

MILLIONS OF PICTURES PER GAME: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ben Cohen reports the six cameras that will be used "record the coordinates of players, referees and the ball 25 times per second, creating millions of geospatial data points per games for front-office wonks to study." The NBA and Stats also are "discussing whether some outside groups, such as university academics who have used the numbers to illuminate their basketball research, will keep their access to the data." Hellmuth said, "Some of the work that's been done over the past couple of years with outside groups has been of great interest. We're only interested in adding to the conversation" (, 9/5).

SYSTEM TO MONITOR REFS: GRANTLAND's Zach Lowe wrote the potential impact on "our understanding of the game, of its X's-and-O's, is fascinating." The NBA is the first U.S. league "to invest this heavily in motion-tracking," but the cameras will "touch on lots of other areas of profound importance to basketball's future that have gotten short shrift amid the hoops-related curiosity." The system will enhance the league's "ability to monitor referees -- always a touchy subject." The cameras are the "most precise way to grade the three on-court officials based on how consistently and early they get into the league's three set positions ... and whether they make appropriate calls from those positions based on the exact sight lines." Hellmuth said, "We will use whatever data and means we can to improve our referees. The refs haven't been tracked before. Now for the first time, they will be." Hellmuth and Stats Exec VP Brian Kopp believe the cameras can "bring the next step in the reinvention of the box score, and that the NBA can popularize that reinvention by putting new numbers in front of fans" (, 9/4).