The game of basketball has come an awful long way since James Naismith positioned fruit baskets at either end of a field or threw out what was essentially a soccer ball to play with back in 1891. The sport has evolved into one of the world’s most watched sports with innovation playing a key role throughout its journey.
Even today, the NBA is continuing to grow courtesy of technological advances. Here we look at the biggest tech changes in basketball’s 130-year history.
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#5: Social Media, 2010
Okay, so it’s easy to argue that social media has zero impact on what happens on the basketball court. We agree. What it has achieved over the past 10 to 15 years though is to transform the way the NBA players and teams interact with their supporters.
It makes players more relatable; it builds a stronger rapport with fan bases and adds to the excitement that rivalries bring as stars rub opposing fans up the wrong way. It’s good news for the team’s marketing department too; last year’s Finals MVP LeBron James, for example, boasts 78.2 million Instagram followers.
With the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok all major players on the social front nowadays and with the internet at our fingertips, it’s not something that’s going to go away. In fact, we bet it’s just a matter of time before fans are voting on draft picks, trades, and in-game changes. Sound farfetched? A French soccer side has already made such a move.
#4: Electric Scoreboard, 1908
The original scoreboard was first used back in late 1894; just 14 years later George Baird came up with the genius idea of having an electronic scoreboard. Sure, his initial line of thinking is that it would serve a purpose in baseball, but basketball was wise enough to jump on the bandwagon too.
It’s now something that you can barely draw your eyes away from in a closely contested match. In the grand scheme of the sport, it’s quite a small thing but could you imagine elite-level basketball without this piece of tech?
#3: Wearable Tech, 2014
One of the most blatant advancements for technology in sport is that of wearable tech. Basketball is no different. Every player in the NBA will be monitored by a device they’re wearing through games and training. The main perk of these devices is the instant feedback they give on a player’s performance.
Predominantly, the devices allow staff and players to identify any early signs of injury and/or fatigue but, when paired with the cameras and sensors in the elite arenas, it’s a data overload. This is a sports analyst’s dream and can be used to refine physical and technical components of a player’s – and even a team’s – game.
#2: Replay Systems, 2002
A look across the pond to our friends in the United Kingdom would suggest that instant replays – or VAR as they call it – are a fairly new and somewhat controversial addition to their ‘beautiful game’. The NBA, however, have been using them without much issue since 2002. Initially, it was introduced to make sure shots were released on time, but its involvement has been evolving ever since.
A big tweak to the process was looking at borderline calls on whether or not a player had scored from the two or three-point zone whilst last season saw the game has moved to a place where coaches have the ability to challenge in-play decisions.
This has improved the accuracy of decision making with 308 challenges upheld during the 2019/20 trail season.
#1: The Shot Clock, 1954
Basketball might be a frantic and fast-paced end-to-end game we all love. It hasn’t always been that way though. Prior to 1954 games could become rather labored as teams turned to tactical time-wasting to see out victories. Not after the invention of the stop clock.
Yes, it forces teams to go hell for leather when in possession but, more than that, it’s also been responsible for some memorable buzzer beaters over the years; most famously that 60-foot effort by one of the best point guards of all time, Jerry West.
The fact the clock is now linked to the refs’ whistle is just another display of how the NBA is always moving forwards.
There you have it, five of the biggest tech changes in basketball history. What did we miss?