Passion meets project [Part I]

Passion meets project [Part I]

I’m curious, I like to write, I like basketball and I’m an IT-consultant specializing in SAP technology. Nothing more is needed for the following piece.
To the article!

Adam Silver

This picture is the starting point of a small personal adventure, no fedora or whip involved though. Before you go studying this picture intensely.. It’s not about the man talking into the microphones. (That’s Adam Silver by the way, the commissioner of the NBA.) It’s about that three-lettered logo on the right side and what it’s got to do with the league and sport he’s the commissioner of. What do SAP and the NBA have in common? Why the hell is it on there? Let’s go on a deep dive, Dr Watson!

The odd one out

In some ways, I’m an odd duck. I like things not a lot of people I know like. If I tell people I like basketball and follow the NBA on a regular basis, only a few will respond enthusiastically. Most however will start to frown and respond “no football?”.

In Belgium football is the people’s sport. They like playing it, they like watching it, but above all they like talking about it. You can’t open a newspaper or watch the evening news without getting bombarded by scores, trades, game recaps, controversies, … you name it, it’s talked about.

Not for me. The sport I love the most is basketball. There is a lot to love about it, from the highlight dunks of great athletes like LeBron James or the incredible precision of sharpshooters like Stephen Curry. To the legends, this sport has brought us in recent decades like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Kobe Bryant. A fascinating sport with a rich history.

Promotion of  SAP in the NBA app


In recent years almost all sports have undergone huge changes in the way they are played and approached. It’s undeniable that a game of basketball today and one of 10 years ago look dramatically different. In some sports branches, you could look at a game played 10 years ago and a game played today, wondering if they are even playing the same sport.

A lot of technological changes have occurred, racing bikes for example, have been completely overhauled in cycling or just look at the rackets used in tennis today and 20 years ago..

There is however another element present in today’s day and age (that wasn’t present years ago) that has made teams, players and coaches approach their occupation in a completely different way. The magic word we are looking for: data.

How a sport  can change over 20 years


Now we come to the ‘why exactly is SAP on the backdrop of that picture?’-Part of the question. A couple of years ago SAP stepped into a partnership with the NBA. What does ‘a partnership’ mean?

Well, it comes down to this. SAP keeps track of any and all statistics relevant to every NBA game. From how many minutes a player played, to how many lay-ups were made, how many seconds a player stood in a particular spot on the court to the number of fans in attendance that night.

For SAP, it showcases the power of their technology. Offering data and statistics to anyone interested. People really use these numbers. They use them to predict, analyze or improve. They are free to use this data, free to make graphs, calculations and predictions of their own. If you are able to see something in these numbers no one else is, you might have a huge advantage. (FYI: if you ever hear of statisticians or data scientists employed in sports teams, this is why.)

For the NBA there is an upside as well. More is being known, new trends are being discovered. We are learning more and more about basketball, the players, their tendencies, coaching decisions, etc. with each game played. It could even go so far as to predict what would happen if they were to change a certain rule. Let’s say the three-point line gets moved out. How hard would the percentage of makes and misses change?

The NBA wants to grow. They want to grow viewership, engagement and of course revenue (let’s be honest here). And with the tracking of all known parameters, they are giving themselves the best shot to do so. In their cooperation with SAP they now have a very powerful tool at their disposal.


Statistics available at the site of the NBA

Interested in how powerful this tool actually can be? Join me in part II of the article as we dive into hard stats and numbers.
You can find part II here.

See you there!

Blog by Martijn Van Herck