Lebron James missed 26 of the Los Angeles Lakers’ last 30 games with an ankle injury.
What if there was a product that prevented or alleviated the injury? Or what if there had been some technology or therapy that allowed him to get back on the field sooner?
That’s what the league is looking for in the introduction NBA launchpad, the “league’s newest initiative to source, evaluate and test new technology that will advance the NBA’s top basketball priorities at all levels of the game.”
Essentially, the NBA wants your help to make the game better, and in its first call to entrepreneurs and businesses, the league is looking for innovative products, technologies, or other platforms that address four NBA priorities: reducing the burden of ankle injuries; Improving health and well-being in youth basketball; Improving the performance of elite youth players; and innovative referee training and development.
“We have always been interested in being an innovative, technology-driven company and exploring ways to improve the product,” said Evan Wasch, executive vice president of basketball strategy and analytics for the NBA, to USA TODAY Sports. “The reason we’re creating this new platform is essentially to give us more control over this process.”
Wasch described Launchpad as a mixture of “an incubator, crowd-source platform and ‘Techstars’ program”.
The NBA is accepting applications now through August and will announce the finalists in each category in September. The league will host a selection day where the finalists present the NBA stakeholders with the idea of picking a winner on each track. Pilot programs will begin in various NBA properties over the next season.
Submissions will be accepted at NBA launchpad and by email: Launchpad@NBA.com.
While the NBA has worked with several technology companies, many of which are already sports-focused, it wants to expand its circle of partners to include academics and entrepreneurs in related fields such as healthcare and job improvement.
“We want concrete solutions to these problems,” said Wasch. “We just don’t care where it comes from. We don’t care if it comes from a large company that has invested a lot in the field. We don’t care if it comes from an entrepreneur, an academic – anyone who has a tangible product or technology that can advance those priorities that we are open to. “
Ankle injuries are the # 1 injury in games missed by players and 25% of players suffer an ankle injury during the season.
“That is one of the most serious injuries our players have,” said Wasch. “It affects many of our players as well as the number of games they play.”
Maybe someone has an answer. Could be an innovative ankle brace that prevents ankle sprains. Could be predictive software that incorporates player movements and adjusts the way a player runs or jumps. Or a therapeutic product that will help a player return faster.
“All of this would be within the scope, because ultimately we want to prevent injuries from the outset, alleviate them in an emergency and accelerate the return to the game,” said Wasch.
Broad youth basketball
Health and well-being in grassroots basketball are a priority, said Wasch, because of injuries, game minutes and games, fatigue and burnout.
“We are looking for technology, platforms and software that can promote the health and wellbeing of young basketball players,” he said.
Maybe that’s a wellness app to track diet and activity. Maybe it’s injury prevention strategies.
Players in the 15-18 year old who could potentially play in the NBA, G League, and / or college basketball are also high on the league’s priority list. It wants to make sure these players have all the tools needed to improve their performance. The NBA has basketball academies in Australia, China, India, Africa and Latin America, works with the junior national teams of USA Basketball, and has teenagers on the G League Ignite team.
Wasch made suggestions: virtual reality technology that improves cognitive processing, eyesight, and skill development.
Over the past few seasons, the NBA has expanded its office initiatives and developed in-house software under the direction of NBA Senior Vice President and Head of Referee Development and Training, Monty McCutchen.
The league wants to do more.
“Most of the world’s forward-thinking tech developers don’t really focus on acting as a sexy area to invest,” said Wasch. “If we can communicate with the market, there is a market here, there is an opportunity to be connected with the NBA to shape the future of NBA governance through training technology and talent identification that we can use.”