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NBA Launchpad looks for women’s basketball tech startups

WNBA involved in series three of sports tech incubator.

11 September 2023 Steve McCaskill
WNBA Brittney Griner

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  • Other areas of focus include Asian talent identification and immersive tech
  • NBA Launchpad offers support, resources and access to investors for early stage companies

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has made women’s basketball one of its areas of focus for the third iteration of its sports technology incubator.

NBA Launchpad offers support, resources and access to investors for early stage companies it believes can help the league meet its strategic priorities on and off the court.

For 2024, the league is working with the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) to find innovations that can address participation concerns, prevent injury and enhance performance.

It notes that female athletes are more likely to drop out of youth sports, while the lack of investment in specific health research and performance technology for women has led to an increased risk of injury.

Season three of NBA Launchpad will also seek innovations that can prevent, manage and treat injuries so that players, teams and fans can benefit from more time on the court. Biomechanical analysis software and artificial intelligence (AI) are cited as two areas of interest.

The NBA is also looking for technologies that will help identify talent in Asia as part of its bid to build on the growing influence of international stars and expand its global appeal. Basketball is hugely popular in China and other parts of East and South East Asia, with recently hosted the Fiba World Cup.

‘The NBA is a global league, with 120 international players from 41 countries and six continents on 2022/23 opening-night rosters,’ said the NBA. ‘As basketball continues to grow globally, the NBA is looking to ensure that players from all around the world, including in regions less represented in the NBA, can be evaluated and discovered.

‘While the NBA continues to grow the game in these regions, there is an opportunity to leverage AI and consumer technology to help identify high-potential players from Asia earlier in their athletic careers.  To execute this vision, the NBA is seeking scalable and accessible technologies that can democratise talent discovery for youth athletes.’

Immersive technologies for fan engagement purposes are another area that the NBA believes can aid its international expansion. Specifically, the league is looking for technology that can power 3D applications if its player and ball tracking data that can be included in its recently revamped official application. Examples include animation engines, 3D asset creation and user capture and creation tools.

Startups that can help find uses for the NBA’s video content library are also being invited to apply, as are data analytics firms that can help analyse fan behaviours.

SportsPro says…

Technology is hugely important to the NBA, which is widely recognised as one of the most digitally developed sports organisations in the world, with its relatively diverse, youthful and international audience giving it greater freedom to embrace new trends.

NBA Launchpad is just one element of this strategy that has seen the league make direct investments in innovative startups and partner with some of the biggest technology companies in the world, such as Microsoft.

Expanding Launchpad to include women’s basketball reflects this progressive outlook, both in terms of social issues and technology. But it also highlights the growing commercial potential of the WNBA and female-specific innovations – both areas that have been historically underinvested in.

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