With growth comes opportunity. But it also brings challenges.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has truly become a global league. Games are seen in 215 countries and territories in 49 languages. Our social media community consists of more than 1.3 billion likes and followers across league, team and player platforms. The league’s popularity has stretched well beyond U.S. borders. There are more than 100 international players making an impact on the league with multiple NBA games and clinics taking place outside of North America each year. The league’s international fan base has been expanding rapidly by the millions along with the desire by those fans for even more NBA content and information.
The challenge? We had a lot of data (stats) that our global fan base wanted to access, but we didn’t have the technology to deliver it the way we wanted.
David Stern and Adam Silver knew we needed to find a better way for us to distribute NBA stats to our fans around the world. We had to provide a solution to quench fans’ ever-growing appetite for data and information about the league. We developed a platform for statistics to be used by NBA staff, teams, and personnel. The software was then shown to both the former and current commissioner and they loved it. But it wasn’t ready for the public.
Something game-changing was needed. But implementing a simple platform to support customization and real-time data updates is easier said than done. Luckily, we knew where to look. SAP specializes in handling massive data sets, and more importantly, distilling those data sets into tangible bits of information that don’t require complex mathematics to comprehend. But could they roll this out in less than a year?
Cue SAP HANA technology.
We worked together with our SAP partner to develop an online stats page that could handle thousands of users interacting with our technology at once. With 4.5 quadrillion possible combinations of data, the powerful in-memory database needed to handle all the different data manipulations being explored by fans.
That technology has remained at the core of NBA.com/Stats for the last five years. But it’s still evolving – our analytics team is always adding new features, like this year’s newly minted Hustle Stats. Hustle stats include deflections, loose ball recoveries, charges drawn and contested shots – previously intangible stats that now give coaches and fans a better understanding of the real value of each player.
Fandom has elevated beyond simply watching your favorite NBA team on TV. Now, anyone can play with data sets, explore obscure stats, and learn more about players and teams throughout the league, not just their favorite team. NBA fans are starting to look beyond their hometowns – they’re watching, following, and tracking the players and teams making history on the stats site. That’s a win for us, and for the fans.
Last NBA season, we saw some incredible, record-breaking performances, namely from the triple-double machines. With the power to track that kind of history and dive into the stats, we give NBA fans added storylines to root for. We’ve also been considering new ways to share our stats platform with the public. For example, the recent SAP Simple Report video starring the sons of Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul: Zion Wade and Chris Paul II provides some levity in knowing both the NBA and SAP teams can make complex stats simple to understand.
Also, SAP is solving for other areas of our business. We’re using Success Factors for HR, and Concur for employee travel and expenses.
In the locker room, the board room or on the court, SAP helps the NBA Run Simple.
Ken DeGennaro is senior vice president of Digital Product Development, Media Operations, and Technology for the NBA.