Human Factors in Hoops!

Sneakers, a hoop and a ball - oh my!

Sneakers, a hoop and a ball - Oh my!

In the thick of the NBA playoffs, let’s take a closer look at this fast-paced and graceful game. Modern professional basketball is full of superhuman superstars, yet it’s still ultimately a team game, where fundamentals, strategy, and execution are as important as an ability to soar to the hoop and finish with an emphatic slam dunk.

Compared to other sports, there isn’t much technology needed to play the game other than a ball and a hoop. This contributes to the games popularity, as great players can emerge from anywhere, regardless of their means to expensive equipment. It is very pure in that sense, and though there may be fewer tangible pieces of the game to work with, the evolution of the games’ technology is still a very relevant part of the sport.

Basketball’s greatest technological advancements have been with its sneakers, changing and evolving and advancing along with the game. Designers look closely at the movements involved in playing basketball to make shoes to best optimize leaping ability, side-to-side movement, stability, comfort, and overall safety. There have been huge recent strides in shoe technology, like the 2008 Nike Hyperdunks, claimed to be made with a nasa-invented foam and fibers stronger than … that’s right folks, bullet-proof vests.

The ball itself has changed relatively little. In 2006 the NBA introduced a new non-leather ball but it was given a nearly-universal thumbs down after half a season by the players and thus didn’t last long in the greater market. The NBA admitted it didn’t take into account input from their target users – the players – and thus it’s decision resulted in a poor user experience.

And then there are the intangible aspects of the game. Because of its high scoring and fast back-and-forth flow to the game, basketball players require complex real-time decision making. The Basketball Intelligym is a training program aimed at honing decision making ability and has been adopted by many big name collegiate and professional teams. It’s very similar to the concepts used for flight-simulators in military training, and is based on the understanding of the cognitive demands undertaken by the players.   

For more on human factors and technology in basketball, check out these links covering the subtleties of information in basketball courts and the physics behind the game. And then go work on your jumper.

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