It is Personal Because It is Analytics

By Adam Grossman

The captain of a basketball team took a look at the game video and saw his squad getting dominated on the boards. He also saw his backup point guard turn over the ball too frequently for his team to win games consistently. The team decided to both add a new frontcourt player to help with the glass and to reduce the point guard’s minutes.

This situation occurs commonly in the NBA when teams review video to diagnose their weaknesses and make personnel moves based on what they see in the video. What makes this situation unique is that it did not happen in the NBA. This captain leads a squad called the X-Men, a team in the Equinox Basketball League in New York. Captain Keith Howard was able to evaluate his squad quickly because of the footage he received courtesy of a service called Krossover the day after a game occurred.  

What is Krossover? According to a recent profile in The New Yorker, “Krossover compiles game film and breaks the video down to a seemingly infinite variety of plays and data points. The service only requires a tripod, a camera, and a videographer—often a coach—to film each game and upload the footage; by the next morning, the videos, which are dissected and tagged by analysts contracted by Krossover, are ready to be viewed.”

Is it a bit much to watch game film of your rec league basketball team on a daily basis? Maybe. However, anyone that has played pickup or rec league basketball knows that determining who should play and not play is really difficult. In particular, telling your friend or teammate he / she is hurting the team is not a pleasant conversation to have at the gym. Krossover virtually eliminates the issue because the video and stats can show how a player is performing and potentially hurting his / her team. It’s not personal, it’s analytics.

There is, however, a personal coda to this story that stretches beyond courts in Equinox gyms throughout the country. One thing sports teams and leagues are afraid of with analytics is that many fans will not embrace data. The conventional wisdom is that while some fans love analytics, most fans want to watch the players compete and not be inundated with numbers. That is why many sports leagues and broadcasters are hesitant to use analytics during games.

This example with Krossover shows that this may no longer be the case. In fact, this article shows that Equinox invested $50,000 in Krossover in several locations around the country to help ensure its athletes get their data.

Equinox gym members are not representative of all sports fans around the country (The New Yorker says, “The games have the feel of a Rucker League for the one per cent”). If rec league basketball players are starting to look at their own video breakdowns and stats then it is not a stretch to think that they would want similar data for their favorite NBA or college players. After year-over-year ratings for the NBA decreased in 2016-17, using data and analytics to increase viewership is a conversation the industry should be having.