The early part of July is usually known as the quietest time of year for most team sports. European soccer leagues are readying to start training tours in North America or elsewhere, the NFL is slowly preparing for the grind of training camp. The NHL is taking a well-deserved victory lap after an amazing Stanley Cup playoff run, rugby is retooling at the highest level, and Major League Baseball has its week long respite with the All-Star Break, as does the WNBA. While Major League Soccer and the NWSL are still weekly high level draws, even women’s soccer is slowing a bit as clubs prepare for the Women’s World Cup in just a few weeks.
Then there is the NBA. The NBA 2K Summer League used to be a sleepy offseason event giving unsigned journeymen players and eager rookies a bit of their sea legs in outposts like Orlando, Salt Lake City and Boston. It was a chance to look at future talent away from the bright lights, and to let teams assess and move into a slightly slower offseason.
THE NBA SUMMER LEAGUE ON THE RISE.
Now, NBA Summer League is a live sports and entertainment event for two weeks in the the Las Vegas desert, complete with promotional campaigns, screaming fans, daily live broadcasts and pop culture events that bring not just future stars, but the biggest names in the sport to “Sin City” at a time of year when basketball used to be summer camps and pickup games. It has become a must attend, must watch event for consumers and league partners who can’t get enough of the product that Adam Silver and team continue to re-define for a global audience passionate about their sport.
In addition to the “hoopla,” NBA Summer League has also become a great litmus test for what’s next on the court in terms of technology and training. The high level competition has given the NBA a great window for experimentation into everything from the use of remote cameras to rule changes to leveraging real-time tracking data that can be applied to the sport in seasons to come. During this time, we have seen an evolution in the role of officials in training, new ways statistics can be leveraged, new techniques to help better define and refine injury assessment – all forged in the heat of a Las Vegas summer at Cox Pavilion and Thomas and Mack Arena on the campus of UNLV.
So while it all seems like just fun and games for fans, there is real, consequential work going on behind the scenes to literally reimagine the game from a technology standpoint.
A NEW PROVING GROUND FOR TECHNOLOGY.
As futurists ourselves, we’re proud to have been in the rooms and in the conversations around charting a path forward in areas like load management, injury evaluation and game preparation for some time. We have worked closely with world class training, data and operations teams globally to leverage those learnings developed during the offseason – to help build the better athlete for seasons to come. What we discover from the NBA Summer League this month will be critical to our expanding basketball business as full training camps begin in the fall, and we will learn more about the development and performance of these young elite basketball athletes that can also be adopted by our soccer, football and rugby partners to drive continued sports performance outcomes as well.
It becomes quite the symbiotic learning experience for the Kitman Labs team, done at a time of year when we can all watch, tweak, listen and grow, away from the grind of the regular season. In fact, the lessons learned during NBA Summer League will be building the championship best practices of tomorrow. Maybe that will not be evident to the thousands of fans watching and attending games in person this week in Las Vegas, but it will be for our team and league partners who are learning, evaluating and growing with us.
So while many leagues rest and retool, the NBA is using this break to advance the game, especially on the performance side. The experiments and testing in the desert are a necessary next step for the growth of a sport engaging fans the world over.
Is the NBA Summer League becoming a pop or sports culture phenomenon? Maybe for some. But for Kitman Labs and our partners, it’s an opportunity to test, learn and hone best practices for health, wellness and performance that can be implemented for on court success well into the future.
A quiet early summer? Not for us or our hoops partners. It is really just heating up.
I’ll be sharing thoughts on sport’s most impactful developments and news of the day in the coming weeks. I welcome your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.