U.S. NBA Trains with Alibaba-backed Mobile App
NEX Team, a mobile artificial-intelligence company that counts Alibaba Group Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai and the Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund as investors, has signed a partnership with the National Basketball Association that will deploy NEX Team’s basketball-training app to players around the world.
The NBA said the deal was part of an investment in NEX Team, whose HomeCourt mobile app uses advanced machine learning and computer vision to help basketball players of any skill level advance their game. Players use their iPhone or iPad camera to capture how they play – from shots to dribbling to movements – and HomeCourt calculates key performance metrics to help them improve.
Launched in 2018, HomeCourt has tracked more than 25 million shots by players in 170 countries, according to NEX Team. The app’s ease of use – users need only a mobile phone – will allow the NBA to integrate HomeCourt into the league’s youth basketball development initiatives globally, the league said.
“NBA teams and players have already found HomeCourt to be an important training platform, and we believe this technology is critical to the development of players of all levels,” said NBA Chief Innovation Officer Amy Brooks. “HomeCourt is not only an engaging channel for youth basketball players, but will also be a valuable tool for the NBA to identify talent globally.”
HomeCourt will offer three NBA challenges, including a shooting contest, ball-handling contest and achievement badges to further boost engagement with users of the app, a release said. There are also plans to develop additional interactive training drills, challenges and joint initiatives with the NBA and its teams during key events throughout the NBA season, as well as league events, such as MGM Resorts NBA Summer League and Jr. NBA Global Championship, and during elite youth programming, such as Basketball Without Borders and the NBA Academies.
“With basketball massive popularity globally, I can’t wait to see the HomeCourt app in the hands of more aspiring athletes who wish to improve their game. This is a revolutionary technology that democratizes cutting-edge training,” said Tsai, who is also co-owner and alternate governor of the Brooklyn Nets and owner of New York Liberty. “Together with the NBA, we are excited to bring this incredible experience to basketball players all over the world.”
Cindy Chow, executive director of the Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, said the app turns training into fun – a principle that aligns with Alibaba’s focus on health and happiness.
“HomeCourt and Alibaba share the belief that health and happiness should be the paramount goals for our users. We are excited to be an early investor of HomeCourt, which has a strong Hong Kong connection as their founders are from here,” Chow said, referring to David Lee, Philip Lam, Reggie Chan and Tony Sung.
In addition to Tsai and the Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, some of HomeCourt’s well-known investors include Mark Cuban, the venture-capital arm of Will Smith and Japanese soccer player Keisuke Honda, Toronto Raptors guard Jeremy Lin, former NBA star Steve Nash and three-time WNBA champion Sue Bird.
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