NBA Launchpad initiative seeks to improve basketball through emerging technologies

LeBron James missed 26 of the Los Angeles Lakers’ final 30 games dealing with an ankle injury.

What if there were a product that would have prevented the injury or made it less severe? Or what if there were a technology or therapy that would have allowed him to get back on the court sooner?

That’s what the league is seeking as it introduces NBA Launchpad, the league’s “latest initiative to source, evaluate, and pilot emerging technologies that advance the NBA’s top basketball priorities across all levels of the game.”

In essence, the NBA wants your help to improve the game, and in its initial callout to entrepreneurs and companies, the league is seeking innovative products, technologies or other platforms that address four NBA priorities: innovating ankle injury prevention and recovery; elevating health and wellness in youth basketball; enhancing elite youth player performance; and innovating referee training and development.

“It’s always been our interest to be an innovative, tech-forward organization, to be exploring ways to improve the product,” ‎NBA executive vice president of basketball strategy and analytics Evan Wasch told USA TODAY Sports. “The reason we’re forming this new platform is essentially to allow us to take more control of that process."

Wasch described Launchpad as a cross between “an incubator, crowd-source platform and 'techstars' program."

The NBA is accepting applications now through August and will announce finalists in each category in September. The league will have a selection day where finalists present to NBA stakeholders with the idea of selecting one winner in each track. Pilot programs will begin next season across various NBA properties.

Submissions are accepted at NBA Launchpad and via email: [email protected]

While the NBA has worked with several tech companies, many of whom are already focused on sports, it wants to broaden the scope of its partners to include academics and entrepreneurs in adjacent fields such as healthcare and workplace improvement.

"We want tangible solutions to these problems," Wasch said. "We just don’t care where it comes from. We don’t care if it comes from a big company that has invested heavily in the space. We don’t care if it comes from an entrepreneur, an academic — anyone who has a tangible product or technology that can advance these priorities, we’re open to."

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