Ever since the age of 7, I have watched basketball and followed our very own Toronto Raptors for the past 8 years of my life, rarely ever missing a game. Just 2 years ago, I was able to witness a championship run which in my eyes was the greatest performance by any singular team in a lifetime.
From a gutsy trade that left millions of fans in tears, as we waved away the one player who stood by our side through thick and thin; to watching as we defied the odds continuously, silencing all the critics who disregarded the Raptors year-after-year, the 2019 NBA season will never be forgotten to anyone who proudly stands for the North.
Yet, as we take a step back and analyze the 2019 season, we see that the Raptors, according to the Las Vegas Sports Books were +1200 odds to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA Champions in June. This ultimately means, that the amount you bet on the Toronto Raptors for winning the championship, will ultimately duodecuple (x12) and you’d be taking home a hefty amount of cash! The last time +1200 odds were overcome in the NBA was 14 years ago, when the 2007 Golden State Warriors overcame +1400 odds, defeating returning NBA Champions, the Dallas Mavericks in a 6-game series.
Furthermore, the biggest upset or surprise that we’ve witnessed in recent sports history from a betting perspective, was when Leicester City overcame 5,000 to 1 odds when they shocked the world and won the English Premier League in 2016!
As I saw these betting odds and the values that were associated with them, it made me wonder how companies create the numerical chances of a certain team coming out victorious. These odds caught my eye and I decided to do a bit of digging and I came out with a lot of valuable information!
Before I explain how A.I. has changed the way that sports betting is displayed on our screens, we must understand the impact that new and upcoming technologies have had on sports, and basketball specifically.
According to Global Tech Outlook, Just last year, Nike launched a digital shoe measurement tool that incorporates computer vision, machine learning, data science, and the recommendation algorithm of AI. Through Nike Fit, the US sportswear leader can recommend the perfect fit for each style of shoe. By using a smartphone camera, it scans the feet and collects 13 data-points mapping foot-morphology for both feet in a few seconds. The data is then stored on the NikePlus member profile and is used during future shopping experiences.
Smart Running Shoes
In 2017, Sensoria announced its Smart Running Shoes, which is smart footwear that aims to provide runners with detailed biometric feedback in real-time. The shoe features embedded textile pressure sensors in the “heel” area of the foot and takes advantage of a microelectronic component that has been designed to connect and track progress. When running, users will be coached by Mara, an AI bot that will detect and feed information back to the user on cadence, foot landing, and impact force. This is designed to teach runners how to become more efficient and reduce the risk of injuries. These shoes have been used by athletes from a wide range of sports and provide opportunities for competitors to master their running stance and improve their overall performance.
In general, A.I. has and will continue to have a huge impact in terms of footwear for overall sports, as it allows athletes to master their game by providing feedback on performance and uses the perfect balance between grip and speed that are designed to best fit a specific sport.
While A.I. has had a huge impact on sports footwear, it also affects performance and training analysis. Using general metrics such as runs scored passes made, goals scored, etc. isn’t the best way to accurately assess performances, both individual and collective. To gauge performances in any sport, analysts and coaches need to analyze a multitude of data points pertaining to individual players and collective performances. This helps them to identify the areas where players excel and those where they lag.
Depending on the role of the individual players on a team, the metrics to assess their contribution vary. For instance, in basketball, the key performance indicators of forwards or centers are different from those of guards. Although not all aspects of performance can be quantified, a growing part of a player’s game is becoming quantifiable and hence, measurable. This is possible by using Artificial Intelligence to derive correlations between qualitative traits and then measuring those variables to predict the corresponding value of players.
What the three charts show us is that just by using basic data representation we begin to see some staggering and eye-opening stats which we may not have attested for. Despite Lebron James being considered one of the greatest players to ever step on the NBA court, the charts show us that Steph Curry and Kevin Durant have outperformed him throughout the 2010s from an offensive perspective. While this may not be news to some avid basketball fans, it can be overlooked and somewhat surprising considering all the hype that is directed towards Lebron.
Furthermore, AI can also be used to identify patterns in opponents’ tactics, strengths, and weaknesses while preparing for games. This helps coaches to devise detailed gamelans based on their assessment of the opposition and maximize the likelihood of victory.
It is a well-known fact that the introduction of Artificial Intelligence is transforming the healthcare industry in so many different ways. The extraordinary potential and diagnostic capabilities of AI can also be applied in the realm of sports, where physical health and fitness are of prime importance. According to Naveen Joshi, the CEO of Allerin, since the essence of sports is the maintenance of peak physical condition, sports teams invest heavily in the physical and mental well-being of their players. A.I. has become the latest tool in these teams’ medical kits. Players regularly undergo physical tests that use AI to analyze various health parameters and player movements to evaluate their fitness and can even detect early signs of fatigue or stress-induced injuries. This can help the medical teams of sporting organizations to maintain their players’ fitness and keep them safe from injuries by taking timely action.
Just a couple of months ago after a trade that took place between the Houston Rockets and the Brooklyn Nets, it was revealed, that Caris Levert would be sidelined after an MRI revealed a small mass on his left kidney during a physical, prior to finalizing the four-team trade with Brooklyn. Thankfully, due to the trade that took place, the mass was identified and was removed before the results could’ve been fatal. This is just one of many cases where the developing technology of A.I. helped save a player’s career by detecting a fatal illness before it was too late.
Many leading teams also use wearable technology to track players’ movements and physical parameters during practice to help them keep track of overall player health. This will enable sports teams to maintain their most valuable assets in prime condition through long competitive seasons.
Now that we’ve addressed A.I.’s largest impacts throughout sports, I’ll explain what factor it has played when it comes to sports betting and sports odds.
According to Buzz2, AI has been evolving with each passing year. For the past few years, AI algorithms for betting have shown great promise. When you bet on a certain team you are placing your bet most of the time basing your luck. Depending on your luck you may win or lose the game, the chance is always 50–50. However, AI is not like that. It doesn’t go by instincts like humans. The only thing it knows is calculations. When you talk about competitive sports it is all about which team has the highest chances of winning. But as humans, you can only take a few things into consideration. However, AI looks at all the data that is available to it up to that point in time. Based on that data it starts making predictions. If you think that these predictions are only based on the past performance of the team over the years then you are completely wrong.
There are a lot of factors that it takes into consideration. If it’s a team sport then it looks at the past performances of the individual players. Not only that but it also looks at how they have performed when it is most needed. Apart from that, it looks at the fitness levels of sportsmen too. This data will help the AI to perform even more calculations to predict if the player is going to do well in a particular game. This is not only true for team sports but also for single-player sports like tennis, badminton, and etc. Because of this, you can not only bet on team sports but also the outcome of single-player sports. However, there is one thing that you should keep in mind that is the amount of data that is available to the AI algorithm or not. The more the data the more accurate predictions.
If the data available to the algorithm is limited, then don’t expect the outcome to be absolutely accurate. The good thing about AI is that it keeps collecting the data and analyzes it every time to come up with predictions that are more accurate. Some of these AI algorithms are proven to be accurate in the past. In 2017 an AI algorithm was able to predict the Superbowl wins which marked one of the many successful engines, whose algorithms were deemed successful and fairly accurate!
This is one of the main reasons why betting has been banned in so many countries. There are many scammers out there, who use major sporting events to launder money in the name of betting. Once AI takes over the circuit it will be easier to identify the illegal activities that are taking place on betting sites. AI is designed to comply with anti-money laundering laws and it will recognize any activity that is questionable. It will warn the company owners or other people when something suspicious takes place and can help stop the scammer from cheating their way through the system.
Gambling is a prevalent problem for so many, and especially with access to the internet being universal, individuals can gamble from literally anywhere around the world. Vulnerable Individuals are susceptible to losing thousands of dollars in one sitting, throwing away so much of their hard-earned money. But AI can stop this. It can calculate how much time a person is spending on the gambling platform. If they are spending too much time then it will automatically stop freezing their account for some time. This will make sure that people are not throwing their money and gives them another chance to right their ways.
I’ve also created my own engine which can predict scores from various NBA games! To check that out, follow and connect with me on Linkedin Nameer Issani and keep an eye out for my next video detailing my process!