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ShotTracker [Basketball Trainer Review]

ShotTracker

Recommendation

If you want simple data to track your shooting efficiency, ShotTracker delivers on that promise. However, do not expect it to track your actual shooting location (it sounds like ShotTracker’s new partnership with Spalding and Decawave will deliver that, and likely at a much more expensive price point). In addition, ShotTracker is a bit pricy ($150 retail) considering it does not track location.

Background

I have been interested in the ShotTracker since first hearing about it at the end of 2014. It promised to monitor your shooting performance via data.

The first thing I noticed is that ShotTracker cannot actually track your shooting location. Instead, it tells you what kind of shot to practice, and will track the shots made and missed. If you ignore the instructions, ShotTracker won’t know. This was a tremendous disappointment and mismatch of my expectations. Thus, if you want to freely shoot around all over the court, ShotTracker will have no idea of what areas you are in – you will only receive a summary of total makes and misses.

However, ShotTracker does provide a sizeable list of different Drills and Workouts (Sets of Drills) that you can practice. For example, if you want to shoot left and right elbow jumpers, the app will start you on one side and then your phone will beep when it’s time to switch positions. You can then get an understanding of how you did on each side. This is a decent workaround.

In terms of tracking the actual shots, ShotTracker does this well. You have two sensors to connect to your phone via Bluetooth – a net sensor and arm sensor. My feeling is that both sensors are accelerometers that register a certain level of velocity in movement. This is pretty simple technology, but it works. The net sensor only works with string nets (my feeling is that metal nets are too heavy and do not create enough movement to register when a made shot goes through the net) and is easy to attach if you have a small stool or step ladder to bring with you. For this reason, ShotTracker makes more sense for home courts than it does at public recreational parks. I live one minute’s walk away from a court, so it’s not so annoying for me to bring a small ladder, but imagine walking 10 minutes to a court. If you have a car to travel to courts, this is less of a problem. If ShotTracker wants to reach mass-market sales, this is the type of Design Thinking that is missing from the product currently. The more obstacles (including technology requirements and price) needed to use the product, the market size for the product diminishes.

Beyond that, the app is visually attractive and fairly easy to use, though I have some comments for improvements below.

Shottracker Charger and Box

Suggested Improvements and Other Notes

  • There are plenty of different drills to do, but you can only filter by position (guard, center, forward). I would like to see more filtering options. For example. I can’t shoot 3’s, so I don’t want to shoot 50 3’s. I also only shoot by myself, so it’s very difficult to shoot curls. Since there are so many drills, looking through them all and finding them one by one each time you practice is a real pain and barrier to exploring the app.
  • I would also like to create my own “playlist” of drills. This functionality is available through the free Coach’s App, which is free but only available on Android and iOS Tablets. From my experience in product UI, however, it would not be particularly tricky to allow the player to do this on mobile. From my admittedly older Samsung Android Tablet, I found the Coach’s App a bit sluggish to use.
  • You need to keep your phone unlocked while the ShotTracker app is running – if it goes into sleep / lock, ShotTracker will not be able to monitor data. The app should be more explicit about this behavior.
  • In the Player App, there are a number of features that are generally worthless and can be hidden so that there are fewer options in the navigational menu. For example, if there are no active Challenges (I would love to see at least one of these a week, even if not for prizes) or Camps, those should be hidden or put into an “Other” menu. Even the activity feed of Homecourt, showing everyone’s activity, and Players, a feature to search people, have no real use unless you want to track someone’s activity. From my perspective (but perhaps not matching that of the target demographic), these are all less-used features within the product and can be removed from direct sight.
  • I would like to better understand how good am I compared to the whole community – the app suggests this feature when you look at your Profile – there are comparative goals with people your age. However, there is no app section to enter your age in and my comparative data is blank.
  • One way to create value in Players is to help the user find players within a 5 mile radius that he could befriend, and potentially shoot with. I am guessing this is in the plans, as ShotTracker already asks for Zipcode.
  • An aspect I like about Drills is that you can watch video instruction of how to do the shots. However, I have no idea if the video is pre-installed into the app or I am using my data each time I am watching the video. It would be nice for all video to be pre-installed and I be explicitly told that no data will be used. In addition, even though all the videos feature a wide aspect ratio, I cannot rotate the phone to see the videos in their natural setting. I am forced to watch these videos in the tall / long setting on my phone, and the videos only take half the screen on my iPhone 5S.
  • For the App’s Help Section, I suggest showing a quick list of all the Question answered, with users being able to tap to see the answer to the question. The current format is Question, Answer Text, next Question, etc. This would allow me to quickly scan what information is in the App rather than scroll the entirety of the page (it’s quite long). In addition, I would add a button to quickly send a question / support comment for things that I do not see addressed. When I had questions, I had to look on the ShotTracker website for contact information. If the product itself is mobile-only, support should also be geared accordingly.
  • After using ShotTracker for over a month at an average of two hours a week, I am happy with the battery performance of the sensors – I have not needed to recharge them yet.

To read more of my basketball training product reviews, please click here.

Shottracker – Wristband, Wristband Tracker, and Net Tracker (Left to Right)

Shottracker iOS (iPhone) App Screenshot

After Millions of Dollars, Microsoft Bing is Just as Smart as…Las Vegas [When Data Fails]

At Kellogg, we learned that people in aggregate tend to be quite correct (for example, say you have a random amount of jelly beans inside a big jar. Ask people to guess the amount of beans. When you average all the guesses, it will come out quite close to the real number, even if the real number is large and random, like 1,724).

According to How Microsoft got so good at predicting who will win NFL games, Microsoft Bing is an awesome prediction guru of human intelligence, machine learning, and big data:

Bing Predicts is run by a team of about a half dozen people out of Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington headquarters. It uses machine learning and analyses big data on the web to predict the outcomes of reality TV shows, elections, sporting events, and more.

How Microsoft got so good at predicting who will win NFL games

In 2014, Bing was 67% accurate predicting NFL winners.

In all, the Bing Predicts model considers hundreds of these different signals, or data points, for each event, like an election or game, Sun said.

So far this year[2015 to game three], Bing is about 60% accurate in predicting NFL matchups.

Sounds great, right? However, my first thought was, who cares about winners? I can’t bet on winners, this is why the spread exists, to create (theoretical) 50/50 bets that bookies can make stable revenue from.

My next question is, in this awesome model built from millions of dollars in labor and computing power, are the prediction results better, hopefully at a statistically significant (p = .05) level, than information I could get free from a public resource? How little can I spend to get reasonably close results to aid in my for-profit wagering?

Let’s look at Las Vegas betting spreads.

Booking Odds

According to Inpredictable.com and its 2013 article Is the NFL Betting Market Getting More Efficient?, the answer is NO, Bing’s modeling is no better than me looking at the latest odds online.

From 1989 to 2013, Las Vegas favorites were correct 66.8% of the time. With a sample size of 15 years, and looking at the chart above, I can say that Vegas is pretty good.

1 signal – Vegas odds – versus hundreds of signals – Microsoft Bing = the same result.

Great work, Microsoft.

The Best of City Slam Chicago [Photos]

Ha and I went to City Slam Chicago a couple of weekends ago. It was held at Seward Park, which was also the setting for this Uncle Drew / Kyrie Irving / Pepsi commercial below:

I won’t spoil the winner for you (it will be aired on TV in late July), but here are some of the best photos Ha took of the event, with judges like Doug McDermott of the Chicago Bulls judging.

One last photo of the park with downtown Chicago in the background:

10 Things to Learn from Soccernomics (by Simon Kuper)

imageSoccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Spain, Germany, and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, and Even Iraq Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport by Simon Kuper is basically the Freakonomics for Soccer. It looks at how the game is played but also the business of the sport and has many many many good things to note. Ideally, this article would be fifty things to learn, but here are ten things to learn from Soccernomics:

  1. the most dangerous corner was the inswinger to the near post. The beauty of the inswinger was that it sent the ball straight into the danger zone.
  2. In short, the more you pay your players in wages, the higher you will finish, but what you pay for them in transfer fees doesn’t seem to make much difference. While the market for players’ wages is pretty efficient—the better a player, the more he earns—the transfer market is inefficient. Much of the time, clubs buy the wrong players.
  3. A new manager wastes money on transfers; don’t let him.        Use the wisdom of crowds.        Stars of recent World Cups or European championships are overvalued; ignore them.        Certain nationalities are overvalued.
  4. Older players are overvalued.        Center forwards are overvalued; goalkeepers are undervalued.        Gentlemen prefer blonds: identify and abandon “sight-based prejudices.”        The best time to buy a player is when he is in his early twenties.        Sell any player when another club offers more than he is worth.        Replace your best players even before you sell them.        Buy players with personal problems, and then help them deal with their problems.        Help your players relocate.
  5. It was Rupert Murdoch who went to English clubs and suggested putting them on satellite TV; the clubs would never have thought of going to him. In fact, the clubs often fought against new moneymaking schemes. Until 1982 they refused to allow any league games to be shown live on TV, fearing that it might deter fans from coming to the stadium. They couldn’t grasp that games on television meant both free money and free advertising. There is now a good deal of research into the question of how many fans are lost when a game is shown on TV. Almost all the evidence shows that the number is tiny, and that the gate revenue that would be lost is usually well below the amount that would be made from selling extra matches for television coverage
  6. Let’s compare the breakeven rule to the salary cap, widely used in American major-league sports. A salary cap generally restricts teams’ spending on players to a fixed percentage of average club income (55 percent, say). UEFA’s breakeven rule restricts player spending to the level of club income defined as “relevant.” The key difference is that the US cap is the same for all clubs, whereas breakeven caps each club at the level of its own resources—a lot for the larger clubs, not so much for the smaller clubs. So while the American salary cap encourages competitive balance between clubs (it stops the Dallas Cowboys from spending infinitely more than the Jacksonville Jaguars), UEFA’s breakeven rule cements inequality by making it harder for smaller clubs to compete with the aristocrats. This hardly seems fair, unless by “fair” you mean the idea that big clubs should be protected from competition from upstarts.
  7. “Two thirds of goals come from possessions won in the final third of the field,” he lectured. The great sin, to him, was losing the ball near your own goal.
  8. “Soccer” was the most common name for the game in Britain from the 1890s until the 1970s. … Soccer conquered the world so fast largely because the British gentleman was such an attractive ideal.
  9. Daniele Tognaccini, longtime chief athletics coach at AC Milan’s “Milan Lab,” probably the most sophisticated medical outfit in soccer, explains what happens when a player has to play sixty tough games a year: “The performance is not optimal. The risk of injury is very high. We can say the risk of injury during one game, after one week’s training, is 10 percent. If you play after two days, the risk rises by 30 or 40 percent. If you are playing four or five games consecutively without the right recovery, the risk of injury is incredible.
  10. Kevin Alavy, the managing director of the Futures Sport + Entertainment consultancy whom we met earlier in the book, says that often the Premier League enters a new territory by offering itself on free-to-air TV. That’s what it did in eastern Europe, across the former Soviet Union, and more recently in Indonesia. Until a few years ago, hardly any of the 247 million Indonesians knew soccer. But given the chance to watch top-class English games on TV for free, many began watching. In recent years, says Alavy, “typically Indonesia has been the number one market by TV audiences for the Premier League.” Once Indonesians were hooked, the Premier League gave them a new TV rights deal that offered them far less free soccer.

Stephen Curry Team USA Jersey Review (AliExpress, Aimee Smith)

To reward myself for a recent 2nd place (but a cash prize!) finish at an innovation competition at Kellogg, I decided to buy myself a fake jersey. Normally I wouldn’t do this, at least not knowingly (damn you eBay!), but I wanted to look at the process of buying things from AliExpress (an Alibaba company), which helps Chinese vendors sell directly to international consumers. Prior to this, I had been curious about the quality of fake jerseys, and who made the best ones. You can find plenty of reviews of fake jerseys on YouTube, but sub-Reddits like http://www.reddit.com/r/sportsjerseys and http://www.reddit.com/r/basketballjerseys/ are also very useful.

I ended up deciding on a Stephen Curry Nike FIBA 2014 jersey, primarily because as far as I know, it was never sold to the public as Curry is signed to Under Armour. For the seller (there are a number of them), I chose “Aimee Smith”, who has great reviews both online and within the AliExpress storefront – as of my writing this post, she had received feedback from 10,299 people with 99.4% reporting positive transactions. This means about 10,237 people liked “her”, while just 62 people did not. I, for what it’s worth, also liked her.

Before going into the jersey , I’ll talk a bit more about the AliExpress experience:

https://i0.wp.com/style.aliunicorn.com/wimg/buyer/single/standard-definition-logo.png

  • Security: AliExpress is very easy to use – you do not need to worry about credit card security issues, or any other negative fears you may hold about buying from some “random” site in China. AliExpress (and Alibaba) is no random company – they have been doing this a long time, and you will see that in your shopping. AliExpress accepts all major credit cards (American Express, Visa, Mastercard) and also has a clear buyer protection policy. The website is no harder to use (and is likely easier) than any other American site that you like.
  • Responsiveness: It is very easy to ask sellers questions, and Aimee Smith in particular is very responsive. She answered all my questions in less than a day and often, within minutes (keep in mind the different time zones). On eBay, whether you get any responses at all is random based on seller. From my experience, eBay sellers response properly less than 50% of time.
  • Reviews: If you are fairly comfortable buying things on eBay or Amazon 3rd Party sellers, you will be fine on AliExpress. What I especially like about the service is that you can review the specific product from that seller. Thus, I could see what others felt about the specific Curry jersey I was buying from Aimee Smith. This makes sense for AliExpress since their products are not one-off goods (e.g. I only have one to sell, like my limited edition baseball card). This wouldn’t make as much sense for many small volume eBay sellers but it would for some and it would definitely make sense for many Amazon sellers.
  • Shipping / Tracking:  Assuming you get a good seller, AliExpress also does a great job of letting you know the status after you order. Even though you can check your order details on the site, however, the site never sends a detailed receipt via email

If you’re interested in AliExpress, I definitely say try it without fear, but do make sure you check for sellers with strong feedback before doing so, just as you would (I would hope) with purchases from eBay or Amazon 3rd party vendors.

On to the jersey!

I am happy with it. No complaints considering the price and fact that I cannot get (a major incentive to buy fake jerseys is when an authentic version is unavailable) a real one. The Curry jersey cost less than $22 shipped, and I received it in about 2.5 weeks (coming from China, after all) after ordering. If you are interested in fake jerseys, I would not hesitate to get one from Aimee Smith, and all the feedback online I have seen agree.

While I have not worn the jersey to play basketball in, the material is really soft. I am sure it does not have Dri-Fit or any other moisture-wicking technology built-in, but the jersey is light and I could see myself wearing it. In this sense, if you are normally someone who wears t-shirts for athletic wear, I would recommend this as an alternative. I bought a size small (I am 5’6, 140 lbs.) and I feel it was correctly sized.

To get into the details, let’s do a comparison of images from Getty Images,

455063814 455055924a Paul George authentic jersey auction on eBay,

and Nike Store images.clip_image0014clip_image001And for reference, my Stephen Curry Aimee Smith USA Jersey:

I imagine it might be tricky to compare all these images in this kind of vertical-line view, so I’ll summarize what I see as best as I can:

  1. For the USA lettering on the front, the authentic jerseys are flat (almost like a screen print integrated into the jersey material) and the borders around the letters are dark. On the Aimee Smith version, the borders are red, and the lettering is stitched.
  2. I believe the USA badge (on right chest of player above Nike symbol) on the authentics is printed on the jersey, while it is embroidered on the Aimee Smith.
  3. The placement and size of the “4” on the front match Getty images fairly well. There is no FIBA patch on the left clavicle, but some fake sellers have it.

Moving to the back and other components. This time, I will show Getty first, then the Aimee Smith and Paul George authentic alternating different parts.

455160982imageimageimageimageOther than the “4” on the back being too high relative to the Curry name, the back looks pretty good as well. While I could not tell how accurate the lettering was based on the Getty Images photo, comparing the Aimee Smith Curry to the Paul George authentic reveals that the “R” looks pretty close. Again, the Aimee Smith is more of a Swingman jersey in which all letters and numbers are stitched, which is not the case with the authentic. The jock tag at the bottom front of the jersey is much different between the two jerseys, which is also true of the collar tag. Nonetheless, if you had nothing to compare either with, it would be difficult to say that one of them appears fake.

As I mentioned before, the quality of the jersey is excellent – it probably looks no worse than an authentic Obsidian Warriors Swingman alternate jersey I bought from the NBA store a few months ago for 4 times the price. It could have easily sold as an authentic Nike USA swingman and it is likely better than an authentic replica Andre Iguodala Nike USA jersey that I own. I hope this helps, but feel free to ask me questions!