Suns, Verizon partnership loads practice facility with sophisticated tech

By David Broughton
ShotTracker is among the technologies the Suns have integrated into the Verizon 5G Performance Center.ShotTracker

In 2012, the Phoenix Suns became the first NBA team to integrate wireless technology into their basketball operations by using tablets powered by Verizon on the team’s bench, a breakthrough collaboration at the time.


Eight years later, the two sides teamed up again to open the Verizon 5G Performance Center following a year-and-a-half of research, design, and combining multiple technologies.

The 53,000-square-foot, team-owned building is located 10 miles northeast of the downtown Phoenix and serves primarily as the practice facility for the Suns and the Mercury, but both the teams and Verizon view it as a laboratory.

The courts and workout areas are surrounded by 150 HD cameras, sensors and nodes that track the motion of players and the ball. Using Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband connectivity, the building merges computer-aided motion analysis, player and ball tracking, and shot tracking — typically independent technologies — into one integrated system. Among the technologies deployed are:

ShotTracker, a Verizon Ventures portfolio company, tracks every shot made or missed — measuring the arc, flight path and rim entry — and provides real-time feedback. Teams and broadcasters can then automate a player’s shot selection, ball movement and player efficiency to provide near real-time, in-game analysis.

SIMI Reality Motion Systems provides motion-capture technology on the court and in the weight room, helping coaches and players better understand movements and biomechanics, such as joint reactions and how knees buckle when jumping, which can help detect fatigue and potential injury. 

The Noah Shooting System uses passive computer vision to monitor every shot by all players in the gym.

The 3D Bertec force plate that is flush-mounted in the floor measures biometric movement patterns on a three-dimensional plane, including impact force, balance, acceleration/deceleration, and launch and land angles.

Brian Mecum, Verizon’s vice president of device technology, said the development of the facility is one of the most exciting things he has done in his career, noting that the telecom’s tech is deployed in 60 stadiums and arenas.

“With this partnership, we have created a pipeline of innovation to develop use cases around performance, training, health and wellness that will help us continue to push the boundaries of what is possible with Verizon 5G,” said Mecum, who has been at Verizon since 1994.

Fans at the team’s newly renovated Footprint Center also benefit from the 5G partnership, as the low-latency technology allows for seamless mobile transactions through the official FanDuel Sportsbook app. And next season fans can point their 5G phones at a player and get live stats and real-time information about that player, as well as watch live action and instant replays from seven live camera angles.

A similar venue relationship exists at the 5,500-square-foot Verizon 5G Gaming Center in Los Angeles, which serves as a training facility for the Dignitas esports team and a laboratory to monitor enhance player performance and improve recovery.

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