NBA gains equity stake in mobile artificial intelligence firm NEX Team

The National Basketball Association has acquired an equity stake in NEX Team Inc., a California-based mobile artificial intelligence company, with an eye toward using the technology for the league’s youth development efforts.

The NBA will deploy HomeCourt, a mobile basketball training application created last year using AI to provide real-time analytics to aid in skill development, in its various youth initiatives, such as the Jr. NBA Global Championship and Basketball Without Borders.

HomeCourt measures a variety of player and ball metrics include shot accuracy, speed, vertical jump, lateral movement and ball handling, and furthers the NBA’s active involvement in player technology and extending that to the lower levels of the game. The product, developed by a team of former Apple engineers, requires only a basketball hoop and a phone to work.

“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 Amy Brooks, NBA chief innovation officer and president of the league’s Team Marketing & Business Operations (TMBO) group. “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.”

With the new partnership, NEX Team has reworked the HomeCourt mobile app to include a variety of NBA-themed challenges. The NBA and NEX Team will also collaborate on activations at various league events. Training drills within the app will feature former NBA MVP Steve Nash and current Brooklyn Net Joe Harris, winner of this year’s 3-Point Contest at the All-Star Game.

Nash, along with other basketball figures including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, free agent player Jeremy Lin, and former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, are also NEX Team investors.

The NBA’s investment is part of a $8.5 million Series A funding round for NEX Team, and follows $4 million in seed funding for the company last year.

“We look forward to designing innovative experiences that bring together the digital and physical worlds,” said David Lee, NEX Team co-founder and chief executive.