Winning Teams Don’t Just Happen by Accident

How can IBM Watson help build successful sports teams using data collected from games? Check out IBMer Farhang Farad’s blog to learn all about this very interesting partnership between IBM and Maple Leaf Sports, and the work being done with the Canadian basketball team Toronto Raptors.


 By Farhang Farid

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IBM and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE)—the owners of the Toronto Raptors—teamed up to introduce a first-of-a-kind cognitive solution called IBM Sports Insights Central. It is designed to help the Canadian basketball team turn structured and unstructured data like player information, team and league statistics, social media sentiment, and player contract data into actionable strategies to improve team performance and drive time-critical player decisions.

Providing management with actionable insights

Top talent is critical to all successful sports franchises so it’s no surprise that a solution, which significantly improves player evaluation processes that were previously conducted manually, would be a boon to the industry. This is particularly important for teams such as Toronto Raptors that put high priority on talent development.

IBM Sports Insights Central integrates touch screens and tables that help management make better player decisions.

The solution which was built by IBM Interactive Experience in collaboration with IBM Research, is a customizable cognitive solution and interactive room that puts a comprehensive view of data—such as possible roster combinations, player personality, and team and league statistics—at management’s fingertips.

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With thousands of critical decisions needing to be made each season, this new tool which is built on the IBM Bluemix cloud development platform and IBM Watson, allows Raptors’ front office staff to make sure they’ve considered and picked the best possible players. In the past this was a particular struggle made even more difficult during time sensitive situations like the draft period, free-agent periods and trade deadlines.

Using an interactive conference table-top and curved wall of dynamic touch screens, team staff are able to quickly ‘throw’ their data from individual consoles onto the main wall so information can be shared collaboratively as team discussions progress. Player icons and other data can be moved quickly from screen to screen using simple hand movements and a mobile extension allows team management to take the application with them when they travel.

The IBM Sports Insights Central solution is housed in a room in the Toronto Raptors’ BioSteel Centre—the team’s brand new training facility. The platform also extends beyond the current roster of Raptor players to include all NBA players and NBA prospects.

Interested in learning more about the cool projects happening at IBM, involving Watson? Check out this video from the World of Watson 2016 event, where Farhang shared his experience working on this partnership with Maple Leaf Sports.


Farhang Farid is an Associate Partner at IBM, and is responsible for growth and delivery of digital programs across Telecommunications, Media & Entertainment and Sports industry clients.

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