2,962 views Aug 16, 2018, 09:00am
The Players Technology Summit Shows How Silicon Valley Is Helping The Warriors Stay On Top
SportsMoneyI write about the Golden State Warriors and the NBA salary cap.
August 14th marked the second annual “Players Technology Summit” at Bloomberg. Last year saw Golden State Warriors Andre Iguodala and Steph Curry as the hosts headlining the bill, and this time it was no different with Iguodala joined by Kevin Durant. The purpose of the event is to bring together players, entrepreneurs, and investors to discuss what opportunities are out there and start to build relationships that can lead to future partnerships. Unsurprisingly both Iguodala and Durant have been amongst the leaders in exploring the opportunities afforded beyond the court while playing in the Bay Area. After all, the Warriors and tech are no strangers.
The Silicon Valley Warriors
Indeed, this Warriors franchise has famously embraced technological innovation in recent years, harnessing the power of data and digital to help them progress from the NBA doldrums to the very pinnacle of success. Following the purchase of the team by a group led by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Joe Lacob back in 2010, they were amongst some of the earliest adopters of player tracking software and investors in analytics capacity. They’ve continued to invest in cutting-edge technology and a new digital strategy to remain ahead of the competition and it was no surprise that they were again at the forefront of the latest digital innovation in the NBA, the e-sports movement.
Of course, the success of the Warriors is primarily down to the incredible collection of players on the court. But these technological advantages have helped develop a better understanding of what combinations work best where, if particular players shoot better from particular spots or at particular points in a game, or where tiredness or fatigue might be getting to the point where someone needs to rest for a game or two.
In short, investing in the combination of digital technology and data analytics has helped the Warriors leverage their system and put those world-beating players in the best possible position to succeed on the court. Crucially it’s helped the team keep the players as fresh as possible throughout the successive grueling championship runs they’ve been on. Given the Warriors are often berated by opposing fans for their "injury luck" it’s worth reflecting after four years of deep playoff runs where they’ve generally been healthier than opponents at the key moments, that when something is a sustained pattern it may not all be down to "luck".
Likewise, their ability to sign those world-beating players in the first place is not just "luck". It’s a favorite trope of frustrated NBA fans to bemoan the cap spike that helped the Warriors get Durant. But the Warriors had spent two years maneuvering to create the flexibility to carve out the space to sign him, and worked tirelessly to create the kind of culture, group, and system that a player like Durant would want to be part of. Every other team had the same advantage of the cap spike, yet it was the Warriors who benefitted. It’s important to remember that if there was no cap spike then the Warriors had positioned themselves to carve out enough room by trading Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, though naturally they were delighted not to have to go that far.
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The lure of Silicon Valley
But beyond the Warriors efforts, they were other factors at play in Durant’s decision two years ago. Which brings us back to the Players Technology Summit. Where once the big media markets of Los Angeles and New York were a magnet for aspiring athletes looking to explore new opportunities, the Bay Area is the new kid on the block. Like so many of its tech startups, or indeed the Golden State Warriors themselves, Silicon Valley is disrupting the NBA business environment. While Lebron James move to Los Angeles proves the traditional Hollywood appeal is still there for the top athletes, it is a sign of the changing times that the lure of Silicon Valley is strong to the more technologically savvy athletes.
Indeed what was striking from the Players Technology Summit were comments by both Durant and Iguodala about how those off-court opportunities were a factor in attracting them to the Warriors.
Per the Undefeated’s Marc Spears, Andre Iguodala had the following to say on the subject.
When you signed with the Warriors in 2013, was Silicon Valley and the tech world in mind or were you already involved investmentwise?
I’ve always been thinking about it. [Los Angeles Lakers general manager] Rob Pelinka, who was my agent at the time … we were always talking about the tech space. Rob would always say, ‘Being in Silicon Valley would be great.’ And with the Warriors, the basketball side matched up with the business side. We are in a situation where you can have success on both sides.
Durant went further in his session at the summit. As transcribed by NBC Sports Bay Area there was a fascinating, if light-hearted, exchange between Durant and Iguodala’s business partner Rudy Cline-Thomas about when Durant started thinking about the opportunities beyond the court afforded by Silicon Valley.
"Probably about 2015, I had got hurt. Basketball had always been my world ... it stopped, and I had to think about other parts of my life and what I was interested in ... it was rough because I didn't know what I wanted to do or what I liked or what type of person I wanted to be ... I started to hear about Andre and more guys around the NBA -- especially that play for the Warriors -- that took advantage of the opportunities of being in the Bay Area.
"So throughout that whole year, me and Rich were talking about investing in companies and what I like to do outside of ball. Then I (saw) you and just all those questions came out at once and I was basically telling you I was coming to the Warriors (laughter)."
The timing was later disputed by Durant’s manager Rich Kleinman, but the message was clear. Those off-court business opportunities are part of the Golden State Warriors appeal to the best players in the game. Durant himself went on to explain what being in the Bay Area meant to him:
“It’s a place where, it’s a hot bed for just innovators and creatives, people who have a vision that want to provide something to humanity and just being amongst so many open people just opens your eyes to the possibilities of life... Just being in San Francisco, driving through Oakland seeing so much inspiration throughout a normal regular day that I wasn't really getting, it just pushes you forward as a man. I think that’s just the most exciting part about it.
Then having teammates and players around the league who are interested in tech and being out here as well... It feels like things are starting to bubble up as athletes and we’re starting to be in different fields and trying to getting into different avenues and things… to be one of the guys that live here and pushing that out to the rest of my peers is pretty cool.”
As the basketball and tech worlds continue to collide, helped along by the ultimate glue guy Andre Iguodala, the Warriors will continue to benefit. Given the crucial summer Golden State faces next year with much of their roster becoming free agents and the dreaded “repeater tax” hitting, they will look to every maximize every advantage possible to keep this historic core together. Just as their move into the new Chase Center arena in San Francisco is designed to help the Warriors do that, so too will their presence in Silicon Valley.