Sports owners and a robot

Everyone is talking about the latest AI project, Chat GBT, and the responses ranged from excitement to horror. In fact, Chat GBT has become such a cultural phenomenon that the site is running at excess capacity, and you can’t even access it right now. Kind of like when you call an airline and they ask for your number and say they’ll text you when you’re next in line.

Meanwhile, AI is already impacting a variety of industries, but none is more visible or more game-changing than sports business. The reason is that predicting future outcomes is essential to everyone in sports. Think of some decisions that need to be made in real time. This type of data-driven predictive analytics has been around for a while, pioneered by the Oakland Athletics and their GM Billy Beane who, with a $44 million payroll, could compete favorably with teams like the Yankees with a $125 million payroll . His character was famously played by Brad Pitt in the movie Moneyball, based on the Beane book of the same name.

The basic premise of Money Ball was that statistical analysis, such as slugging percentage and on-base percentage, was a more effective way of predicting success than the business intuition of baseball insiders consisting of scouts and managers. Oakland’s owner at the time, Lew Wolff, took a risk by giving Beane the freedom to test his thesis at a time when it was completely unknown. When I spoke with him, Wolff said, “People thought I was crazy for letting Billy use statistics to make decisions instead of the intuition of baseball experts.”

All major sports leagues are incorporating AI into everything they do, especially from a fan engagement perspective.

The NFL has already joined Amazon
to gather AI insights. For example, they launched an AI tool that combines seven AI models, including a new model to predict the value of a pass before the ball is thrown, to evaluate a quarterback’s passing performance. The NBA is also incorporating AI into the onboarding tool to provide fans with deep analysis of how teams and players perform in nearly every situation imaginable.

While ChatGBT does not currently engage in predictive analytics, it has made it clear that the power of artificial intelligence to collect massive amounts of data can lead to better decision-making around player and game-time decisions and the implications for scouts, coaches and general managers. people have to make so many important decisions crucial to the success of the franchise, such as:

Who to draft or trade for?

Should a particular player start or be inserted into the game?

In baseball, the biggest decisions we see are when to pinch hitter and which reliever to bring in, or when to pinch hit and who to call. In basketball and football, we have the same kind of dilemma — who to replace and when. Each part of the game is different with different stats around each individual play that occurs. With the power of artificial intelligence, we can literally examine millions of data points in real time to determine a far better predictive analysis than Billy Beane could using just measurement and base percentage. AI can predict everything from the expected performance if a player is inserted into the lineup or a match, or the expected length of a player’s career and likelihood of injury.

The implication of all this is that the future with advanced machine learning is terrifying. The Lakers are a great example of struggling to find the best supporting cast for LeBron James. With advanced artificial intelligence, you don’t need a general manager to make decisions based on scouting reports or intuition to make a trade, the data will let you know the player that best fits the system. So GMs and scouts will disappear.

Then you talk about the coach. Predictive analysis will tell you when replacements need to be made. No need to guess. The only caveat is when a superstar like LeBron James says he doesn’t want a robot coaching the team. Then the whole thing falls apart.

Many people believe that too much artificial intelligence will lead to a dystopian world. I’m not so sure I disagree. Lebron, what do you think?

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