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So you’re interested in the best smart basketball options, eh? You’re maybe kinda tired of wondering if that shoot-around this morning was as sick as you thought it was. And you’re thinking maybe some cold, hard data will give you that little push to get better, or at least give you some sick stats to show your friends.
I get it. Myself, I’m kinda a purist. I like to get on the court, tap into some tunes, and just flow. But I do appreciate data. And I’d love to be able to see my improvement over time. It’s not at all uncommon that, as I’m packing up my gear to roll off the court, I find myself wondering…
So I got to digging. I wanted to find a tool that could slide into my game without disrupting anything. And I’m sorry to tell you, I was disappointed.
As it turns out, the smartest basketball choice is still to just get a regular old indoor/outdoor basketball. Smart basketball technology just isn’t quite there yet. It’s just still a mess of glitches and service interruptions.
But if you are a gadget freak and you are truly committed to living at the cutting edge of basketball technology, there are some cool options to explore. It is fascinating what these setups can do, and I’m sure the various systems will improve in the future.
Smart Basketball Systems to Track Shooting
HoopSong Shot Tracker
I’m covering this one first because it is the free option. And also because I built this myself.
Here’s what it does…
Create an entry for a new shot and give it a name. Hit a string of shots and keep track. Quickly enter your makes and attempts. The app tracks your percentages for various shots over time.
Yeah, it can be annoying to enter your shots. But you honestly get used to it. Old schoolers used to do this with pen and paper, writing down the calculations. You can do it by swiping on a screen. And for a free option that works and you can get right now, it’s pretty awesome.
Huupe Smart Basketball Hoop
The Huupe system does have some potential if you’re prepared to shell out some serious cash, and you’re willing to wait for the next production run, because they’re currently sold out.
This is basically a flat screen tv built into a backboard with some added sensor tech. The end result is you can run streaming apps on your backboard and watch games or clips while you’re hooping.
And that’s enough to get me jazzed, honestly. But the sho tracking capabilities are a strong bonus. There’s a little motion sensor on the top of the backboard that tracks enough of your shot dynamics to collect a relatively reliable picture of your half-court shot chart.
Honestly, I’m gonna cop one of these someday. Maybe not any times soon, but mark my words. Someday.
SIQ Smart Basketball
If you’re interested in tracking your shooting accuracy, your only option may be the Siq smart basketball. Unfortunately, the system is plagued with technical issues. Check out a few reviews and it’s pretty clear that there are some really serious problems with this product. What’s more, I get the feeling that there are also some issues with billing.
That all amounts to I don’t even feel comfortable purchasing this ball for testing. Too many red flags.
Smart Basketball Systems to Improve Ball Handling
Now, if you’re more interested in improving your ball-handling, look into the DribbleUp.
When I started this whole thing, I didn’t even know what technology was capable of. I couldn’t fathom an app that could understand my shot accuracy, or drill ball handling in the style of Dance Dance Revolution, let alone make me a better player.
But DribbleUp actually does a playable approximation of what that would look like. However, you don’t technically need the ball to use it.
Here’s a little trick…
Now, you can’t access all of the features on the app for free, but you can access some of them. So, when the app asks you to hold up your ball for ‘calibration’, just show it a picture of the ball.
This way you can play around a little without spending 50$ on a bright yellow ball that looks kinda trash anyway. If you’re really into the dribble workouts, you can opt-in for the monthly plan.
How do Smart Basketballs Work?
The basic concept here is that you focus on the game while the ball focuses on your stats. You run a little one-on-one or a solo shoot-around in the park. When you’re done, you’ve got your personal stat line all neatly packaged for review.
The theory is sound but the practical application is a different story. It turns out the tech isn’t quite settled just yet. Do we need a sensor? Do we need multiple sensors? Or can we just rely on you to prop your phone on a water bottle and let it watch your game from the sidelines like some kinda creepy little dream fan.
Sensor-Based Smart Basketballs
There have been several offerings over the years which incorporate internal sensors that connect via bluetooth to phones, tablets, or even watches. Included in this category are the Wilson X Connected, 94Fifty, and Siq smart basketball systems.
The connected sensor strategy allows for some pretty reliable shooting logs. By collecting mountains of data on ball movement, digital models are able to predict quite accurately the difference between a hit, a miss and even a swoosh, just by analyzing data on ball movement.
And I’d reckon that’s what most players are interested in, collecting shot percentages across the court. It’s what I’m interested in, primarily. But it is a challenge to incorporate the necessary sensors without affecting the movement of the ball. These systems are also reliant on bluetooth technology which can be unreliable at times, and seems to be the chief complaint across the sensor-based solutions.
Out of the several sensor-based smart basketballs to hit the market over the years, the only one still standing would appear to be the Siq smart basketball from Finnish company SportIQ. They’ve gotten the official approval of FIBA, they’ve got fresh products in the marketplace, and their app is alive and well.
Video-Based Smart Basketballs
More recently, as AI film analysis becomes increasingly accessible, we’ve seen some interesting basketball analytics gain traction. Set up a phone to cover your area of play. Calibrate the app. Shoot the lights out?
One of these apps, DribbleUp, incorporates a specialized basketball, presumably to facilitate video recognition. So while the basketball itself does not appear to have anything ‘smart’ about it, the DribbleUp system is frequently placed in the smart basketball category.
While the DribbleUp app is a pretty interesting systems in terms of developing ball handling, the ball itself looks to be just a cash grab. There’s no clarity anywhere to be found on why the app requires this specialized ball. Other apps, like Nike’s HomeCourt offer similar drills that can be run with your own ball.
So what are my options for smart basketballs in 2023?
Your options for smart basketballs are limited here. In years passed the market was a little more crowded. In more recent years we’ve seen at least 2 smart basketball systems fall off into obscurity.
So maybe count yourself fortunate. It all comes down to one question at this point. Are you more interested in shooting or ball handling?
Rarely are buying decisions so neatly simplified.
But there are still a ton of important details that we dig into. Read on for a deep dive covering the ins and outs of the smart basketball world, what they can help with, how to get the most out of them, and definitely how to pick the right system that works best for you. You may even find that instead of a a smart basketball, there’s a different solution that’s right for you.
The Siq Smart Basketball
The Siq smart basketball appears to be something of the heir to the Wilson X lineage as SportIQ (makers of the Siq smart ball) were key consultants on the Wilson X Connected. The Siq is currently the only widely available and fully operational sensor-based smart basketball system on the market. And it’s also the only FIBA-approved smart basketball.
If you’re looking to replace your Wilson X Connected, this is the right option for you. The ball itself contains a hidden sensor that is professed to collect 192 total data points on every shot you take. Proprietary ShotIQ AI is then able to digest this data into actionable stats.
The Siq ball can accurately and reliably detect makes and misses to greater than 95% accuracy in my experience. If this is the data you’re after, the Siq will serve you well. Once you’re setup with the Siq, you just spin the ball to initiate, and your shot log is activated. You can’t beat that in terms of seamlessness. Alternatives require you to setup a phone on the side of the court in order to collect this data which is pretty clunky.
Siq can also detect if you’re shooting off the dribble, off of a catch, or from a relaxed free throw type situation. And apparently it can also detect who is shooting the ball once each player has logged enough shots to train it sufficiently. That’s is a tough claim to verify for the casual hooper, so I’ll leave that to you.
The DribbleUp Smart Basketball
The DribbleUp is an app-based system. Purchase the DribbleUp basketball, login to the corresponding app, and you’ve got an extensive and growing repository of drills you can run through at your leisure.
The interface is pretty fun. It’s very similar to that Dance Dance Revolution arcade machine you used to tear up back in the day (if you’re old like me). Targets appear on the screen. Trainers guide you to move the ball through these targets as you practice different ball handling techniques.
The app can also be super motivational as you log your routines and track performance gains. This will definitely make you a better ball handler.
The bummer here is that they’re clearly trying to charge a ridiculous price for a low-quality ball under the false assumption that it is required to access the app. There’s nothing special about the DribbleUp ball itself. In fact, it kinda sucks. So I really enjoy the interface, but I’d much prefer to just use my own ball.
Smart Basketball Alternatives
If you ultimately find that a smart basketball is not for you, there are other options that will get you a lot of the results that a smart basketball promises, just in a different format: stand alone apps, weighted balls, rotation balls, etc.
Rotation Training Basketballs
Learning to identify rotation issues can really help you unlock your shooting game. You can play around with this concept pretty easily by just placing a piece of white tap on your standard ball. This will help you spot how many rotations you’re getting and adjust accordingly. But if you’re doing this frequently, you can find basketballs specifically designed to map your rotation.
One of the most interesting options is the TrueSpin. It gives you a super clear visual on your spin patterns and encourages a nice, straight shot.
You can find weighted basketballs in various weight formats, but 3lbs is the norm. The added weight can help push your arm and hand strength in ball handling and shooting.
With weighted balls, branding is a little less important than price. You’re probably not going to want to use this as your everyday game ball, that might just throw you off the feel of a normal ball. I’d consider just scanning for the cheapest option on Amazon and going with that.
Discontinued Smart Basketballs
You’ll likely find that there are some other smart basketballs floating around the marketplace, but support for these systems has largely evaporated.
The app supporting the Wilson X Connected was iced in 2019. The 94Fifty, a similar offering, no longer appears in app marketplaces. Probably has something to do with their 2016 bankruptcy filing. And another system, the ShotTracker, that relied on an arm sensor and a net sensor in conjunction, also seems to have been discontinued, though the app still exists and may function if you can get ahold of the equipment. I just can’t find this system for sale anywhere.
Smart basketballs are an awesome concept, but the reality still leaves a lot to be desired. The clear game plan so far has been to get you to buy an overpriced ball and then get you locked into a monthly subscription on top of that. This might make sense in some cases, but it’s a hard sell.
The SIQ is definitely the option to go for if you’re set on getting the best smart basketball. There’s no competition at this point in terms of actually tracking the movements of your ball during play. And the data you get can be pretty cool.
But I’m still all about my indoor/outdoor workhorse basketballs, and I’d recommend pushing that direction.