The Idea Factory

This 'smart' basketball can teach you to drain 3s like Ray Allen

At $300, 94Fifty's ball could be a small price to pay for a lifetime of buttery jumpers

My jump shot is awful. It's flat and barely spins, an ugly abomination of adolescent hubris that makes Shawn Marion's physics-defying chest heave look downright Stephen Curry-esque.

(Via Imgur)

I know this. The dudes I play with weekly know this. And opposing defenses seem to have no problem sagging off and giving me space.

It's partly why I'm really feeling this "smart" basketball from a company called 94Fifty, which is making the rounds at CES this week. In a tech landscape where everything from toasters to toothbrushes are bloated with sensors, sports training is one of the key areas where having hard data at your disposal makes all kinds of cosmic sense.

94Fifty's ball is regulation size and weight. It feels like a regular basketball. Inside, though, is an array of nine sensors that track everything from your shot's arc to the ball's spin and acceleration. All of that glorious, useful information is beamed directly to an app via Bluetooth, and will tell you what exactly you're doing wrong. It's like having your own personal shooting coach, a Denzel to your Jesus Shuttlesworth.

Here's what The Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay — who apparently has very similar issues with his jumper — wrote in a review back in December:

The first step of any coaching process is stripping away the nonsense and figuring out what the problem is. My jump shot has two fundamental issues: It doesn't have enough backspin, and it has very little arc. It's basically a line drive. It resembles a hostile act. The 94Fifty ball made this clear within seconds. Its skills-training program suggests a looping arc somewhere between 42 and 48 degrees. Many of my shots were in the flat range of 30 degrees. The app's digital voice, which sounds exactly like a tough-love high school coach, beckoned. "Get that arc up." I bent my knees, pushed up and under the shot, tried to create spin. I was surprised by how unnatural doing it correctly felt. [Wall Street Journal]

Obviously it's not cheap: At $300, you're entering Xbox/PlayStation territory. But reprogramming "bad" muscle memory is almost impossible to do alone. (Side note: It's scary to think about how freakishly good our kids are going to be once smart training equipment becomes the norm.)

So if you're serious about improving your game, reviewers say 94Fifty's ball is a solid investment that yields tangible results. It probably won't land you an NBA contract, but hopefully it'll open your game up and make whoever's guarding you pay some much-deserved attention. Put another way, maybe what you're actually purchasing is a lifetime of silky jumpers and rec league glory.

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