Basketball net will rate the force of dunks during Slam Dunk Contest

Sometimes power dunks don’t get much credit, because it’s hard to see on television how hard the ball was thrown down. The MIT Media Lab created a net to fix that, and we’ll get to see it in action this Saturday during the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.

MIT Media Lab used conductive thread to generate a reading for the force of every slam thrown down. The fabric, as flexible as the nylon in conventional basketball nets, has long been valued for its ability to transmit electrical signals in products ranging from winter gloves to high-tech carpets. By spinning the thread through a regular basketball net and connecting it to a computer chip, mounted behind the backboard, that renders the force in a graphical output, MIT and Turner have at long last found a way to instantaneously transmit the force of a dunk from the rim to your television screen.

The past two years have been lackluster, so I wasn’t planning on watching this year, but this new dimension could add some intrigue.

[Wired via @bbhlabs]


  • Really cool. As if my arm didn’t hurt when I watched before! The MPH of pitches in baseball becomes an annoyance when not available. This may become a staple…

  • This is a very cool idea, but I’m not sure it captures what most people think of when they consider a “power” dunk. Darryl Dawkins is one of the best power dunkers of all time not because he could put the ball through the net at a high velocity, but because he could shatter backboards into a million pieces. The power generated by a dunker != the power expressed through the ball.

  • As a non-basketball fan, can anyone tell me what the power of a dunk says about the chances of a team winning? I know this is just a dunk contest, but I’d be interested to know what, if any, this new data would be able to tell us about competitiveness.

    • AJ,

      Watch some highlights of Blake Griffin dunking the ball with extreme velocity and you’ll notice that often defenders stop trying to block the shot for fear of a) getting hurt or b) ending up on a poster / video with him dunking over them. By intimidating defenders by dunking with power, this leads to an increase in a team’s field goal percentage and increases the team’s chance of winning.