Widgets Magazine

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver visits Stanford to assess potential of virtual reality

It is hard to imagine what it must be like to be on the court during an emotional moment in a basketball game. With thousands of yells drowning out any semblance of a coherent thought and potentially huge ramifications following from even the slightest misstep, fans can barely empathize with the stress and adrenaline that players must be put through.


Associate professor Jeremy Bailenson’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab can simulate extreme experiences using virtual reality googles and high-wattage speakers. (LINDA A. CICERO/Stanford News Service)

If NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has his way, however, we may one day all be able to feel what its like to take the last shot when the game is on the line.

Last Friday, Silver visited Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab as part of a tour of Silicon Valley technical achievements, where he toured Bailenson’s state-of-the-art virtual reality simulator. This prototype consists of numerous types of advanced simulation equipment, and it clearly managed to impress the NBA commissioner as he experienced games and learning activities with 3-D visuals and real life special effects.

“This could let fans experience what it’s like to stand on the free throw line with two seconds left in a tie game and 19,000 people screaming at you,” remarked Silver to the Stanford News Service after he completed his demonstration.

Since being named NBA Commissioner last February, Silver has focused much of his time making steps to make the NBA more accessible to different types of fans. From advocating the legalization of sports gambling to banning an NBA owner for privately made racially insensitive comments that offended many fans, Silver has hoped to make the NBA a little friendlier in a time when other leagues like the NFL have struggled to show their humanity. Virtual reality may prove an interesting tool for Silver to advance this mission.

The Commissioner also admitted that this virtual reality technology may posses more immediate implications in the training room of current NBA programs, helping with everything from injury rehabilitation to pass selection.

“Players always tell us how they get better by repeating certain situations,” Silver said. “This could be ideal [in helping them elevate their games].”

Virtual reality devices like Bailenson’s are still years off from commercial deployment. However, high-profile visits like this show how leagues are already attuned to the potential they have to truly redefine the experience of sports fans.

Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu

About Andrew Mather

Andrew Mather served as a sports editor and as the Chief Operating Officer of The Daily. Growing up a devout Clippers and Iowa Hawkeyes fan in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Mather grew accustomed to watching his favorite programs snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. He brings this nihilistic pessimism to The Daily, where he occasionally feels a strong sense of déjà vu while covering basketball, football and golf.