The four-point shot soon will become a reality in basketball. But only when a certain spot on the court lights up.
Fan Controlled Hoops, launched by the founders of Fan Controlled Football, will begin its inaugural season in February, with games played on an interactive 84-by-50 LED court that displays graphics. Fans will vote in real-time throughout the game on which zone of the court illuminates, whether in the paint, at the top of the key, beyond the arc or other designated areas where made baskets will be worth bonus points.
“Fans will actually be picking hot spots on the court,” said Grant Cohen, co-founder of the league. “So, they’re actually kind of controlling, not necessarily player movement, but how the play develops and where they want the guys scoring from. And it’ll feel a lot like NBA Jam for real life.”
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Video games like NBA Jam become a reality in the fan-controlled universe, with the football league that enabled fans to pick their team’s offensive plays often being compared to a real-life version of Madden.
Like Fan Controlled Football, fans of the basketball league will have the power to make a variety of decisions for their teams. That includes off-the-court aspects such as league rules and branding decisions like selecting a team name and designing the logo and jersey. But it also means serving as general manager and coach by voting on which players to draft each week, determining who to substitute into the game and voting on which hot spot to select on the high-tech court based on their team’s personnel.
“They can choose the combination of players they want to add and force spacing that they want to create as an advantage for their team,” Cohen said. “So, you've got a thunderous-dunking, rim-running big man, you're going to light up that area right in front of the hoop and try and drive a lot of pick-and-rolls and post play. You put in a sharpshooter from the corner and you're going to want to light up that corner.”
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The four-team league is set to begin on Feb. 7 at Pullman Yards in Atlanta, with luxury suites situated right above the court.
Like in football, the league will feature celebrity ownership groups and some star players – Terrell Owens and Johnny Manziel played in Fan Controlled Football last season. The league recently announced the addition of former NBA All-Star point guard Baron Davis as co-owner of one team. Former NBA Players Association executive director Michele Roberts will serve as the league’s strategic advisor.
“Since I became involved in the sport, it has been made clear to me that young people are consuming sports differently,” Roberts said. “Unlike us oldsters, they don't sit back in their seats and simply nod at a play. They want to be engaged and they want to do it because of new technology. That's an option. So, when I heard about the concept, I thought, okay, this is exactly what makes sense for this generation of hopefully new basketball fans or even existing basketball fans.”
Basketball, Cohen said, was the logical choice for the next fan-controlled sport because of its popularity among Generation Z fans, its international reach and its ability to test the league’s model with a free-flowing sport that has fewer stoppages than football.
There is also a much larger pool of players to recruit from.
“The accessibility of basketball, I can go play in our basketball league,” Cohen said. “I would, pun intended, get lit up. But I would walk off the court, I think, in one piece. Whereas that certainly would not happen if someone told me to put shoulder pads and a helmet on. I think I would run out of the building screaming.”
Roberts said she believes the league will be a natural fit, particularly for the younger generation, because she has noticed fans in the stands at sporting events constantly looking at their phones instead of the action. Fan Controlled Hoops allows fans to do both.
“The NBA and NBPA were always on the hunt for some ways to innovate,” Roberts said. “The theory being that, and I hate to say this about baseball because I shouldn’t, but now baseball's fan base is getting older and older, and I think all sports appreciate that. In order to live to see another day, you need to address what is a burgeoning and different area of interest for people.”
Perhaps by giving them the ability to light up a spot on the court.
“You've been looking for ways to engage in this game differently,” Roberts said. “Here you go.”