Data Science in the NBA... and a review of Harry Styles' new album

Published 15 Jun 2022

By Diwa Ahilan

In this blog post, Diwa takes a look at two things he’s particularly passionate about - Data Science in the NBA, and Harry Styles’ new album.

Data Science in the NBA

Data Science. When I hear that term, often what comes to mind is a lab assistant pouring the contents of an excel spreadsheet into a test tube. While this may be a bizarre personal association, I think it does convey the common sentiment that Data Science is quite confusing and dull. Cleaning data, crunching numbers, and creating visualisations in a corporate 9-5 doesn’t really light a fire under my posterior, but is unfortunately a common and bitter reality, which sometimes makes me second guess my career choice.

That is until I found out the role it plays in my favourite sports league, the NBA.

You may know the Superstar players, the Head Coach and even the rookies on the bench - but few know about the mercenaries on the data analytics team of each franchise. These mathematical wizards process the video data of each game which is recorded at 25 FPS, to construct a holistic statistical overview of each player and their overall tendencies. This allows Data Scientists to come up with team strategies - for example, how to guard a pick and roll given two players.

The pick and roll in basketball is an offensive play in which a player sets a human shield (screen) for a teammate so that he can shake off his defender. The stats tell us how often a player will pass, drive or shoot a 3-pointer from this position, allowing the Data Scientist and Coach to devise the appropriate defensive scheme.

Pick and Roll

If we zoom out and look at the big picture, Data Science in the NBA has also made a profound change on the way the game is being played today. Teams are scoring more threes than they used to. This is because despite it being a lower percentage shot than those inside the arc, it is worth more…so the trade-off is worth it. That being said, Steph Curry helped too (increase in gradient in 2015 - when they won their first championship).

Rise of the Three Point Shot

Former Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach Brett Brown had this to say about the impact of Data Science on team performance:

“It plays a significant role in our success and many others… before games we get an analytical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents, assess play calls…ones you should do more and ones you should avoid, and I think it’s going to continue to grow and help shape our organisation and coaching staff’s beliefs.”

The effect that this discipline has had on one of my favourite sports, really changes my perspective on my degree and future career. I’m sure that as the Warriors and Celtics clash in the finals (probably the most even matchup in a while), their respective Data Science teams are working just as hard to give them that much needed edge. Data Science can be fun and impact things you really care about, and I guess that’s what I want to build towards in the future. I wanted to share this because I thought it could inspire some of you. I hope it did. Warriors in 6.


Harry Styles’ Harry’s House: A Review

Harry Styles was always known as the charismatic pretty boy that stood out like a beacon in One Direction. So, after leaving the boyband, Harry released two meticulously curated albums that sought to prove his legitimacy as an artist. They wore their soft rock influences proudly and affectionately, paving his way to go from former teen idol to a modern-day rockstar. Harry just released his third solo album, Harry’s House. And I think it’s pretty good.

Harry's House Album Cover

The album begins with the goofy beat of “Music For a Sushi Restaurant” where Harry sings equally goofy lyrics like “Green eyes, fried rice/I could cook an egg on you” carrying on the innuendo that gave him so much success in his former hit “Watermelon Sugar”. “Late night talking”(‘s) funk complements this well, expressing the innocence of talking to someone new and his desire to ‘treat them with kindness’ in the pre-chorus “If you’re feeling down I just want to make you happier baby”. And whilst for most of this album Harry doesn’t really stray from generic ideas like these, there are splotches of self-reflection and substance that make this album a worthwhile late-night listen.

In “Little Freak”, Harry recites wistfully “I’m not worried about where you are/Or who you go home to/I’m just thinking about you”. This is in strong contrast to the desperate longing he expressed in his ballad “From the dining table” on his first album, where he mumbles “Even the phone misses your calls”. He’s growing. Or maybe I’m just over analysing.

“Matilda” is probably the strongest song on the album, and you would’ve seen it featured on a bunch of Instagram stories accompanied by a flock of crying emojis. But it is a touching song. With only the backdrop of a guitar strum (and probably some reverb), Harry gently consoles a woman whose family didn’t love her, in “You don’t have to be sorry for doing it on your own”. In this intimate ballad, Harry goes beyond grace and empathy to the subject extending his compassion to audience members who grew up in abusive households.

After a bouquet of light daydreamy songs including one that’s actually called “Daydreaming”, our boy caps it off with some interesting choices. In “Boyfriends” Harry/his producer takes a slowed sample of his former-hit “Golden” and opens “Boyfriends/They think you’re so easy”. Some might say this alludes to Harry’s struggle of dating men… but given his lack of deep personal exploration in the album, I’d say he’s more likely just pandering to his largely female audience. Finally comes my favourite song on the list, the K-drama OST-esque ballad “Love of my life” where Harry talks about loving his former home England, but it could also be interpreted as an emotional heart-break song. Accompanied by warm chords and synths, the song leaves you feeling nostalgic. And in some way, it seems like an appropriate end.

Overall, the album isn’t revolutionary. You aren’t going to feel like you know Harry Styles any more than you already do. With greater creative control Harry seems to have been too preoccupied experimenting with his sound and less on personal exploration, wearing his rock influences more lightly. Nonetheless, there were moments… and I’d say enough moments, that made you feel warm and fuzzy inside. And that’s all you need, right? 7/10.

Tags: Data Science Applications of Data Science Opinion