Technology entrepreneur John Carter had served as a business leader for many years — he sold a successful software company and ran a multi-million division of a large manufacturing enterprise — but his first passion was always basketball. A former high school and college player, he heard of a product being developed by a Silicon Valley physicist that aimed to optimize a player’s shooting percentage. Curiosity and a love for the game prompted him to learn more.
Alan Marty’s prototype was a 2D scanning system that used optical analysis and machine vision to analyze the arc of the ball. Marty, also a venture capital investor, designed it to help his high school daughter improve her game. The first iteration, launched in the early 2000s, had five patents.
Over 10 years and a dozen-plus more patents later, Carter now serves as CEO of the Alabama-based company formed to market and sell the product, Noah Basketball; Marty serves as chairman. Along the way, they’ve collected a team and Board that includes a NASA Deputy Director, former Apple VP, and multiple Ph.Ds.
They have gone through many iterations since the original product, now producing an advanced Shooting System and Data Service (called Noahlytics) that takes in and analyzes data in real-time from sensors installed on the court.
The name Noah is a reference to the biblical Noah’s Ark story, as the original theory — since proven correct millions of times over — behind Marty’s product was the ideal “arc” of the ball, which is 45 degrees exactly. They’ve also determined that the best depth for a shot is 11 inches from the front edge of the rim.
According to Carter, the Noah Basketball system is now used by hundreds of teams for training, including about half the NBA (the Golden State Warriors, Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Clippers to name a few). They also count many college basketball teams, including half the SEC, and hundreds of high schools.
Georgia Tech installed the system last month following other schools like the University of Virginia, University of Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Auburn University. It costs about $5,000 plus a small monthly fee.
Carter says the system is fairly simple to actually implement in a court. The team installs a sensor 13 feet above the rim — it can tell where the shot was initiated from and measures arc and depth. The sensor connects to a computer that analyses the data, processes it, and provides verbal feedback for the player to improve his game.
That data is also stored online where a coach or player can access it anytime to build plays and observe trends.
The company collects a massive amount of data — employee Lance Cooper says they analyze about 100,000 shots a day. Carter says this totals to 23 million shots throughout the company’s lifetime.
Moving forward, they are continuing to refine the product — Carter says they plan to implement facial recognition technology so that multiple players can practice shooting at once. During a scrimmage, the system would ideally be able to identify which player shot the ball and provide personalized feedback.
Entirely self-funded and based in Athens, Alabama, Noah Basketball employs about a dozen. Despite their success, Cooper says the attitude of the founding team, first developed when they were testing the product with kids on a driveway hoop, remain today.
“The values that were integral in the creation of Noah then are still of utmost importance to the employees and board members today. Although Noah products have evolved and changed over time, the passion and vision behind the system never will,” says Cooper.
“From the beginning, with what started as a rake and a ladder in a driveway while Alan Marty and his daughter were playing basketball, the birth and success of Noah has centered on the love for the game and desire to make basketball better.”