Inside Vivek Ranadivé’s tech-forward NBA franchise

Thanks to the efforts of Mumbai-born NBA franchise owner, Vivek Ranadivé, the Sacramento Kings are one of the league’s most technologically advanced teams. Though the Kings haven’t yet managed to sweep the NBA Finals to become league champions since relocating to Sacramento, Ranadivé’s advanced features have kept fans engaged.

As a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business, Ranadivé has ample experience working with technology. In fact, he’s the founder and former CEO of TIBCO Software and Teknekron Software Systems. The latter, a real-time computing company based in Palo Alto, California, is now worth billions.

But one of Ranadivé’s greatest passions is leading as chairman and co-owner of the Sacramento Kings franchise. Prior to purchasing majority stakes in the Kings in 2013, he was co-owner and vice chairman of the Golden State Warriors. His time with the Warriors made him the first NBA owner of Indian descent.

He quickly got to work bridging his experience in technology with his new team. In 2016, the Golden 1 Center opened in downtown Sacramento, replacing the outdated Sleep Train Arena. In addition to luxury suites and a dynamic seating configuration, the Golden 1 Center also featured solar panels that powered the facility, LEED Platinum certification, and the largest video board in the NBA at the time.

Clearly, Ranadivé had big plans for the Kings’ infrastructure. But before construction on the Golden 1 Center had been completed, Ranadivé had already made major waves in major league sports. In 2014, the Kings announced they would accept Bitcoin payments on Kings merchandise—and players could also be paid in the cryptocurrency.

A Future for the Kings

This came around the time efforts from multiple NFL players, from Russell Okung to Sean Culkin, fell flat. For Ranadivé, it was only the beginning of a full tech overhaul for his team.

As the first major league franchise owner in North American to incorporate Bitcoin capabilities into a stadium experience, many are waiting to see what Ranadivé’s next big idea will be. One possible venture is themed slots.

On the east coast, the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles became the first franchise to create official Eagles-themed casino games. In the US, slots are the most popular game; Ranadivé and other franchise owners could take a page out of Eagles owner Jeffry Lurie’s book in the future.

Unlike other games like poker and blackjack, slots typically include tiers for a wide range of stakes and software that work on various platforms. However, Ranadivé’s primary focus in recent years has been on building a winning team rather than expanding fan options. After all, if a team isn’t winning, fan interest is likely to wane—no matter how advanced a stadium is.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Technology Takes the Court

Despite Ranadivé’s dedication to revolutionizing the Kings’ home court technologies, this hasn’t lent to the team’s success. They haven’t qualified for the playoffs in the last five years, with a fifth-place finish in the Pacific Division last year. As an owner with experience in business and technology, Ranadivé has done all he can to elevate his team.

In addition to making the Golden 1 Centre one of the most advanced and eco-friendly in North America, Ranadivé has also strived to bring basketball to the masses. He was the first NBA owner to stream the regular season on Facebook Live to India. The Kings were also the first team to launch a VR broadcast, years ahead of the NBA’s League Pass endeavor.

But technology can’t win a season for the Kings. At the moment, there’s a boom in sports analytics technology, especially in the NBA. Though Ranadivé hasn’t publicly spoken about the services and products his team uses during practice, this could be the next area in store for an overhaul.

Around the world, elite sports teams use cameras and remote sensors to get a better idea of player statistics and team dynamics. Data technology helps highlight patterns that coaching staff may want to change, while pieces like heart rate monitors can help indicate a player’s readiness.

Even so, a perfect practice setup won’t be enough to translate to a playoff run. At the moment, the Kings seem to be heading in the right direction under head coach Luke Walton.

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