Basketball Motion Analysis
Grades 6 and 7, 6090min
In the Basketball Motion Analysis lesson, students use decomposition to break down a specific LeBron James play from the 2015 NBA Finals. Students practice drawing and interpreting speed graphs, as well as discuss whether computers and data can replace human basketball coaches. This lesson was inspired by a post by Savvas Tjortjoglou.
Topics addressed
 Speed / motion graphs
 Basketball strategy
 Primary CT concept: decomposition. Students begin by watching television footage of the play, which is full of sounds,
camera flashes, changing angles, hundreds of people, etc. We use decomposition to break down the play into something
more manageable, removing most of the players and all of the other distractors to focus solely on the ball and the four
most relevant players.
Students will be able to
 Define decomposition and give examples of breaking down difficult problems into smaller pieces
 Discuss how the NBA collects motion tracking data on players during games, and what that data is used for
 Interpret the general shape of speed graphs as they relate to someone moving in one dimension
 Create a speed graph to represent their observation of someone walking at varying speeds
 Debate the balance of computers and algorithms vs direct human observation and traditional coaching in basketball analysis
 Read specific values from a speed graph, including speed at specific times, maximum speeds and determining when a given speed is reached
Materials

Slides:

Student worksheet:
Prep

Read about how the NBA tracks its players during games on Wikipedia here
Suggested lesson breakdown
 510min – introduction to decomposition, examples outside of this lesson
 1520min – overview of how NBA tracks players and discussion of what that data can be used for
 10min – introduction to speed graphs, fullclass practice
 10min – analysis of the play we’re analyzing
 510min – interpreting speed graphs and discussing the answers to our questions
 20min – individual practice on worksheet
Common Core standards

CCSS.Math.Content.5.G.A
Graph points on the coordinate plane to solve realworld and mathematical problems.

CCSS.Math.Content.5.G.A.2
Represent real world and mathematical problems by graphing points in the first quadrant of the coordinate plane, and interpret coordinate values of points in the context of the situation.

CCSS.Math.Content.6.EE.C.9
Use variables to represent two quantities in a realworld problem that change in relationship to one another; write an equation to express one quantity, thought of as the dependent variable, in terms of the other quantity, thought of as the independent variable. Analyze the relationship between the dependent and independent variables using graphs and tables, and relate these to the equation. For example, in a problem involving motion at constant speed, list and graph ordered pairs of distances and times, and write the equation d = 65t to represent the relationship between distance and time.