If you've been paying attention to any of our Friday Fives, you know by now that few things in sports excite us more than a high-flying dunk. So when ESPN asked us to put together a Sport Science on Memphis Grizzlies' superstar Ja Morant, we were ecstatic. The only question was, how could we best put Morant's athleticism on full display?
We knew that we had to tackle a few different phases of the All-Star point guard's game: his poster dunks, his circus lay-ups, and, as of recently, his ability to swat any shot in sight. Starting with his most recent jaw-dropping block against the Lakers, we dove into the science behind his defensive prowess. Naturally, it started with his leaping ability, but we wanted to expand beyond his vertical. By using a dome graphic, we were able to help the audience visualize just how much space Morant can occupy on the defensive end - it's a real no-fly zone. Then, we used center Clint Capela to show just how abnormal the Memphis guard's range really is.
Our 3D model helped to make the transition between offense and defense, as well as introduce some more in-depth scientific concepts about Morant's game. It was an interesting way to visually bring in propulsion, which is critical for both his blocking and dunking abilities. More importantly, we could use the model to help illustrate how proprioception fuels his scoring around the rim. Proprioception is likely a brand new concept for viewers, and so we thought it was important to have the skeletal and muscular models of Morant to give the section a more dynamic feel. The red sensor points, as well as the use of the "dome" graphic, helped to bring this difficult concept to life, as well.
The real fun of the segment is the hypothetical dunking portion. Just how far could Ja really dunk from? Again, the 3D model proved critical, as it's truly the only way to show Morant "dunking" from beyond the free throw line. Most people have seen that type of parabolic trajectory graphic, but it is definitely much more interesting with an NBA player flying through the air. Morant already does superhuman things on a nightly basis, but this was a great opportunity to push that even further.
We already knew Ja Morant was doing some truly ridiculous things on the basketball court. But digging into the science only made his accomplishments even more impressive. Hopefully, we get to see him take the stage in the Dunk Contest sometime soon.