An Honest Review of the Wilson X Connected Basketball

For those of you who are unaware, Wilson has brought IOT to the world of sports. For better or for worse, it stuck an accelerometer in a basketball and trained it to classify missed and made shots.

Now, perhaps you’re asking yourself “why would you ever consider buying a $200 basketball”? I know I certainly didn’t ask myself that question 2 weeks ago when I bought this basketball, so just humor me here and pretend you did. Through this review I hope to convince you why someone would consider purchasing the Wilson X Connected Basketball and then convince why no sane person should make that decision.

There are no moving parts inside the ball and it feels like you are shooting a regular ball.

Feel

For starters, the basketball shoots like your average 29.5" regulation basketball. It’s a bit heavier than, say, your Wilson Evolution, but it’s nothing noticeable. The grip is good for an indoor ball, but who’s to say if that holds up to wear and tear. For all of the technology inside the ball, the good ol’ team at Wilson really did their work ensuring that you would not feel the extra baggage tacked on. There are no moving parts inside the ball and it feels like you are shooting a regular ball.

Technology

The ball does what it says it does. It tracks your makes an misses on a rim: I found the accuracy to hover somewhere around ~85%. The ball was able to delineate bank shots and shots that rolled around on the rim with surprising accuracy. A small proportion of shots were misclassified, but it was not significant in the long run and definitely to be expected.

In other words, the app does not help you determine where your “hot spots” are on the court.

The App

The ball comes with a paired iPhone application (with an Android version coming soon), with four game modes:

  • Free Range: Track your made/missed shots anywhere on the court. Although it’s interesting to turn this on before you shoot around, it’s disappointing that the only information you get is how far you are from the rim when you hit/miss a shot; in other words, the app does not help you determine where your “hot spots” are on the court. As someone who shoots a lot, this was particularly disappointing.
  • Free Throw: This mode tracks your made/missed free throws. It’s useful if you don’t want to keep track of how you’re shooting while you’re shooting.
  • Buzzer Beater: The app counts down and you’re supposed to make a “clutch”, last-second shot. I thought including something like this was apt, because it showed that the Wilson team did their research into the usage pattern of casual players everywhere: who doesn’t remember counting down 5..4..3..2..1 in their driveway to a last-second shot in their driveway hoop?
  • Game Time: Here, the app simulates a “game” where you can shoot to score points against a simulated opponent. I liked to use this mode to practice 1-on-1 moves.
It captures the imagination of the casual fan, selling the idea that somehow knowing more about how well you perform will make you better.

Overall Impressions

This ball capitalizes on the wave of IOT products that has been hitting the consumer market over the last two years. It captures the imagination of the casual fan, selling the idea that somehow knowing more about how well you perform will make you better.

By far, the greatest weakness of this ball is the fact that Wilson has created a closed system around it.

Although I suppose having data in the form of Free Throw and Field Goal Percentages serves as a base of concrete evidence for improvement, as a recreational player who wanted to use this as a tool to get better, the Wilson X Basketball simply does not get the job done.

By far, the greatest weakness of this ball is the fact that Wilson has created a closed system around it: it would have been a great value, even perhaps at $200 if there was a public API. I’m not saying that someone would want to connect the ball to a Phillips Hue and have a ball bounce turn on a light, but here the consumer is basically entirely dependent on the Wilson X team to build more on the app and add new features and updates to the ball. I don’t quite like that.

This is just not the right time to buy a nascent, trendy product like this.

Overall, I just think a price point of $200 is a tad too high for the average consumer (which is 5–10x the price of a normal basketball), especially for something that suffers extensively from wear and tear with regular use like a basketball. None of the app modes provided by Wilson gave me any information I couldn’t have learned with tedious bookkeeping; I think the 94fifty basketball does a much better job of providing useful data here. The only disadvantage with this product is that you have to hook up a separate net to track makes and misses.

This is just not the right time to buy a nascent, trendy product like this.