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Facial Recognition: The Emotional Key To The Next NBA Championship?

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Whether you call it Moneyball, NBA 3.0, or advanced analytics, sports teams are always looking for that edge to win a championship, but could the key to being the best be a winning smile?

Ahead of this year's NBA draft the Milwaukee Bucks turned to a facial coding expert to read potential draft picks to determine if they have the right emotional attributes to help the team. The Bucks were so impressed with the work, they're now using the same technology to look at the whole team.

Dr. Dan Hill has worked with numerous marketers and Fortune 500 clients as the facial coding expert and President of Sensory Logic. But could those techniques used in the business world be translated to basketball?

"As Charles Darwin was first to realize: In your face you best reflect and communicate your emotions. So recall, persuasion, motivated act; all those things come through the face. It's the only place in the body where the muscle is attached right to the skin, so it's quick real-time data," Hill said.

When it comes to the draft, coaches and team officials are looking for if the players have a motor.
"Your emotions turn on when something matters to you. Once you get that big fat contract, are you still motivated to be a champion? Do you really want to strive to get to that next level?"

Hill said then it's time to move on the seven core emotions. "Sadness always worries me in an athlete. It slows you down both physically and mentally. If you're not going to take in the playbook so well, you're not going to be able to get down the field, court or baseball diamond. Contempt is an emotion that might show you're not very coachable; on the other hand it might show you've got a lot of cocky confidence, which can be nice," he said.

Hill said every emotion has its own flavor and that they have to look at the whole mix. For NBA games he's been asked to sit courtside to make these types of emotional assessments, but he's also viewed taped interviews.

In the case of the Milwaukee Bucks it took about 10 hours of work and looking at video from potential prospects.

"I'd like them to have a little bit of anxiety as strange as that sounds, but I don't want them to have so much they're going to choke. I want some anger, some determination, some resolve, but a hothead is going to worry me. Basically you've got 43 muscles in the face, they correspond to about 21 different muscle movements called action units, which I love because actions speaks louder than words. As George Orwell said: by the age of 50 a man is a face he deserves. Well, a 21-year-old prospect has a face he deserves as well."

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