2016 Sports, Health and Wellness, Large Newsroom winner

Sports Visualization

Judges comments

Visual storytelling that is both informative and playful.

About the Project

Sports visualization encompasses all kinds of techniques and story types, from data analysis to 3D animation, from video to audio and still photography.

In the piece “The Top Tennis Player in the World Started Here,” we set out to capture the diverse, global nature of the sport by finding the childhood courts of some of today’s top players: Where did they first play, and who taught them when they were picking up a racket for the first time?

To do it, we had to track down the locations of these courts and find photographers and videographers who could be dispatched to these areas, many of them remote. Sania Mirza played on courts in India made with cow dung; Novak Djokovic’s childhood courts in Serbia were later bombed; Andy and Jamie Murray begged their mother to find tournaments for them in Scotland. We also wanted to interview someone who knew the players when they started at these courts: Roger Federer’s first coach in Switzerland, Garbiñe Muguruza’s coach in Venezuela and Djokovic’s uncle in Serbia were just a few.

A women’s World Cup semifinal matched the offensive juggernaut of the German team against the stingy defense of the American squad. After weeks of competition, there was a tournament’s worth of data to help analyze and preview the much-anticipated match. Mining the data offered a glimpse into not only the tendencies and nuances of the teams but the strengths and weaknesses of individual players.

Another offensive juggernaut in another part of the sports world, Stephen Curry, continued his dominance as the N.B.A.’s most prolific 3-point shooter. As the piece points out, over the past 30 years the number of 3-point field goals has trended steadily upward. If that trend were projected into the future, Curry’s 402 made 3-pointers this past season would not have been expected until the mid 2030s.

We often try to give our viewers a sense of what it is like to be on the field of play and right in the middle of the action. As part of our United States Open tennis coverage, we gave our audience that opportunity. What is it like to try to return a 150 m.p.h. serve? We obtained speed and trajectory data to create a real-life sense of just how fast professional serves are and how little time players have to react to them.

And from the fan’s perspective, there is often a moment when they cannot believe what they’re seeing, and, of course, they are powerless to alter the outcome. That’s the premise of the piece “A Front Row Seat. To Misery.”

Chang W. Lee’s picture captured the Royals’ Eric Hosmer scoring the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 5 of the World Series. The Mets fans illuminated in the background saw the game — and the series — slip away from them, and all they could do was to react, painfully.

We thought it would make a great story if we could share what all those anguished faces were thinking at that moment. With a little social media reporting, we identified them and got in touch.