Forbes Names Ayasdi’s Muthu Alagappan to “30 Under 30: Sports” List

Muthu Alagappan

Ayasdi’s very own sports data junkie and Stanford Medical School student, Muthu Alagappan, has landed a coveted spot on Forbes “30 Under 30: Sports” list for his work redefining the positions on the basketball court.

Most striking was that Muthu was smack in between NBA superstar Deron Williams and six-time Olympian Gold Medalist Usain Bolt, and that this lineup also included Lebron James, Sidney Crosby, Kevin Durant, and Olympic Gymnastics Gold Champion Gabby Douglas.

So how in the world did Muthu get on this list?

 This story is fascinating. Muthu started as an Ayasdi Data Scientist intern in early 2012 with the goal to learn about how Topological Data Analysis (TDA) could be used in medicine. With a personal love for data, medicine and sports, Ayasdi was perfect fit so long that in addition to biological data, he could experiment with some sports data. Working with Ken Pomeroy who pioneered statistics in sports, Muthu was able to get the NBA Player Performance Data for the 2010-2011 season.

Using Topological Data Analysis (TDA), Muthu automatically discovered something that had never been contemplated in basketball — 13 player positions versus 5. Based on the data, TDA automatically characterized every player in the NBA into one of 13 positions. Uniquely, you could see things you would expect for superstars like Kobe Bryant, Lebron James or Kevin Durant, but fascinating, TDA discovered things that were unexpected, such as, groupings of five different types of ball-handling players instead of the one “Point Guard” position today.

The relevance of this insight: Find undervalued and undiscovered talent like Jeremy Lin, every GM’s wish.

Basketball Diagram

Soon later, Muthu presented his findings at the MIT Sports Conference where he won the Evolution of Sports award, and following this, numerous NBA, NBA and NFL teams have contacted him about how TDA can be applied to their talent acquisition process.

Congrats Muthu … on this day, you sit amongst superstars and future Hall of Famers!