May 31, 2012

This Site May Be Under Construction Again

     Upon reading my own blog the other day, it finally hit me that reading white text on a black background is kind of hard and really distracting (or my own writing really bores me).  So I'll be playing around with different color combinations in the coming weeks, and once I find one I like, I'll have to go back and change all the yellow text that I had added to match the black background.  So if you read a post and it looks weird, that's why.

May 30, 2012

Adventures In NBA 2K11: Suggestions, Anyone?

     I'd love to start an Association mode on NBA 2K11 and give updates on it on this blog.  And I'd like to know, what should I do on the game that would make this remotely interesting?

Adventures In NBA 2K11: Self-Esteem

     You know how I know I have self-esteem issues?  I was adding myself into an upcoming draft class.  I wanted to be a believable rookie, so I came up with percentiles representing the skill level I thought my player should have in each attribute compared to the rookies at his position and compared to all the rookies.  I then used a formula to change those percentiles so I wouldn't be so awful.  (The last two sentences are how I know I'm a math nerd.)  After coming up with the appropriate ratings and plugging them in, my player's overall rating was.........65.  Late first round territory.  What kind of gamer goes to create themselves, fudges the numbers to make themselves better, and still ends up with the equivalent of Craig Brackins?

Adventures In NBA 2K11: Realism

     There was a moment the other day when the ball rolled out of bounds and bounced off the courtside seats, and right as that happened the referee went to pick up the ball and missed.  Man, these video game developers think of everything.

May 24, 2012

DJ Steve Porter Wins A Webby, And First Take Goes Tebow-Free (But Not Really)

Yes, I've used this picture three times.  Don't judge.  And what the heck ever happened to Dana Jacobson?
     First of all, congratulations to DJ Steve Porter on winning the Webby Award for the Best Video Remix/Mashup of 2011, thanks to this video.  I've been a huge fan of DJ Steve's remixes since "Press Hop" was featured on SportsNation.  The quality of the sound in his videos is awesome, despite the fact that he's changing the two main aspects of the voices, length and pitch.  Add in perfectly synched videos and excellent beats behind the voices, and you have some of the most well-crafted videos on the Internet.

     My favorite by far is this remix of the Bart Scott "Can't Wait!" interview.  As a piece of music, it's fantastic.  The background is melodic and beautiful, and it perfectly captures the feeling of the interview itself.  As a piece of comedy, it's fantastic.  There's the part at 0:24 where Bart's voice goes up.  There's the part at 0:49 where Sal Paolantonio's voice gets in on the action.  There's the ending where Bart Scott "flies" backwards.  It's a generally funny video to watch.  If this video isn't your thing, take a look at the Ray Lewis mashup (gets the adrenaline going), the Ochocinco/T.O. mashup (T.O. pointing at 2:18 makes my day), or the aforementioned "Press Hop" (just the best sports press conferences ever set to music).

     And because Steve Porter's Webby-winning entry featured Skip Bayless, star of ESPN's First Take, praising Tim Tebow, First Take decided to celebrate by doing one episode of Tebow-Free TV.  Which apparently meant Skip was not allowed to say the name of or talk about Tim Tebow, while everyone else on the show picked up the slack and then some.  Despite the erroneous title, the episode was a huge success.  Stephen A. Smith took tons of subtle and not-so-subtle jabs at Tebow, at one point looking at his phone and saying, "I just got a text from Tim Tebow.  It says, 'Can you teach me how to throw?'"  Skip made all kinds of great faces and made a point to almost say Tim Tebow but instead rant about things like Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, and T-bone steaks.  And somehow, despite making a conscious effort not to say Tebow's name, Skip still couldn't go two hours without doing so (he botched the name T. Boone Pickens).

     Yet even though the episode provided me with many laughs, I don't understand how a two-hour show with 124 Tebow references can be considered Tebow-Free TV.  Why not go completely Tebow-free (but get really close to mentioning him) in the manner of Sports Illustrated's Favre-free issue after his arrival in Minnesota?  You're telling me the First Take crew couldn't have come up with the debate equivalent of this gem about the competition for the Vikings' backup quarterback job?  I think they would have done an awesome job of it.

May 18, 2012

Dwyane Wade Scored Only 5 Points In Miami's Game 3 Loss To Indiana

     I can't wait to see how Skip Bayless tries to pin this loss on LeBron!  This will be hilarious for sure!

May 17, 2012

How Much Does Winning Depend On Clutch Performance?

     LeBron James' two misses from the free throw line late in Miami's Game 2 loss to Indiana resurrected the discussion about how much James folds under pressure and, more importantly, how much that quality devalues his other accomplishments.  (Skip Bayless and Rob Parker believe he shouldn't have been named the MVP for that very reason.)

     A few weeks ago, when pretty much the same thing was happening (when isn't it?), I decided to test whether or not performance in the last 4 minutes of a game affects a team's chances of winning more than any other 4-minute block in the game.  It didn't make mathematical sense that one 4-minute section would somehow influence the score more than another, but I wanted to give this theory a fair deal.

     I looked at the Atlanta Hawks' non-overtime scores (they were about average in PPG), and they had an average of about 94.5 and a standard deviation of around 12.  The standard deviation was most likely too high since scores varied because of opposing defenses as well as randomness, so I estimated that the deviation against an average team would be about 7.  The specific numbers aren't a huge deal for the first part of this experiment since I wasn't looking at specific point values, just which team was better.

     I simulated 500 of these "games" and separated them into wins and losses.  Then for each third of a quarter I found out how often the winning team outperformed the losing team.  (A tie counted as half-and-half).  The result was this graph:

     For those who are confused, this is what the graph means:  In 60% of the team's wins, they outscored the other team in the last 4 minutes (the third third) of the first quarter.  In 40% of the team's losses, they outscored the other team in that same time span, and overall they outscored the opponent 50% of the time in that 4-minute block.

     The important thing to notice on this graph is that each line is at roughly the same spot no matter what time period you look at, and these lines will get flatter and flatter when more games are played. 

     What does this mean?  All points in the game are equally important.  The ability to perform in the clutch is only important if your players are both good enough and bad enough to get your team into such a situation.  In the simulation, the teams went into the 4th quarter separated by 5 or fewer points 46% of the time, and went into the final 4 minutes separated by 5 or fewer points 42% of the time.  And given the numbers used for the simulation, the margin would be 3 or less with 24 seconds left only 27.5% of the time.  Since half of those situations would involve the leading team having the ball and being able to make it a two-possession game, only about 15% of games between equal teams should end with a meaningful last-second shot.

     The reason LeBron James is the MVP is that in the other 85% of games, he plays so well that the team wins a lot of games without having to make a last-second shot. If winning is as important as everyone says, then clutchness cannot be.

May 15, 2012

This Is The Top Of Michael Jordan's Page, And It's Awesome

1.  In the picture he has this confused look, like someone just said something really weird.

2.  Why in the world would I want to know his Twitter handle?

3.  Holy crap!  He's 49?!

4.  His run as Bobcats owner must be so bad that they felt it would be wrong to include it.

5.  The best part of this, by far, is the advertisement at the bottom.  That has to be the worst comparison in an ad I've ever seen.  How does being one of the top 5 NBA players ever have anything at all to do with being not the best law firm, not the best personal injury and civil litigation law firm, but the best personal injury and civil litigation law firm in San Diego?

6.  And why would a law firm that only serves San Diego spend over $1,000 to buy the rights to a page viewed all over the country and the world?  It blows my mind.  Thank you, Brandon Smith Law.

Why Using Championships, Playoff Performances, And Clutch Moments To Judge A Player's Greatness Is Ridiculous

     When you're a professional athlete, the thing you want more than anything else is to win a championship.  MVP awards, scoring titles, All-Star games, and things like that are nice, but nothing sounds better than celebrating with your teammates after claiming the rest to be called the best team in the league.  I understand that.  The problem is that when we try to judge how great a player is, we tend to use that same logic.  All that matters is winning.  As a result, any analysis of a player's level of excellence leads to a discussion of three things:  championships, playoff performances, and production in clutch moments.  However, those three criteria are horrible for distinguishing which players were great and which players were not.  Here are three reasons why:

1.  They arbitrarily ignore/devalue a ton of information.

     One of the main rules in the field of statistics is to get the largest sample size you can.  And sports is all about statistics.  As much as people try to explain any variation in points, yards, or hits from game to game, some portion of it is pure randomness.  And that means when you look at more games, a player's numbers will be closer to their true averages, what they would be if the player played an infinite amount of games.

     Let's take Michael Jordan, for example, since his existence is pretty much the reason for this post.  In his career he played 1251 games, 1072 in the regular season and 179 in the playoffs.  Right away, the discussion goes to his performance in playoff games.  Now we're basically throwing away 1072 games worth of information in favor of 179 games that happened to fall in April, May, and June, and are against a set of teams that don't properly represent the whole group of teams in the NBA.  There's no way that doing this can give us more accurate information on how good an athlete was.

     Okay, now we're talking championships.  Provided that the previous rounds had gone the way Jordan wanted, we're looking at 35 Finals games worth of data.  Now we're down to less than 3% of all the games he played in his career.  Which, again, is bad.

     How about everyone's favorite, clutch performances?  This is the Skip Bayless method of arguing, and it annoys me to no end.  Every discussion revolves around one or two moments, usually in the fourth quarter or overtime, that perfectly illustrate the argument being made.  Let's assume that there are 10 crunch-time shots taken by every player in their career that affect our feeling of whether or not they are "clutch".  Jordan attempted over 29,000 field goals in his career.  Now we're looking at 0.03% of those and trying to learn something from it?  If everybody takes 10 crucial shots, somebody is bound to make all 10 just by chance.  It doesn't mean anything.

2.  They're very ambiguous.
     Robert Horry has 7 championship rings, but gets very little credit for them.  On five of those teams he wasn't a primary starter, and he doesn't get recognition for starting on the other two (I had no idea he ever was a full-time starter until now when I looked it up).  Why so little love?  Because he wasn't very important to those teams (except for rare occasions).

     Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, was an All-NBA player for the 2000, 2001, and 2002 championship Laker teams.  Yet when L.A. took on Boston for the 2008 title, the analysts all said Kobe needed to win a title without Shaquille O'Neal, that Kobe's first 3 championships were because of Shaq.  So does Kobe have 5 championships?  Or does he really only have two, because the other three somehow don't count?  And what about Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, and Ron Artest, who were all major factors in the Lakers' two most recent championships?  Do they get credit for those titles, or are we somehow to believe it was all Kobe?  The nuances of assigning championship to individual players are so intricate and nonsensical that there's no way it can have any value as an indicator of greatness.

     And let's not forget about playoff games in general (I almost did).  By most accounts, LeBron is considered to be a poor performer in the playoffs.  Yet he's had some remarkable games in rounds as late as the Conference Finals, and tends to play consistently well in every round of the playoffs besides the two NBA Finals series he's been in.  So are we supposed ignore all the earlier rounds?  Only the Finals count as playoff games?

     And don't get me started on "clutch".  What does "clutch" even mean?  Is it high-pressure playoff games?  Because LeBron's had just as many good ones as bad ones.  Is it any close game in the fourth quarter?  Because I've heard about a bunch of huge fourth quarters from LeBron, and still he has a reputation for non-clutchness.  Is it the last five minutes of a five-point game?  Is it the last shot of the game?  I have no idea what "clutch" actually refers to, and I'm guessing for everyone else it only means whatever will get their point across.

3.  They leave out a lot of other factors.

     This is mostly for championships.  One player cannot win a championship.  You need the right amount of good starters; a good bench; the right balance of scoring, passing, rebounding, and defense between all those players; good on-court chemistry between said players; and a coach that knows what to do in every situation.  No one player, no matter how good they are, can make up for a lack of all those things, and therefore, no one player deserves all the credit for any championship.

     The same thing goes for playoff games.  You can't make the playoffs with a lousy team.  You can't play well in the Conference Semifinals unless your team is good enough to win the first round.  You can't play well in the Conference Finals unless your team is good enough to win the Conference Semifinals.  You can't play well in the NBA Finals unless your team is good enough to win the Conference Finals.  And you can't win a championship without the proper supporting cast.  That's not even mentioning other factors like playoff opponents and injuries.  Everything has to be just right for any player to win a title.

May 14, 2012

5 Players That Were Better Than Michael Jordan

     You can't escape him.  Watch ESPN for any amount of time, and his name will come up.  And every time, it will be followed or preceded by a quick "the greatest ever" or the longer "the best to ever play the game" or something of that nature.  All current NBA players are compared to him whenever they do something good, and always in a way that degrades the current player.  "LeBron was good last night, but Michael Jordan once scored 100 points in Game 7 of the NBA Finals with one shoe untied and being defended by Chuck Norris.  LeBron isn't looking so good now, is he?"  Every commentator does this.  And nobody better debate the obvious fact of MJ's greatness, lest they be hit with a chorus of things like "He has 6 rings!" or "He was SO CLUTCH!!!!"

     I can't take it anymore.  Let me spice up this nearly non-existent debate.  Michael Jordan is not the greatest player in NBA history.  In fact, here are 5 players that were better than His Airness:

1.  Wilt Chamberlain
     My personal pick for best NBA player ever.  He is the only player to actually score 100 points in a game (as opposed to the exaggerated and completely fake MJ credential I gave above).  In the 1959-60 season, he scored 37.6 points per game and recorded 27 rebounds per game.  Both were league records at the time, and he won the MVP award.  Oh, did I forget to mention that was his rookie season?!  In the 1961-62 season, Chamberlain scored an insane 50.4 points per game.  No other player has even scored 40 points per game for a whole season.  That year, he also led the league in free throws made, despite making only 61.3% of his attempts that year.

     Not only did Chamberlain perform at a ridiculous level;  he also had amazing stamina.  Chamberlain averaged over 42 minutes a game in every year of his career, and was in the top 3 in the league in minutes played in every season except 1969-70, when he only played in 12 games.  He would finish with 7 scoring titles, 11 rebounding titles, 2 championships, and the league's current rebounding record.  Professional basketball was literally too easy for Wilt Chamberlain, and if you were shown his stats without knowing who he was, you would think everything was made up.  Michael Jordan was great, but Wilt Chamberlain was unreal.

2.  Magic Johnson
     Michael Jordan was pretty selfish as a basketball player.  Wilt Chamberlain was also, but did it better.  Magic Johnson, on the other hand, was the prototypical team player.  Let's start with his passing ability:  he's the NBA's all-time leader in assists per game, with more than twice as many per game as Jordan.  How about defense?  He's 14th in NBA history with 1.9 steals per game, only about half a steal behind Jordan.  Even his scoring ability was better than Jordan's.  Jordan's scoring numbers were mostly a product of the fact that he shot a lot.  But if you look at points per field goal attempt, a better measure of scoring prowess, Magic outscored Michael 1.48 to 1.32.  Add in the fact that Magic Johnson could play any position effectively, and you have a much more well-rounded player than Mr. Jordan.

3.  Bill Russell
     For those freaks who drool over Michael Jordan's 6 championships, Bill Russell has 11.  So there.  End of argument.

     For those of you who need something more, let me start with rebounding.  Russell had some of the best rebounding numbers ever.  He's second in league history with 22.5 boards per game.  He had 5 rebounding titles in his career, and would have had 10 if not for the aforementioned Wilt Chamberlain (greatest ever).  Russell is also the best defender in NBA history, if you believe the Defensive Win Shares statistics.  For those who like scoring, Russell was in the top 5 in field goal percentage for 4 consecutive seasons.  He was even a top-10 assist guy in 4 different seasons.

     Russell wasn't much of a scorer, but he gave his teams some of the best defense and rebounding the league has ever seen.  And his teams were grateful for it at least 11 times.
4.  John Stockton
     Just a repeat of the Magic Johnson argument.  We all know about Stockton's fabulous passing.  But his defense is very underrated, as he has the most steals in NBA history.  And even though Stockton only scored 13.1 points per game, he shot 52% from the field (very impressive for a 6'1" player) and 38% from behind the arc, both better percentages than Jordan had.  For those who like using team wins to judge individual players, let me point out that Stockton's Jazz team made the Finals twice, and more impressively, they finished above .500 every year he was on the team.  All-time great passing, all-time great defense, and a wonderful shooting touch.  What more could you ask for from your point guard?

5.  Hakeem Olajuwon
     Hakeem The Dream was probably the best big play defender in NBA history.  He has the most blocks in league history, and is 8th all-time in the NBA in steals, a ridiculous number for a center.  He also snagged a not-too-shabby 11.1 rebounds per game, earning two rebounding titles in his career.  And as far as scoring goes, he scored more points than all but 8 players in NBA history, made 51% of his shots from the field, and even made 20% of his three pointers.  In addition, Olajuwon won an MVP award and two championships in his time with the Rockets.  Hakeem was the perfect all-around center who could do just about anything you asked him to.

     Now do you see?  Michael Jordan is not some unsurpassable being who can do no wrong.  Because he's already been surpassed.  It's just that with all the scoring and championships and iconic moments, nobody noticed it.  Consider this your wake-up call.

Disclaimer:  I'd probably put Jordan behind Chamberlain, Stockton, and Magic, but ahead of Russell and Olajuwon.  This whole article was just meant to prove a point, and I think I did a pretty good job of it.  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments section below.