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Michael Lewis' "The No-Stats All-Star"

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Jeremy Goodwin, Feb 15, 2009.

  1. Jeremy Goodwin

    Jeremy Goodwin Active Member


    I just finished reading it. I thought it was a great story. I like how it's a profile, but also explores the NBA's use of stats, which I didn't know much about.

    On a different subject, does the NYT still do PLAY? I used to get weekly e-mails for it and skimmed it. I haven't got it for a while. I could have stopped my subscription, or most likely the NYT cut it to save money.
  2. pseudo

    pseudo Well-Known Member

    The latter. Pretty sure there was a thread lamenting its demise ...
  3. I'll still take LeBron, thanks.
  4. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    Lewis is a terrific writer. But I find the idea that it takes rigorous statistical analysis to come up with the concept "we need somebody who can guard Kobe tough" laughable.
    Using numbers to bolster things every fan knows may make the guy who signs the checks feel better because it makes the game sound more like business, but I'm not sure what else it does.
    Which is not to take away from Battier's skills, nor Lewis'. Although just once I'd like to see him study a team that won a title in some sport.
  5. broadway joe

    broadway joe Guest

    Every team knows they need somebody to play Kobe tough, but I think Lewis' point is that not every team does the kind of advanced statistical analysis that helps allow a defender to play Kobe tough, and certainly very few players have the ability to absorb all of that information and draw on it at a split-second's notice the way Battier does. I would quibble with a few of the points Lewis made along the way, but I still think it was a fascinating read.
  6. MartinEnigmatica

    MartinEnigmatica Active Member

    This is what got me about it. While I liked what Lewis wrote, it seems like much of what Battier does a good coach would recognize, even if fans that are more prone to look at box scores do not. So why all the crazy metrics? It seems like the whole philosophy behind Battier's game is: force other players to make tough shots. Maybe the statistical analysis helps him definitively/more clearly know what he needs to do, so it's probably useful in that respect. But as far as seeing Battier's value as a player, I'd think coaches and those who have studied the game would be able to recognize it.
  7. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    The first page of that story was a long, hard slog. I have Moneyball on my bookshelf but I haven't read it yet. I'm not rushing to get to it next now.
  8. broadway joe

    broadway joe Guest

    Really? I felt just the opposite. I wasn't planning to read the whole thing, but it drew me in. In the second paragraph Battier says he doesn't try to talk to other players in warmups anymore because he figured out that "no one likes me very much." Right there, I had a feeling this wasn't going to be a by-the-numbers profile.
  9. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    I didn't like it because the premise, which Lewis gets to in graf 10, is scantly supported by the first 9 grafs. He writes:

    Here we have a basketball mystery: a player is widely regarded inside the N.B.A. as, at best, a replaceable cog in a machine driven by superstars. And yet every team he has ever played on has acquired some magical ability to win.

    Here Lewis makes two major assertions: 1) that Battier is systematically undervalued and 2) the implicit assertion that Battier is THE REASON that the teams he has played on have improved.

    To the first point he cites:

    1. Battier doesn't talk to players before games.
    2. Opposing players didn't give Battier enough credit in post-game quotes.
    3. Chris Weber and Gary Payton thought Kobe would work him over.
    4. Jerry West wanted to trade him.

    To the second point:

    1. Uhhh.... nothing

    Just seems like "Tipping Point" style faux science.
  10. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    Lewis is great at drawing out people. It was a wonderful piece. I only felt lots of what Houston is doing is reinventing the wheel, or rather, redesigning the wheel using the metric system.
  11. broadway joe

    broadway joe Guest

    I don't think he implies that Battier is THE reason for his teams' success, but rather an overlooked one. And he spends much of the story illustrating that -- how Battier will box out someone else's man when he sees that his man isn't trying to rebound, how he anticipates a teammates' steal and gets himself in position to receive the ball, how he often disrupts a scorer by getting his hand on the ball before the guy gets it into shooting position, etc. You can argue that Lewis makes too much of some of these things, but I don't think it's fair to say he presents nothing in defense of his assertion.
  12. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    To each is own, of course. I just thought the first page was a tough slog and didn't set up the story very well. My post referred to the first 9 paragraphs because they preceded what was I took to be the hook of the story without providing much support for the hook.
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