How about Chris Bosh? Chris oh oh oh Chris Oh oH bOSHHH
While you agree that psychological effects do have a significant impact on performance and the outcome of games, are you saying that we really can’t say anything meaningful about this impact and the way players respond to them? If so, I disagree with that.
Let me first say a few things. First, I think judgments about these issues are going to be heavily subjective—and not strictly objective (i.e., mathematical and scientific). I don’t see a problem with this as long as the people making the judgments are a) knowledgeable about the sport; b) experienced (watched, coached and/or played in a lot of games) and; c) keen observers with strong analytical skills (including not being heavily biased for or against one of the teams in question). Second, as implied by the first point, the judgments don’t have the kind of precision we expect in math or the hard sciences, but that doesn’t mean these judgments are completely arbitrary or without merit. Hopefully, the rest of my post will make a compelling case for this.
One of the primary ways to evaluate an athlete’s handling of pressure is to compare the way a the athlete typically performs in a similar situation. Obviously, one has to have a decent knowledge of a player’s typical performance in these situations. One also should know the way the player performs against the specific team, including individual defenders. One would also have to be consider and rule out alternate explanations—e.g., is the player injured? Without this knowledge (along with general knowledge of the sport—including statistics, the rules and strategy, etc.), one’s opinion about the “clutchness” of a player is suspect, imo.
But if the person has this knowledge, I think they can make compelling judgments about a player. In a previous post, you asked some specific questions that I want to respond to to illustrate (hopefully) the points I just made.
Did James miss a shot because he choked or was it just the same sort of miss which happens all the time?
If we’ve seen enough of James we could have a good idea if this is a shot he typically makes or not. Still, it might be miss that wasn’t due to pressure. That’s true, but there are also “normal” or “good” misses and “abnormal” or “bad” ones. For example, an airball might be abnormal or bad miss. A miss where the ball gets lodged between the rim and the backboard is an ugly or bad miss. If a player keeps hitting the front of the rim, it can suggest fatigue. Now, “good” and “bad” misses are relative to the individual player. If you watch a player enough times, you can get a good feel for this.
I should say that we should also look at what they player is doing before the shot or when they don’t shoot. Do they seem reluctant to shoot? How do we know this? Again, we know based on our knowledge of how the player normally behaves. To use a simplistic example, if a players is an aggressive penetrator, and they stopped penetrator, we should begin to wonder if pressure is the reason for this discrepancy. But we should also rule out alternative explanations—e.g., the defender can shut down the penetration, there is a better match-up somewhere else, etc. When we can’t rule out alternative explanations, then we should be wary of making any strong claims about choking or clutch play.
If we know the opponents fairly well (by watching them play enough times, especially against the same team), then we can have a good idea of what they’re capable of. If the opponents don’t have a great team defense or shut-down defender, it’s unlikely that they will become that way in that game. However, if you know a lot about the sport, you should be able to determine if this is happening or not.
What were the other options? Would they have been any better? How could we know?
You know these things based on the players and what both the offense and defense were doing at the time. You also can answer this question based on general principles about the way to play the game. My sense is that you don’t believe that there is such a thing as a right and wrong way to play a sport, but I believe there is. There are smart plays and dumb plays—plays that will increase your chances of winning and plays that do the opposite. Now, playing the right way doesn’t guarantee victory, but it gives you the best chance of winning (assuming you’re not completely outmatched).
If James doesn’t take a shot and passes the ball off and the team loses should he have taken the shot? If he passes it off and they win should he have still taken the shot?
It depends on the specific situation, but as I alluded to above, a team can win despite making the wrong play; a team can also lose even if they make the right play. Right and wrong aren’t determined by the outcome of a specific game. But they’re determined by what gives you the best chance of winning consistently. Imo, great teams make the right play, play hard and play together—and they do all of these consistently. That’s the mark of championship team.
Btw, I don’t agree that notions of “right” and “wrong” plays and the notion of “big moments in a game” come primarily out of trying to fulfill a narrative of the game. Imo, people who coach, play or analyze the game for a long time begin to get a sense of plays and decisions that are smart because they increase the chance of winning (e.g., increasing your chance of scoring or preventing your opponent from scoring; preventing a turnover, not fouling out, etc.). To some degree, they’re independent of whether a team won or lost game. For example, if you watch a game with a knowledgeable person, they can tell you whether a shot is good or bad—before it goes in or not. Now, these judgments are subjective to a degree, but my feeling is that there would be fairly large agreement among knowledgeable individuals.
Yeah, to me “clutch” is more of a description of how emotionally satisfying for the audience a player’s performance is than an actual objectively measurable.
FWIW, I don’t think it is objectively measurable, which is why I think depending too heavily on statistics is inadequate. But if you’re implying that an “actual objectively measurable” approach is necessary to address this issue in a meaningful way, I disagree with you.
change and becoming; things unpredictably altered
“…tall players with all-around skills—but he’s the best version of all of them.”
You mean like the 6’5" Oscar Robertson, or like the 6’8" Magic Johnson?
The players you’re comparing him with are insulting. Pippen and Odom don’t have 1/100th of Lebron’s skill, nor have they ever carried as much weight on their shoulders, ever. And I’m not even going to acknowledge the comparison of a guy who’s averaged 27.5-7-7-2-1 on 48.5% shooting to a guy who’s career year was 16-6-2.5-1-1 in not even 35 minutes a game…
Lebron just had a regular season that, statistically speaking and in terms of psychological weight, has only ever been matched by Robertson and Johnson. And to be honest, other than last year he’s done that every single moment of his career. That’s not clutch?
And to show how absurd this whole argument is I present to you:
Robert Horry. The only player that was not on the Auerbach/Russell Celtics to have more than six NBA championship rings.
He made game-winning shot, after game-winning shot. He’s played in more playoff games than anyone else in history. His entire presence on almost every team he ever played on was as a performer late in the game. But is he clutch?
Or better question, is it really more clutch to be that guy at the end of the game that wins it than it is to be the guy that carries the entire load up to that point?
Jordan isn’t clutch because of the former. Because if all Jordan could do was the former he’d be Horry with one less ring.
It’s a lot harder to be the sole reliable force on a team than it is to be a reliable guy during 2-5 minute stretches.
Sure, there are times when a viewer might be able to deduce that a player took a poor shot or otherwise made a poor choice, but the problem is in the weighting of those isolated events and in attributing a “meaning” to them that goes beyond suggesting that the choice made might not have been the best. To pick and choose incidents or to focus too strongly on isolated information in disregard of other possibilities is a classic case of confirmation bias where the assumption held prior to the act shapes the interpretation of it and can give limited events an outsized importance compared to those which are ignored due to them not fitting the already held belief.
I’m agnostic on James as a player as I’ve scarcely seen him play myself, though a cursory perusal of his stats and comparing them with other noted players makes me rather skeptical of the claim he can’t handle the clutch, but let’s say that is the case anyway, if so, this alleged inability should show up somewhere measurable if it is in any way consistent, which it would kinda need to be to be claimed as a personal failing. If it doesn’t show up, then where is the claim coming from? If it is in just a few isolated moments, a statistically insignificant amount, then that itself suggests something about the claim as it leads one to need to shift the weighting of events to suit the interpretation desired. In other words, if one discounts the playoff games where Miami wins or loses by a significant margin, where there is no absolute "win or lose “clutch” moment, then one is already discounting all the contributions James makes to putting the team into those situations where there is no need for last second heroics. It is also suggesting a whole host of other associated interpretations about the game which are also going unexamined in favor of the faith based insights being asserted. It isn’t just that the claim of the importance of “clutch” needs to be looked at more carefully, but that the linked beliefs that this belief is based on also come into question.
How should a “great” player perform in the playoffs? Assuming the teams which make it there are better than average, how does that shape the players games compared to the more imbalanced play of the regular season? How does the structure of the best of seven series shape the game? If there is added pressure, how does that effect the way the games are played for all players? How much do individual and series game plans effect the play during seven game win or go home series against specific rivals? What comparisons or analogies are being made to support claims? Have they been examined for validity? (For example, comparing the pressure a very good pro basketball player might feel to that which you might have experienced as a high school player or during a pick up game might not hold.) How common or uncommon are fluxuations in game to game play among players during the playoffs? How about “great” players? How accurate have your predictions or claims been about other “psychological” effects? If we can claim to measure the innersoul of the players for weakness, how about one’s one abilities as a prognosticator, in other words why should anyone believe you over the stats anyway?
The point of using statistics isn’t to claim that we can gain access into how a player thinks, but to remove any personal or visual bias from the examination of the events to see the events without subjective influence. Statistics can’t answer all questions about the game, particularly about the innerworld of the players, but they are good at examining claims about effects of those who claim insight into those areas. They remove the illusions of beliefs, the unseen and expectations and put the focus on what actually occurred. Does this mean that one needn’t watch the games? No, it is too suggest that beliefs are better examined than simply held without evidence, if there is no evidence of one’s belief, then why hold it? What advantage is there is claiming James can’t handle the clutch instead of just stating the facts of what occurred in a given game clearly? I have to think there is some need being fulfilled by these sorts of claims, the narratives people construct, that may in itself be creating the perceptions of those viewing.
As it is with viewing films, we tend to essentialize our experiences to weigh some events more heavily than others in order to make the object fit a pattern we can understand. With movies, the problem is often that the narrative we want to construct is narrowed from what is on screen to fit some belief we want to hold or to eliminate possible contradictions. We want to believe we wholly understand a movie, so we essentialize it to fit those needs. With sports it seems to me that we tend to add to the events, to manufacture motives and drama, to exaggerate narrative to give the experience of the game a greater significance than the events alone could hold. Things which may be semi-random, unmotivated, or otherwise inexplicable in narrative terms are reshaped to make events “make sense” in a way which a game might not be very well suited for. People like heroes and villains, and if they don’t don’t make themselves apparent with capes and cowls, we’ll create them with whatever we have at hand.
Just to be clear, I’m not claiming that stats can answer the sort of questions which seem to be more of the underlying basis of this thread, that is the “what ifs” or other questions which reside more in fantasy. If we take the situation of the Lakers and Steve Blake as a way to look at the question.
My attitude is that you can look at these events all you want, but there is simply no way to answer whether the decision to pass to Blake was a good one or not, regardless of what the article says. From one perspective the decision to pass to Blake was obviously the wrong one since the game was lost, since Kobe didn’t not make the basket, a pass to him obviously would have been a better decision since the non-event of him getting the ball didn’t result in a miss, so if one assumes an attitude of the events as they played out would hold constant throughout any imagined replaying, then Kobe is the better choice since he hasn’t proven to not succeed. If, on the other hand, one wants to look at percentages, then passing to Blake was the right choice since in any imagined replay he would hit that shot with greater regularity than Kobe would hit his shot assuming the events aren’t absolutely repeated but subjected to “normal” chance based on previous experience. One could make a psychological claim for Kobe and against Blake or for Blake and against Kobe depending on what data one selects as a reference point just as one could point to “experience” or “the horse that brought you here” as reasons to believe one choice would be the “correct” one.
But, of course, this is all outside of what actually occurred and what may have motivated MWP to make the pass. We can’t even know if there was a “concrete” decision made at all. There may have been motivation involved or just instinct or a perceptual bias. If the exact same event were to occur again next year, MWP might make the opposite decision assuming this one was wrong or bowing to pressure claiming it so or he might make the same one to “prove” this one right or he might just act based on some spur of the moment influence or perception. Whatever the case we can’t know anything but what actually occurred and possibly use that as one further data point to look at when analyzing later events. In the end it doesn’t matter,as our perceptions only see time flowing in one direction, events that happened are ironbound, and while speculating or arguing about alternative realities or “what if” scenarios can be fun, taking them for anything more than that only benefits if there is something to be gained by the assertion.
Pippen and Odom don’t have 1/100th of Lebron’s skill, nor have they ever carried as much weight on their shoulders
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Pippen is one of the best individual and team defenders ever to play in the NBA. The man could shut down anyone 1-4 while still putting up all-around numbers. He also played point guard for the Blazers when he was 36 years old. He was nowhere near the offensive force Lebron is (not as good at creating his own shot and a tier below athletically), but take a look at his numbers during the season Jordan was out playing baseball:
22 ppg, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 2.9 steals, 0.8 blocks. He was tops on his team in every single one of those stats and he managed it while shooting 49% from the field and 32% from three. All this while the Bulls ran the triangle damn near to perfection which meant his usage rate was not even all that high (lower than any of Lebron’s seasons, by a considerable margin in most cases).
As for never carrying as much weight on his shoulders as Lebron? Michael Jordan, the man the team was built around and possibly the greatest player in the history of the league, retired just before the season started. He had to assume a new role on the fly as the head honcho in an incomplete team. All he did was get the Bulls to within one blown call (one of the worst in league history) of the conference finals.
“22 ppg, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 2.9 steals, 0.8 blocks. He was tops on his team in every single one of those stats and he managed it while shooting 49% from the field and 32% from three.”
In that year Pippen was a year older than Lebron, so let’s compare it to Lebron’s latest season (a season in which Wade missed 1/4 of the regular season and is having his worst playoffs statistically and psychologically, and Bosh has missed half of the playoffs and his regular season points and rebound numbers are down about .5 each per game from last year, and 2 points from his career totals):
27.6 ppg, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.8 blocks.
He’s the top of his team in every single one of those categories except blocks (but, being honest, if 0.8 blocks a game gets you tops on your team that’s not much to celebrate). He shot 53% from the field and 36% from three, while also developing a low-post game that has become so dominate some valued Miami journalists (Israel Gutierrez) have begun to argue that power-forward is actually his best position.
And these numbers are only slightly more impressive than the totals he’s put up for his entire career (other than his rookie season he’s never shot below 47% from the field, or 31.5% from three, and has improved upon his shooting from the field in each of last five years).
Lebron is also arguably the best on-the-ball defender in the league, and has now become a good low-post defender.
And comparing the weight Pippen carried in those two years without Jordan is a bit fallacious (even when Jordan left he still had Phil Jackson coaching, Lebron has had Mike Brown and Eric Spoelstra for his career… come on).
No one expected the Bulls to do anything when Jordan left. If we’re talking psychological effects on this thread, Lebron has been expected to carry any team you put around him to the finals since day one. Each season he hasn’t people have added pressure on him claiming he’ll never get there, which is an absurd claim to make on its face. That’s not really the same thing as carrying a team unexpectedly past the first round of the playoffs and to a seven game series in the semis.
And blown call or not, Pippen never led the Bulls to the Conference Finals. Lebron has been there four times in nine years, and three of the last four.
I never said Pippen was better that Lebron. I specifically said Lebron was a far better offensive player. I simply said that " The players you’re comparing him with are insulting. Pippen and Odom don’t have 1/100th of Lebron’s skill, nor have they ever carried as much weight on their shoulders, ever. is an idiotic statement to make. Like it or not, Lebron’s game resembles Pippen’s (long, versatile, all-around player, unselfish, fantastic distributor) far more than it does Oscar Robertson (cerebral, ground-bound, perfect footwork and as fundamentally sound as any player has been) or Magic Johnson (excelled at running a team and distributing in the fast break, couldn’t hit an outside jumper or guard anyone to save his life).
Lebron is also nowhere near the best perimeter defender in the league (I can name 5 guys off the top of my head who are better) and is an average post defender at best. He does excel at covering ground on team defense, playing the lanes and coming in from the weak side but his on the ball stuff, while good, is nowhere near league best and doesn’t come close to touching Pippen (or Jordan for that matter).
And for the record? The jury may be out on Lebron but Pippen was not clutch.
Additionally, Spolstra is a very good coach. Lebron, keep in mind, is the guy who said that he would not change his game (isolation, drive-and-kicks, receiving the ball in the paint as opposed to having to take it there himself)) to fit his new team because it’s what had gotten him there in the first place. People tend to criticize Lebron’s coaches for not using him more creatively (having him slash and finish, catch and shoot more rather than initiate the bulk of his own offense) but he is at his best when he is dominating the ball and everyone else is standing around. It’s no coincidence that Miami’s offense is not very different from Cleveland’s.
“I never said Pippen was better that Lebron.”
No, you specifically attempted to compare the two, when the comparison is unjust, at best, and delusional, at worst.
Pippen’s entire post-Jordan career was an attempt to show he could get it done himself, and he only ever made it out of the first round of the playoffs once in that period.
And again, Spoelstra may be good, even very good… But Pippen had what many believe to be the greatest professional basketball coach since Auerbach. And Pippen couldn’t get to the Conference Finals?
He’s not even close to Lebron’s league. He had an entire career of better talent around him, unimaginably better coaching, a complete lack of pressure and almost no expectation of singular success. Even if the “game” resembles, the circumstances are so divergent as to barely be on the same planet.
“But if you’re implying that an “actual objectively measurable” approach is necessary to address this issue in a meaningful way, I disagree with you.”
No . . . all sports statistics are meaningless without some belief or feeling or story about the game or a particular player or group of players to attach them to.
( . . . which is why this thread has sort of devolved into a argument about Lebron James.)
Given the narrative about him and the focus on basketball thus far it was bound to happen.
I’d rather be knocking the crowns off of kings, truth be told. That Tom Brady sucka needs to be knocked down a few pegs.
Brady? That guy hasn’t won a championship since 2005. He’s no Otto Graham, that’s for damned sure.
Otto Graham references are the reason Matt Parks is one of this site’s finest contributors.
….why this thread has sort of devolved into a argument about Lebron James.
Metaphysical dead end?
If trend analysis/pattern recognition worked, the Celtics would still be in the playoffs, right?
If you don’t see any resemblance between Pippen and Lebron’s games then you either never watched Pippen, have never watched Lebron or quite simply don’t know what you’re talking about, the latter of which goes without saying if you genuinely believe he doesn’t have 1/100th of Lebron’s talent.
At the risk of starting a flame war, you are coming across as little more than a fanboy here…
“If you don’t see any resemblance between Pippen and Lebron’s games…”
“He’s not even close to Lebron’s league. He had an entire career of better talent around him, unimaginably better coaching, a complete lack of pressure and almost no expectation of singular success. Even if the ‘game’ resembles, the circumstances are so divergent as to barely be on the same planet.”
Even if the ‘game’ resembles, the circumstances are so divergent as to barely be on the same planet.”
So they are alike, except they’re not alike even though they are, because they’re not… their games be damned!
“So they are alike, except they’re not alike even though they are, because they’re not…”
If that’s what you’re able to decipher from the extremely plain English laid out there, I feel really very sorry for you.
So once again, I’ll point out the obvious (are you beginning to feel like a dead horse because I’m beginning to feel that I’m bashing you over the head with this and you’re still not getting it)…
More is expected of Lebron and he performs up to and past that expectation. Almost nothing was expected of Pippen and even with that lack of expectation he didn’t perform all that much better when he had the chance to; two years before Jordan left Pippen averaged 21-7.5-7-2-1 on 50.5% shooting, which is almost identical to his numbers when Jordan did leave. So he didn’t really take over the Bulls in the absence of Jordan. He really just did his job as he’d been doing it.
So, for about the fifth time…
The games are similar. Similar enough to warrant constant comparison from multiple people. But the difference is Pippen had much more and did much less with it… you take what you want from that, okay?
The games are similar. Similar enough to warrant constant comparison from multiple people
So now you agree that Pippen’s game is an apt comparison for Lebron’s after raging for several posts that such a comparsion should not possibly be made under any circumstances because it’s delusional blah blah blah and that more apt comparisons were Oscar Robertson (whose game was almost the exact opposite of Lebron’s since he worked almost exclusively from the ground and relied on his otherworldly domination of basketball fundamentals) and Magic Johnson (when about the only thing they have in common is that they were ridiculously big and strong for their respective positions and got a lot of assists). Welcome back to reality. Good to have you here.
But the difference is Pippen had much more
Not in the same league as Lebron as a leaper, not as fast, not nearly as strong, not as skilled a ballhandler, not able to create his own shot consistently, an even streakier outside shooter, played during the hand—checking era when perimeter defense was at the league’s absolute highest…yeah that Pippen sure had more to work with than Lebron. In terms of athleticism and overall ability, Pippen was far less talented than Lebron except when it came to defense where his superior lateral quickness, longer wingspam and otherworldly basketball IQ turned him into the only small forward in league history who could truly anchor a team’s defense.
Maybe you’re talking about the lack of pressure Pippen played with? Okay, let’s forget the fact that Pippen played with Jordan, the most ruthlessly competitive sociopath in league history, the guy who punched three different teammates during practice, who would ride anyone he did not feel was on his level (ie: anybody else on the team) mercilessly, the guy who would not settle for anything less than 100% effort all the time or he would humilliate you on and off the court. Let’s forget about the fact that the Bulls were one of the most hated teams in the league during their heyday and everyone always went after them with everything they had. Lets focus, once more, on Pippen’s Jordan-less season. That season the Bulls were the defending champions so they already had a target on their back. The fact that Jordan had retired made teams go out of their way to try and humilliate what was left of them. Pippen, who had been considered little more than a hanger-on who rode Jordan’s coat-tails to three championships, was under pressure to back up what he had always claimed: that he was more than just a sidekick and could lead a competitive team to the playoffs, a team mind you that had been built around Jordan and which had no off season changes to re-structure it around Pippen. He responded admirably by leading his team in every single significant statistical category when every team defense in the league was focusing on stopping him and only him and leading his team in one of the great what-if playoff runs of recent memory. But hey, no pressure.
So he didn’t really take over the Bulls in the absence of Jordan. He really just did his job as he’d been doing it.
I can tell from this statement you’ve never played basketball. Any absence from a team, particularly the absence of the team’s unquestioned star, means that other players have to assume new roles. The stats may not reflect it (though again, he led his team in every single meaningful statistical category
Or maybe you were talking about his teammates? Yes, playing with a guard who is your team’s first, second and third option on offense and still holds the record for highest usage rate in league history must do wonders for your individual stats. That must be why Wade’s numbers have gone up since Lebron joined the team.
and did much less with it…
Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five….six championships. That’s all. On top of being one of the 50 greatest players of all time, making the Basketball Hall of Fame, being perhaps the greatest and most versatile defender in league history, epitomizing what it is to be a point-forward… I’d argue Pippen came closer to fulfilling his potential than Lebron has to fulfilling his so far.
More is expected of Lebron and he performs up to and past that expectation.
Seems to me what people expect from Lebron is multiple championships. How exactly has he surpassed that expectation? He might get his first in two weeks, maybe.
So here is the real question: after some backpedalling you agree that Pippen and Lebron’s games are similar. Everyone in here agrees that Lebron is a far better offensive player and a better player overall. What exactly is making you mad?
“If that’s what you’re able to decipher from the extremely plain English laid out there, I feel really very sorry for you.”
That seems very much like a personal attack Wu, and for someone who screams the “you know nothing about me” BS, maybe you should check yourself.
“So now you agree that Pippen’s game is an apt comparison for Lebron’s after raging for several posts that such a comparsion should not possibly be made under any circumstances…”
I stopped reading there. It’s not worth it. You’ve not understood a single thing I’ve said, despite my putting it in as plain as day English as could be humanly possible.
“That seems very much like a personal attack…”
Funny how I get that from you Uli, but when it was insinuated multiple times that I was an idiot on this very thread you had no problem… How about you stop crying merely because every time you attempt to challenge any opinion I hold I swat you down like a fly?
right, oops, Wu, sorry, whatever helps you sleep, you’re just too sensitive, kinda girlie, but that’s okay, that’s what makes you suck a great … oops cinephile, sorry
How about you stop crying merely because every time you attempt to challenge any opinion I hold I swat you down like a fly?
If this thread is anything to go by the only thing you are swatting down is the benefit of the doubt anybody might have given you that you know anything about basketball.
Wu’s a blowhard and exactly what is wrong with the site, it was nice of Brad for his compliment on one of the threads, but, I’m over him, he’s just another sad little man liking to insult people and whine when people retaliate, too typical here.
And yeah, Robert Horry is clutch.
Stats be damned, until Lebron James accomplished at least one championship title, he can’t be in the same league as Bird, Pippen, Jordan, Magic or Dr. J.
Forget stats for a second and not overlook the other ‘human’ deciding factors than often influence the outcome of a match:
Officials. Referees. Judges. Umpires. Linemen.
Stats, numbers or even high-tech cameras and instant replays ain’t got shit on them.
England- Germany World Cup Quarterfinals 2010 (the ball clearly crossed the line)
Pacquiao-Bradley (the punch compu-box didn’t matter)
Bulls-Knicks (blown call cancelled a Bulls victory, already discussed above)
Well, those two were guards—point guards to be specific (I’m not sure if the Big O was a point guard, but something close to it it seems)—so they’re not apt comparisons.
The players you’re comparing him with are insulting. Pippen and Odom don’t have 1/100th of Lebron’s skill, nor have they ever carried as much weight on their shoulders, ever.
Let me be clear: I think LeBron is a better than Pippen and Odom. My comparison is based on the type of players they are—both in terms of all-around abilities and mindset—I’m not saying they’re on the same level.
I haven’t seen LeBron enough, but my sense is that he doesn’t have that killer instinct—not like some of the great players in the past (or like Kobe, Dwayne Wade or Paul Pierce). On the other hand, he’s one of the most talented and versatile players to play the game, and he can do a lot of carry a team—but he’s missing that mentality of wanting to dominate, especially in big moments when his team needs it. Forget about statistics or whether his teams won or lost—I don’t see this drive and killer instinct—not like what Jordan, Bird or even Magic and Isiah had. Pippen was the same way, imo. I also think Ray Allen was sort of like this, too. They are players that are more comfortable deferring; they don’t seem to have the personality to want to take over and dominate. Now, LeBron can dominate a game, but that’s more because of his incredible talent—I’m talking about deciding to dominate a game at certain key moments—not just accumulating big numbers through the course of game. There’s a difference, imo. Someone like Paul Pierce may not have as big numbers, but through his career, I’ve seen him decide to take over games in key moments (making some really difficult shots). This doesn’t mean that LeBron isn’t a terrific player—again, arguably the most talented player to play the game (especially with his height and athletic ability), but he does seem to lack that killer instinct, imo.
Actually, I wasn’t think about the narratives or specific players, but the knowledge of the sport and how it’s played. If you only understood sports via statistics, you’d be missing a lot of important information—you wouldn’t really understand the sport—at least, imo.
Matt is, of course and as usual, right, I was thinking more about extra-narratives, those that are based on things outside the purview of the games themselves. I also don’t have any problem with Jazz’s statement about needing to know something about the game as long as that isn’t carried too far to the sort of level where only those who have actually played it can speak of it. Many really awful commentators in all sports are former players and coaches, and the one’s who had better careers often are worse than those who didn’t play very well at all. One could speculate on reasons why this might be so, but let it suffice to say that the two sets of abilities, playing and analyzing, don’t necessarily coincide.
Statistics alone are just information, unshaped and without use unless there is someone who can parse the data, ask the right sorts of questions and compile useful collections of the relevant facts to provide plausible and testable analysis. Most of the time, given the nature of sport, the theories that are developed will not be absolute laws but more general guidelines which can help better inform the coaches, players and viewers about the sport if they pay attention and understand the proper relevance of the information. Just as stats can’t tell the whole story and need to be attached to the game as it is played, understanding that one can’t trust in simple perception alone to best explain how all the conflicting lines of inquiry can come together to form a sort of meta-narrative about games are won and lost. You need to “see” the individual games as they are played to create the right sorts of questions about the sport as a whole, and you need to be able to understand the larger perspective to see how the individual games inform the way the sport “works”. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive, they are necessary companions.