05 June 2008

The Dumbest Story You'll Likely See Relating to This Year's NBA Finals ('aka' God, I Hate Whiny Ass Identity Politics Obsessed Liberals)

To sum up this Slate "Sports Nut" (they have the nut part right) post, 'white refs like white players (and by extension, hate black players).

There's so much stupid in this article, I don't know where to begin. First, it uses its point of departure a ridiculous study that attempts to quantify racial bias in NBA officiating. The study itself is deeply flawed.

Second, sounds like it's just a Boston fan making pre-emptive excuses as to why his team is going to lose this series in 5 games (in summary, they lose tonight, win Sunday, get swept in L.A., Kobe celebrates Father's Day with a 4th ring).

The 'white players' in the NBA are mostly not 'white', but rather European and South American. For the most part, those players play a different type of game than their American counterparts. Maybe the reason that Radmanovic will be called for less fouls in the upcoming series compared to Paul Pierce, isn't because white refs are happy to see a white face on the court, but because he plays an entirely different kind of game. Why not parse the results even farther and apply a 'coffee and cream' filter to the data? Almost white black guys like J-Kidd (a lot of cream in the coffee) compared to very black guys like K. Garnett (no cream, and just a little sugar), who gets the calls, who doesn't? Why not parse the data based on percentage of exposed upper body area covered in tattoos (bet there'd be a tendency to call those players more, too)? Why not parse the data based on years played in the NCAA (bet players with more than 2 years of NCAA experience get called for fewer fouls)?

If you parsed the data as 'International' players versus 'Native-born', bet you'd see nearly the same evidence of bias they found when parsing the data through a racial filter. It's quite possible, given the completely different player development systems that foreign-born players and American players play in as pre-teens and teens that American players are intrinsically more likely to commit fouls than foreign born players. Foreign players have a reputation for being soft (less earned than it used to be), and that reputation might color officials decision making when making a close call (it goes both ways, foreign players may get away with a little extra contact, but given the reputation for flopping, have a hard time drawing charges on defense).

The LA Lakers won't win or lose because they have a lighter skinned regular rotation than the Boston Celtics, they won't win or lose because of the officiating, they will win or lose based on the games both teams put out on the floor.

If both teams played flat out the best they can possibly play for 48 minutes at the same time, I think the edge would go to Boston, given that at their core they have a strong line-up. But there's an ebb and flow in basketball, and the Lakers are better able to survive the times they aren't playing their best, and better able to capitalize on the moments when Boston shows weakness, that's why this is going to be a short series, with only one or two close games.

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