The Hidden Statistics That Control The NBA - Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

The Hidden Statistics That Control The NBA - Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

The Percentage of 7ft+ NBA Players (00:00:00)

  • Seven-footers make up about one in seven NBA players.
  • Being seven feet or above is a genetic lottery with a probability of one in 650,000.
  • Each inch in height roughly doubles the chances of making the NBA.
  • Players under 5'10" have a one in 3.8 million chance of reaching the NBA.
  • Tallest humans often have thyroid disease, leading to health problems.
  • Taller NBA players are generally worse athletes in terms of jumping, speed, shooting, and handling pressure.
  • The advantage of being tall compensates for the lack of athleticism required to compete for a spot in the NBA.

Is Being Tall Really a Basketball Advantage? (00:04:34)

  • Being tall is an advantage in basketball as it allows players to grab more rebounds, block more shots, and reach higher to get their shot off without being blocked.
  • However, it is unfair that height can be such a significant advantage in a sport, as it feels like a bug in the game.
  • Players should not be cut because they are not as tall as other players, as they can still contribute to the team in other ways.
  • The author created a metric called "mugsies" to compare players of different heights and determine how good they would be if they were the same height.
  • Mugsy Bogues, who played in the NBA for 14 seasons at 5'3", ranks number one on the mugsies list, demonstrating that his achievement is incredibly impressive.
  • Other players like Earl Boykins and Spud Webb also rank high on the list, while Michael Jordan ranks number nine, showing that he is still one of the greatest players even when adjusting for height.
  • If Mugsy and Michael Jordan were the same height, Mugsy would be the more dominant player based on the data.

Why Americans Are Over-Represented in Basketball (00:08:53)

  • Basketball is over-represented by the USA because of its popularity in the country.
  • The only other regions with extraordinary basketball popularity are the Baltic states and former Yugoslavia.
  • Volleyball popularity is a subtle factor that predicts how many basketball players a country produces.
  • Volleyball uses height similarly to basketball, and countries where volleyball is more popular tend to have fewer NBA players, especially forwards.
  • Taller individuals in countries like Bulgaria, Brazil, and Iran often pursue volleyball instead of basketball due to its popularity, resulting in fewer NBA players from those countries.

How Genetic is Basketball Ability? (00:12:21)

  • Genetics play a more significant role in basketball success compared to other sports, with identical twins sharing 100% of their genes and all 11 pairs of identical twins in the NBA reaching the league.
  • Height, hand size, arm length, wingspan, vertical leap, and sprinting speed are all highly genetic traits that are important in basketball.
  • Skills such as reaction time, handedness, and hand-eye coordination play a smaller role in basketball compared to other sports.
  • Hand size is particularly valuable in basketball, with players with wider hands performing better than expected based on their draft position.
  • Sons of NBA players have a significant genetic advantage, with a 1 in 43 chance of reaching the NBA compared to the average American male's 1 in 36,000 chance.
  • Despite inheriting physical traits, sons of NBA players tend to be shorter than their fathers due to regression to the mean, but they excel in shooting due to early training and improved form.

Chris is the Most Common Name of Black NBA Players (00:21:44)

  • Most NBA players come from upper-middle-class or above families, regardless of race.
  • African-Americans from higher socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to have common names, while those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to have unique names.
  • Black NBA players are half as likely as the black population at large to have unique names.
  • The most common name among NBA players is Chris.
  • The popularity of basketball in the black community in the United States and in countries where basketball is highly popular contributes to the high number of NBA players from those areas.

What Determines Who Chokes Under Pressure? (00:28:13)

  • NBA players, particularly taller players, tend to choke under pressure in clutch moments more often than players in other sports.
  • A height cutoff in the NBA could potentially enhance the league's overall talent, shooting, clutch shooting, and athleticism, but the author does not advocate for it.
  • Childhood difficulty does not significantly impact a player's tendency to choke under pressure.
  • The author used Chat GPT to rank the difficulty of NBA players' upbringings based on various factors mentioned in their biographies, and the rankings were sensible and aligned with expectations.
  • Surprisingly, the difficulty of a player's upbringing did not correlate with their tendency to choke under pressure.
  • The author cautions against relying too heavily on Chat GPT for research due to the risk of cherry-picking data to support desired conclusions.

What Warren Buffet & Paul Millsap Have in Common (00:35:04)

  • Attending elite colleges like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, and UCLA increases the chances of being drafted into the NBA, but it does not significantly impact long-term success or earnings.
  • NBA players who skipped college and went straight to the draft have historically outperformed their draft positions, suggesting that self-confidence and self-awareness are key factors in basketball success.
  • Successful entrepreneurs and NBA players who make unconventional decisions, such as dropping out of school or going straight to the NBA, often have something remarkable about themselves that others don't.
  • Self-belief, zone two threshold, and lactate management ability may be correlated with success in basketball.

How Effective is the NBA Draft? (00:42:57)

  • The NBA draft helps balance the playing field, preventing the wealthiest teams from dominating the league.
  • The NBA has a strong track record of identifying future stars, with 60% of the top 10 players of all time being first overall draft picks.
  • There are inefficiencies in the draft, such as undervaluing players with great standing leaps relative to their vertical leaps and overvaluing "cool" traits like a running vertical leap.
  • In baseball, consistent triple-digit pitching performances over multiple innings draw significant attention.
  • In American football, players with exceptional speed, such as a 4.25 or 4.3 40-yard dash time, tend to be drafted higher than those with more precise route-running skills but slower times.
  • Exciting traits in sports are often overvalued compared to more important but less flashy attributes.

The Advantage of Being Able to Make Yourself Better (00:48:59)

  • Natural gifts and genetics play a significant role in sports performance, but hard work and dedication can improve performance, depending on the sport.
  • In sports heavily dependent on genetic traits like basketball, hard work can make a difference but may not bridge significant gaps.
  • For individuals without exceptional natural abilities, other sports like equestrian riding or skiing may offer a better chance for improvement through hard work.
  • Players who consistently improve throughout their careers, like Jerry Rice and Kawhi Leonard, can be more enjoyable to watch than naturally gifted players who may not put in the same effort.
  • In the highly competitive NBA, players are more likely to be successful if they are taller, as height provides significant advantages in basketball.

How Seth Used AI to Write About Basketball (00:54:22)

  • Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a former Google data scientist and basketball enthusiast, used ChatGPT's Data Analysis tool to write his book "Who Makes the NBA" in just 30 days.
  • Data Analysis revolutionized his workflow, enabling him to complete data analysis tasks in hours instead of months.
  • The book's rapid completion sparked skepticism, but the author emphasizes that AI tools like ChatGPT, Mid Journey, and Dolly can create high-quality content efficiently.
  • Stephens-Davidowitz aims to demonstrate the transformative impact of AI on the creative process, challenging traditional notions of project timelines.
  • The connection between time spent and quality is arbitrary, and people often resist technological advancements.
  • ChatGPT's capabilities extend beyond traditional methods, allowing for data manipulation, content generation, and proofreading.

Seth’s Goal to Write 100 Books (01:00:56)

  • Seth Stephens-Davidowitz aims to write 100 books.
  • He self-published his latest book because traditional publishers were hesitant about his 30-day projects.
  • Writing the book was the best month of his life because AI handled the tedious tasks he dislikes, allowing him to focus on generating ideas.
  • If he can monetize the book successfully, he plans to write a series of books on various sports, starting with baseball, the Olympics, and the NFL.

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