VIDEO: Charles Barkley declares war on math with rant against 'analytics'
TNT guy goes nuts because numbers are scary, apparently. He was really great in '93, though.
Charles Barkley, who was awesome at basketball in his time, went nuclear on analytics Tuesday night on the TNT Inside the NBA Broadcast. Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted earlier in the evening to get the whole thing going:
Best part of being at a TNT game live is it is easy to avoid Charles spewing misinformed biased vitriol disguised as entertainment— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) February 11, 2015
And then Barkley went berserk:
Here, let me sum that up for you:
Some of the highlights:
“Just because you’ve got good stats doesn’t mean you’re a good team defensively. They’re not a good defensive team. Give up 118 points – no good team gives up 118 points.” (NOTE: Barkley's 1993 Phoenix Suns team --which he won MVP with and which went to the NBA Finals-- gave up 118 points 11 times.)
Daryl Morey is "one of those idiots who believe in anlaytics." (Which is like saying you don't believe in Plato, because he's "one of those idiots who believe in deductive reasoning.")
“Analytics don’t work at all. It’s just some crap some people who are really smart made up to try to get in the game because they had no talent.” (It's kind of a cheap shot, but it's probably also correct. Although, I don't write about basketball because I can't play in the NBA. I can't imagine playing in the NBA. It's like imagining having two heads. But the first part "Analytics don't work at all" is literally saying "math doesn't work." It's how you interpret the data.)
“Analytics don’t work. What analytics did the Miami Heat have? What analytics did the Bulls have? What analytics do the Spurs have? They have the best players. They have coaching staffs who make players better.” (The Heat, the Bulls, and the Spurs all have advanced "analytics" departments or have integrated those numbers into their scouting reports. It's just more information. Who doesn't want more information in order to do your job well? Oh, that's right. Athletes don't.)
The Rockets sucked for a long time. So, they went out and paid James Harden a lot of money. They got better. Then, they went out and got Dwight Howard. They get better.” (Well, they didn't suck. They made the playoffs more years than they didn't and still had competitive teams. How did they get Harden, by the way? Oh, that's right, by having good assets built around an analytical model and leveraging assets by using those same numbers to determine value vs. future picks. But whatever. They just "magically got Dwight Howard and James Harden!")
“The NBA is about talent." (Hold on, let me find the response to this from people who don't agree on this point in the analytics community. Oh, wait hold on, I see them, they're right there with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus in the Land of Things That Don't Actually Exist.)
"All these guys who run these organizations who talk about analytics, they have one thing in common. They’re a bunch of guys who ain’t never played the game, and they never got the girls in high school, and they just want to get in the game.” (I mean, seriously? We're going to "they couldn't get girls" as the argument to throw away the field? Are we 13? Is Charles Barkley going to beat up Daryl Morey after third period? You can make arguments about the relative value of an analytics-based approach to building a team, and you can make a compelling one. This? This is the basis of high school bullying. And guys like that after their playing days are done wind up reminiscing constantly about their good old days and being unable to break into the field of what they want to do, like being the GM of a team...ohhhhhhhh. I get it!)
Look, it's fine. I love Barkley. I loved him as a player, I love him as an analyst and a lot of times, he makes a lot of sense. He provides genuine insight to the game. He's entertaining above all else, and that's what he did here. He was entertaining.
The conversation's pretty much over. Almost every organization in the NBA has an analytics department, none of them use them as the end-all, be-all, nor should they. Advanced stats have their place in the NBA along with scouting, sports psychology, physiology, philosophy, and everything else. The war's over, and Barkley's pack of nerd-beating monoliths can continue to dismiss whatever because they don't make the decisions. The nerds make the decisions whether Barkley likes it or not. And, to be honest, most of the players who wind up in good ol' boy positions of power tend to flame out like a roman candle dud.
There's no reason to be an extremist about this, except that this is the environment we're, not only with the internet, but in society at large. A position is presented, a reaction goes well beyond what is reasonable, and the backlash to that reaction is even more severe. Barkley's not a moron, analytics aren't the golden bull to worship at, there's more than one way to build a basketball team, numbers aren't this mystical concept you can dismiss as some sort of voodoo, and most of the guys who are the biggest nerds in the world that run tech firms have done pretty well in the attractive ladies department. (The bigger problem is the inability of smart, talented, creative women to have opportunities for success, but that's a totally different topic for another day.)
It's OK, though. Barkley has millions of dollars, a sweet cushy job on TNT and the respect of millions. It's just too bad that there's this sport that so many people love and yet so many of the game's greats believe that no one else has a right to talk about it but them.
(By the way, Barkley's set to appear on a panel about analytics on Friday during All-Star Weekend. That should be fun.)
Hey, maybe if we stopped calling it analytics and just called it information, Charles wouldn't find numbers so scary.— Myles Brown (@mdotbrown) February 11, 2015
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