Saturday, June 9

Fact-Checking The LeBron Hype

When a player is deemed great by the media a certain ineffable aura appears around them. Not in my eyes, mind you, but in the eyes of sports talking-heads across the country.

Derrick Jeter is the probably the best example of this in modern sports.

EVERYTHING Jeter does is powered by some supernatural force and though they don't yet have the capacity to measure ESP, the talking-heads are all but certain he is regularly willing his team to victory. Which is weird, because, you know, sometimes they lose and I'd imagine Jeter really wants his team to win those games also.

Which brings us to LeBron.

ANY attempt to downplay his OVERALL playoff performance (because, yes, he put the numbers up twice in the Pistons series in two critical games. He also came close to AVERAGING a triple-double in that series which is phenomenal) But how much credit should the supposed heir to His Airness' throne get for that kind of thing?) will be met with response relating to his presence, his leadership, his sheer determination to win and you can't really combat that kind of argument.

Here's the thing: there aren't stats relating to presence, leadership or determination. There are just stats that happen to do a fairly decent job at reflecting a players contribution to his team. While stats do lack context, and in the case of LeBron being double and triple teamed it does affect the bottom stat line -- you can't account for context influence by just assuming that is was there. That LeBron was double-teamed and his teammates had open looks due to him drawing coverage.


The only way to account for context is to watch every play and note exactly when, where and how each play occurred. For every player on every play. And wouldn't those stats be fun?


It's just not feasible.

So called "presence" doesn't seem to exist anywhere outside of sports which would seem to undermine it's very existence. LeBron doesn't pull into a long drive-thru line at Arby's and the people inside just somehow start working faster.

And while poor leadership certainly can affect performance, be it a boss who makes negative comments or a coach who puts to much undue pressure on players, great leadership (outside of life and death situations where people are quite literally losing their heads) also only does so much -- and it's only serving to allow players to play at their peak level through helping win the mental battle.

As for the passionate "we aren't going lose this game" speech -- it's overrated. In all my years of playing sports and listening to these impassioned pleas for performance I never noticed a direct correlation to speeches and performance. Sometimes after the guy who over-compensated for his questionable sexuality yelled to us, "WE'RE NOT GOING TO LET THESE FAGGOTS BEAT US, ARE WE?" we did string together a great comeback rally to be the Lambda Pride in the ninth, but what about all the other times that speech had no effect whatsoever

So let's look at the only measure of contribution we have to find out just how great LeBron has been; the stats.

Remember, the point of this isn't to downplay what LeBron has done, which has been in mind what the best player on any team should do, but to derail the hype-train.


Kobe Bryant 32.8
Antawn Jamison 32.0
Carmelo Anthony 26.8
Amare Stoudemire 25.3
Tracy McGrady 25.3
Baron Davis 25.3
Ming Yao 25.1
LeBron James 25.1
Carlos Boozer 23.1
Dwyane Wade 23.1

LeBron has also played more minutes per game than any player in the playoffs.


Steve Nash 13.3
Antonio Daniels 11.8
Jason Kidd 10.9
Deron Williams 8.6
LeBron James 8.0

Impressive that LeBron is the only player on this list among the top-10 scorers. He is responsible for roughly 40 pts of his teams offense. Nash and Williams being close to 40 also. When you factor in AST/To ratio LeBron drops to 13th with 2.78 a game.

Where LeBron should get the most credit is where Cleveland won the Conference Finals: defense. LeBron led the Conference Finals with 16 steals, helping hold Detroit to only 86 PPG. This is a -.5.47 differential from their playoff average and -10 from their regular season average.

Giving credit where credit is due? Nah. Let's just keep talking about the offensive greatness that is only slightly present in the stats. That makes sense.

Here's another crazy stat to look out for: LeBron plays far better on short rest, almost leading the playoffs in PPG after one day rest, but (though the amount of games is small for statistical comparison) worse after more days rest, whereas the Spurs big-three all increase their PPG on longer rest. Game 2 is after 4 days rest. Good luck, King.

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