Sports are about gaining the competitive advantage
and for so long the traditional ways of gaining the advantage is through harder training.
You know basketball which I played it was honing your jump shot. It was working harder
in the weight room to become faster, jump a little higher. I was lucky to sort of grow
up in sort of the golden age of analytics as it pertains to basketball in the age of
really the emergence of big data and sports. The way I look at it is it’s just another
way like honing your jump shot or honing your jump hook or getting faster or stronger to
gain a competitive advantage on the basketball court, this time using numbers and data. Before I really learned analytics I tried
to guard a guy, Kobe Bryant, who in my estimation was the toughest competitor that I ever played
against. And all I had to rely on was the old eyeball test scouting report. Kobe’s
got a really good right hand. You have to keep him out of the painted area. He’s a
great finisher. So yeah, any Joe Schmo fan could tell you those things. But after studying
and going through the school of analytics I knew exactly to a tee who Kobe Bryant was.
And I knew as a defender trying to stop him Kobe’s worst case scenario and my best case
scenario was to make him shoot a pull up jumper going to his left hand, all right. The average
possession of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008 was generated .98 points per possession, .98.
So you took the average possession of the Lakers. They were going to score .98 points
every time they had a possession. And so Kobe Bryant only shot the left handed pull up jumper
at a 44 percent clip. So every time that he went left and shot that pull up jumper he
was generating .88 points per possession. Well that’s a tenth of a point less than
the average Laker possession. And so if I could make him do that time and time again
which is a lot tougher to do than to say, I’m shaving off a tenth of a point every
single time. I’m actually making him detrimental to his team. And the way you have to look
at it is all these tenths of points, all right, add up. They add up here, they add up here,
they add up there. And all of a sudden those tenths of a point become points. And in the
NBA as we all know the margin between wins and loses is very, very thin. So those tenths
of points matter. And that’s all it really is. It’s no different than playing the stock
market. You’re trying to shave percentage points off your risk. And if you can accumulate
enough, guess what? You’re going to do very well. And so guarding a guy like Kobe Bryant,
understanding exactly who he is, what his weakness is, made me a much better defender
and allowed me to stick around the NBA for 13 years.

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Dennis Veasley

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