homeaboutarchivepodcastnewslettermembership!
aboutarchivepodcastmembership!
aboutarchivemembers!

kottke.org posts about basketball

New NBA stat: points per miss

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2011

A couple nights ago against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dirk Nowitzki scored 48 points and only missed three shots, prompting Bill Simmons to wonder if that was some sort of record. Jerod from Midwest Sports Fans dug into how useful a stat like points per miss would be as a measure of efficiency.

What is interesting about the table above is that Dirk comes in ahead of Bird, Jordan, and so many others. Does this mean Dirk is a better player than Jordan or Bird? Of course not. But it does mean that he is as efficient a scorer as those two were, if not better. Scoring efficiency only tells one part of the story on one side of the floor, which is why PPM can only be considered a small piece of the puzzle when comparing players, but it is a good way to give one of the most unique scoring talents in NBA history his due.

The bracketless March Madness bracket

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 15, 2011

Gelf Magazine has an NCAA tournament bracket for those who hate filling out brackets: one devised by baseball stats master Bill James. Here’s the quickie explanation:

Sign up for your Bracketless Bracket using your Facebook ID. Instead of picking the winner of each game, all you have to do is pick your favorite team from each seed line. You pick exactly one team — no more, no less — from each seed number. You like both Kansas and Ohio State? Too bad. Pick one. Every time your team on the one-seed line wins a game at any point in the tournament, you get 100 points. Every time your 2-seed wins, you get 110 points. You get the picture; if your 16 seed wins a game, you get 250 points.

Great idea…the best part about this is that you get to pick all sorts of underdogs.

Allen Iverson goes to Turkey

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2011

Having lost a step and the confidence of NBA general managers, Allen Iverson is playing professional basketball in Istanbul. Philadelphia Magazine tracks the former Sixers star down to see how he’s faring in his new job.

With his NBA career over, his marriage in trouble, and rumors swirling about drinking and money problems, the greatest Sixer of his era finds himself playing minor-league basketball in Turkey and spending his nights at a T.G.I. Friday’s in Istanbul. Isn’t it, weirdly, exactly how we always thought it would end for Allen Iverson?

Michael Jordan advises LeBron James

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 29, 2010

Cleveland’s response to LeBron James’ boner of a Nike commercial has more heart, but this mash-up of the LeBron commercial with a previous Michael Jordan Nike commercial is an absolute masterpiece.

Michael Jordan’s final shot

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 01, 2010

After the Chicago Bulls won their final championship of the Michael Jordan era, David Halberstam wrote this fantastic article for the New Yorker about Jordan’s final season, final game, and final shot, a jumper over the sprawling body of Bryon Russell.

The crowd, Jordan remembered, got very quiet. That was, he said later, the moment for him. The moment, he explained, was what all Phil Jackson’s Zen Buddhism stuff, as he called it, was about: how to focus and concentrate and be ready for that critical point in a game, so that when it arrived you knew exactly what you wanted to do and how to do it, as if you had already lived through it. When it happened, you were supposed to be in control, use the moment, and not panic and let the moment use you. Jackson liked the analogy of a cat waiting for a mouse, patiently biding its time, until the mouse, utterly unaware, finally came forth.

The play at that instant, Jordan said, seemed to unfold very slowly, and he saw everything with great clarity, as Jackson had wanted him to: the way the Utah defense was setting up, and what his teammates were doing. He knew exactly what he was going to do. “I never doubted myself,” Jordan said later. “I never doubted the whole game.”

When NBA history is written, my guess is that no one will be able to top what Michael Jordan accomplished on the court (Bill Russell, possibly, aside). He was a fantastic athlete and possessed the focus and discipline to make the most of his physical gifts (by which I mean he had the pathological need to completely and totally dismantle everyone else on the court: opponents, teammates, officials, etc.). Basketball is full of mostly-one-or-the-other players: Larry Bird, for example, was not particularly physically gifted but more than made up for it in discipline and Shaq is an amazing athlete but lacked a certain focus at times. Oh, you’ll say, but what about: 1. LeBron (might be more talented than Jordan but is missing the necessary clinical insanity that Jordan had) or 2. Kobe (slightly less talented and driven, but might make up for it with longevity).

But to be fair, the shot against Russell was not the final shot of Jordan’s career. After that article was written, in 1998, Jordan returned to the NBA for two lackluster seasons with the Washington Wizards. His last NBA shot was a free throw in the final two minutes of a meaningless 107-87 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Acting on the orders of his coach Larry Brown, Sixers guard Eric Snow fouled Jordan so that Jordan could score some points and leave the game on a high note. The Wizards fouled shortly after and Jordan left to a standing ovation. The intensity that propelled Jordan to such great heights early in his career also drove him to retire too early (twice!) and then come back after it was too late to put an odd sort of question mark on an exclamation point of a career. (via jb)

The Cavs say goodbye to LeBron

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2010

The majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers has an epic car wreck of a goodbye/fuck you letter to LeBron James.

As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier. This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.

And that, my friends, is how you take the low road. (via @hurtyelbow)

Manute Bol, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 21, 2010

Former NBA player, shot blocker extraordinaire, and humanitarian Manute Bol died over the weekend at age 47. He died of a rare skin condition caused by a medication he took while in Africa.

“You know, a lot of people feel sorry for him, because he’s so tall and awkward,” Charles Barkley, a former 76ers teammate, once said. “But I’ll tell you this — if everyone in the world was a Manute Bol, it’s a world I’d want to live in.”

According to Language Log, Bol may also have originated the phrase “my bad”.

Ken Arneson emailed me to say that he heard the phrase was first used by the Sudanese immigrant basketball player Manute Bol, believed to have been a native speaker of Dinka (a very interesting and thoroughly un-Indo-Europeanlike language of the Nilo-Saharan superfamily). Says Arneson, “I first heard the phrase here in the Bay Area when Bol joined the Golden State Warriors in 1988, when several Warriors players started using the phrase.” And Ben Zimmer’s rummaging in the newspaper files down in the basement of Language Log Plaza produced a couple of early 1989 quotes that confirm this convincingly:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 10, 1989: When he [Manute Bol] throws a bad pass, he’ll say, “My bad” instead of “My fault,” and now all the other players say the same thing.

USA Today, Jan. 27, 1989: After making a bad pass, instead of saying “my fault,” Manute Bol says, “my bad.” Now all the other Warriors say it too.

Update: As a recent post on Language Log notes, several people picked up on this and kinda sorta got rid of the “may have” and the story became that Bol absolutely coined the phrase “my bad”. Unfortunately, the evidence doesn’t support that theory (although it doesn’t entirely disprove it either). The internet is so proficient at twisting the original meaning of things as they propagate that Telephone should really be called Internet.

The Best Missed Dunk of All Time

posted by Aaron Cohen   May 18, 2010

Shannon Brown of the LA Lakers missed a dunk in spectacular fashion last night.

This Vince Carter dunk wasn’t from as far away, but it did go in.

Foul trouble

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2010

Q. When should NBA coaches take players out of games because of fouls? A. A lot less than they actually do.

Conventional wisdom seems to regard foul management as a risk vs. safety decision. You will constantly hear something like, “a big decision here, whether to risk putting Duncan back in with 4 fouls.” This is completely the wrong lens for the problem, since the “risky”* strategy is, with the caveats mentioned, all upside! Coaches dramatically underrate the “risk” of falling behind, or losing a lead, by sitting a star for too long. To make it as stark as possible, observe that the coach is voluntarily imposing the penalty that he is trying to avoid, namely his player being taken out of the game! The most egregious cases are when a player sits even though his team is significantly behind. I almost feel as though the coach prefers the certainty of losing to the “risk” of the player fouling out.

(via mr)

The physics of free throw shooting

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2010

Attention @THE_REAL_SHAQ: it’s all about parabolas and backspin.

Free-throw success is also improved by adding a little backspin, which pushes the ball downward if it hits the back of the rim. The North Carolina State engineers calculated the ideal rate of free-throw backspin at three cycles per second. That is, a shot that takes one second to reach the basket will make three full revolutions counterclockwise as seen from the stands on the player’s right side.

(via mr)

Shaq: the big art curator

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2010

Shaquille O’Neal curated an art exhibition that opened this weekend at Flag Art Foundation in Chelsea.

Do you ever get time to visit museums?
I used to go a lot with my kids. Donald Trump is a great friend, and he has four or five Picassos on his plane. And that’s where I would look at them. One time, I was at a museum and tried touching a Picasso. You break it, you buy it, they said. I was told it would cost $2 million.

I suck at online basketball too

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 21, 2009

A simple but oddly compelling multiplayer basketball game…after each shot, you’re shown how you’re doing against everyone else (~1000 players when I was playing). (via waxy)

Best NBA players of the 2000s

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2009

I’m not exactly sure what I expected from such a list, but this wasn’t quite it. Kobe at #3 and Shaq is #6? Hrm.

Michael Jordan’s 23 most memorable moments

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2009

Michael Jordan is set for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend and in honor of the best player ever, ESPN is counting down with video of his 23 most memorable moments.

The overtime spike in NBA basketball

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2009

The distribution of point differentials at the end of NBA basketball games shows that a tie is more than twice as likely as either team winning by one point. A possible simple explanation from the comments:

1. Teams down by 2 late are most likely to take a 2 point shot, while teams down by 3 will most often take a 3 point shot. The team’s choices make ties a likely outcome.

2. A Tie is a stable equilibrium, while other scores aren’t. If a team leads with the ball, they will be fouled, preventing the game from ending on that score. IF a team has the ball with a tie, they’ll usually be allowed to wait and take the last shot, either winning the game or leaving it as a tie.

Update: This study about golf putting seems to have something in common with the overtime finding.

Even the world’s best pros are so consumed with avoiding bogeys that they make putts for birdie discernibly less often than identical-length putts for par, according to a coming paper by two professors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. After analyzing laser-precise data on more than 1.6 million Tour putts, they estimated that this preference for avoiding a negative (bogey) more than gaining an equal positive (birdie) — known in economics as loss aversion — costs the average pro about one stroke per 72-hole tournament, and the top 20 golfers about $1.2 million in prize money a year.

Bill Simmons on, what else, basketball

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 12, 2009

In an interview with the New Yorker about basketball and his new book, The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons offers up his take on how players skipping college impoverishes the NBA.

The lack of college experience also means that you probably have less of a chance to have a conversation with a Finals player about English lit or political science. For instance, if you’re a reporter, maybe you don’t ask for thoughts from modern players on the Gaza Strip or Abdul Nasser, or whether they read Chuck Pahlaniuk’s new book. These guys lead sheltered lives that really aren’t that interesting. Back in the seventies, you could go out to dinner with three of the Knicks — let’s say, Phil Jackson, Bill Bradley, and Walt Frazier — and actually have a fascinating night. Which three guys would you pick on the Magic or Lakers? I guess Fisher would be interesting, and I always heard Odom was surprisingly thoughtful. I can’t come up with a third. So I’d say that the effects are more in the “didn’t really have any experiences outside being a basketball player” sense.

The other drama

posted by Jason Kottke   May 27, 2009

During the TV coverage of the NBA playoffs, the NBA is running commercials showing great moments in playoff history that have been edited to isolate the players from the crowd. There’s Bird stealing the inbound pass, Dr. J’s improbable behind-the-backboard reverse layup, and Kobe lobbing the ball to Shaq for a thunderous dunk.

The Kobe/Shaq clip is worth a closer look because although the NBA picked this clip because it represents a dramatic moment in the NBA playoffs involving two of the best players in history on a storied team, what it actually shows is how dysfunctional Shaq and Kobe’s relationship was even then, in their first championship season.

Bryant creates 95% of the offense here by crossing Pippen over and throwing a perfect lob to O’Neal. O’Neal throws it down and the camera follows him as he heads down the court yelling in celebration, totally blowing right past Kobe, who has his hand out to high-five Shaq. Kobe half-heartedly grabs at O’Neal’s forearm as he passes; Shaq doesn’t even notice. From his celebration, you’d think Shaq had made an amazing play, but Kobe made that whole thing happen. And if you look at the box score for the game, it was clearly Bryant’s game: he had 25 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 blocks to O’Neal’s 18/9/5/1.

The unedited clip of the play1 shows an awkward ending to this awkward moment. After celebrating with the Laker bench, Shaq looks for Kobe and the two finally acknowledge the play together. But it’s a brief moment; they slap hands and go their separate ways, foreshadowing Shaq’s departure four years later.

[1] What’s also striking about the clip is that it shows just how much Kobe has improved the mechanics of his game since then. Even though he makes a great play here, he’s still got those jittery feet that characterized his early career, at times looking like a dog skittering around on freshly polished linoleum. Any stuttering footwork is now long gone, replaced by the silkiest and smoothest of movement.

Update: fxguide has a good look at how these commercials were made from a technical standpoint.

Kobe vs. LeBron

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2009

From a few days ago on TrueHoop, a lengthy debate about who is the better player: LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. LeBron has the statistical dominance but Kobe’s game is the prettiest.

[LeBron] just doesn’t move like the best basketball player in the world. Put almost any part Kobe Bryant’s game in super slow motion, and you’ll see beauty. Every little part of his game is refined, perfected, tested and honed … Put LeBron James clips in super slow motion, and you’re liable to find things here and there that he could do a little better. That footwork, that release, that way that he walks a little bit like a duck. There is a cognitive leap. Could the best basketball player in the world have noticeable flaws?

There’s also an interesting argument in there that LeBron’s game is such that it’s very difficult to say why he’s so good other than, well, just look at him play! In the same way, LeBron is difficult for kids to imitate on the playground whereas Kobe’s catalog of moves are easy to imitate but difficult to get perfect to the extent that Kobe has.

Bill Simmons in conversation with Malcolm Gladwell

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2009

I mentioned Malcolm Gladwell’s piece on underdogs the other day. It’s one of the many subjects that he and Bill Simmons tackle in a three-part email conversation they had recently: part one, part two, part three. Simmons says of LeBron James:

Let’s wrap things up by tackling LeBron James. As the 2009 postseason rolls on, the King has become its most compelling story, not just because of his insane numbers, that Jordan-like hunger in his eyes, even the fact that he’s still on cruise control to some degree. (Note: I would compare him to Nigel Tufnel’s amp. He alternated between “9” and “10” in the regular season, and he’s been at 10 in the playoffs, but I can’t shake the feeling that he has an “11” in store for Kobe and the Finals. An extra decibel level, if you will. In my lifetime, Jordan could go to 11. So could Bird. Shaq and Kobe could get there together, but not apart. And really, that’s it. Even Magic could get to 10 3/4 but never quite 11. It’s a whole other ball game: You aren’t just beating teams, you’re destroying their will. You never know when you’ll see another 11. I’m just glad we’re here. End of tangent.)

I have a hunch that Kobe may not even make it to the finals. They’ve got to beat the pesky and superstarless Rockets first and those Nuggets are looking good, although the long layoff could affect their momentum. Gladwell shared one of his ideas for changing the NBA draft: let the best teams pick first.

I think the only way around the problem is to put every team in the lottery. Every team’s name gets put in a hat, and you get assigned your draft position by chance. Does that, theoretically, make it harder for weaker teams to improve their chances against stronger teams? I don’t think so. First of all, the principal engine of parity in the modern era is the salary cap, not the draft. And in any case, if the reverse-order draft is such a great leveler, then why are the same teams at the bottom of both the NFL and NBA year after year? The current system perpetuates the myth that access to top picks is the primary determinant of competitiveness in pro sports, and that’s simply not true. Success is a function of the quality of the organization.

Another more radical idea is that you do a full lottery only every second year, or three out of four years, and in the off year make draft position in order of finish. Best teams pick first. How fun would that be? Every meaningless end-of-season game now becomes instantly meaningful. If you were the Minnesota Timberwolves, you would realize that unless you did something really drastic — like hire some random sports writer as your GM, or bring in Pitino to design a special-press squad — you would never climb out of the cellar again. And in a year with a can’t-miss No. 1 pick, having the best record in the regular season becomes hugely important.

Simmons and Gladwell did this once before in 2006: part one, part two.

Kobe and LeBron puppets

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2009

I love this Nike commercial featuring puppets of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James where Bryant is heckling James about his three championship rings.

The chalk one is pretty good as well.

How underdogs win

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2009

You’ve probably already seen this, but I just finished it so I’m posting: How David Beats Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. The main thesis is that through hard work and unconventional tactics, seemingly overmatched teams/people/armies can prevail against more powerful opponents.

It is easier to retreat and compose yourself after every score than swarm about, arms flailing. We tell ourselves that skill is the precious resource and effort is the commodity. It’s the other way around. Effort can trump ability — legs, in Saxe’s formulation, can overpower arms — because relentless effort is in fact something rarer than the ability to engage in some finely tuned act of motor coördination.

A post on Gladwell’s blog addresses some of the criticisms people had with the piece.

Star Trek lens flares

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2009

Did you notice all the lens flares in Star Trek? JJ Abrams’ rationale for them — he refers to them as “another actor” in the movie — is pretty interesting.

I love the idea that the future was so bright it couldn’t be contained in the frame. The flares weren’t just happening from on-camera light sources, they were happening off camera, and that was really the key to it. I want [to create] the sense that, just off camera, something spectacular is happening. There was always a sense of something, and also there is a really cool organic layer thats a quality of it.

Someone clever took some footage from the old series and added a bunch of lens flaring to make it look like the new film.

The result is supposed to be funny but I thought it also somewhat validated Abrams’ remarks above. (via snarkmarket & waxy)

Henry Jenkins and Snarkmarket also address my biggest problem with the movie, that the cadet-to-captain thing happened way too quickly to Kirk and his crew. Jenkins’ contention is that the new movie treats the Enterprise as a start-up company; Tim adds this gem of a line:

But it’s not academia; it’s the NBA. You give these kids the ball.

So, which NBA player is Kirk supposed to be? While not an exact comparison, I’m going to say that Kirk is Tony Parker to Spock’s Tim Duncan. And Scotty = Manu Ginobli?

Dikembe Mutombo’s career done

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2009

Dikembe Mutombo’s long NBA career came to a sad end last night with an injury to his knee.

His 18-year NBA career ended Tuesday night with a gruesome knee injury midway through his 1,297th game. He left the floor on a stretcher after every single teammate had surrounded him on the floor. That gesture spoke volumes about what they thought of him. He’s the funniest, smartest professional athlete you will ever meet.

Aside from the finger wagging, I always liked Mutombo. Back when I still watched college ball, Georgetown was my team and it was a lot of fun seeing Alonzo Mourning and Mutombo block all those shots. (via truehoop)

Bill Simmons’ NBA MVP picks

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 21, 2009

I need to make more time to read Bill Simmons’ column each week. His NBA MVP picks are an informative hoot. (Informative Hoot happens to be on the shortlist of possible alternate names for kottke.org.)

All But the Championship

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2009

TrueHoop looks at the recent ABC teams in the teams in the NBA, those that have flown high but have not secured a championship.

Some may argue that the true window to win a title began when Jerry Sloan took over as head coach [of the Utah Jazz] during the 1988-89 season, and while Karl Malone and John Stockton had been paired up since the 1985-86 season, the Jazz did not make it to the Western Conference Finals until 1992. That’s when they became title contenders. As we all know, Stockton’s career consisted of dishing out over 15,800 assists, which is over 5,000 assists more than Mark Jackson, who is 2nd on the NBA’s all-time assists list. Karl Malone, meanwhile, went on to finish 2nd on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. To have that kind of talent for so long and not come away with a title is almost unimaginable, if not crushing to a franchise. The window came to an abrupt close in 2003, when Stockton retired and Malone went to the Lakers in a last-ditch effort to win a title. The ultimate kicker? Between 1991 and 2003, Utah’s 632 wins were the most in the NBA.

Shot clock reads 60 Minutes

posted by Ainsley Drew   Mar 27, 2009

Lebron’s full-court shot on 60 Minutes makes me grin like a 4-year-old with a fistful of candy.

Da Truth, Superstar, Big Dog, the Chosen One

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2009

Allonzo Trier is the top-ranked basketball player in his class. As such, he gets flown around the country for games, is provided with shoes and clothes with his own logo on them, and his private school tuition, academic & basketball tutors, and dental care is paid for by a foundation started by a current NBA player.

What accrues to Allonzo because of his basketball exploits leaves Marcie feeling dazzled, bewildered, seduced and wary. “They’re doing nice things for my son, things that he needs and I can’t afford,” she told me. “So how can I say no?” But she knows the reason for the largesse. “If his game falls off, they will kick him to the curb. That’s what makes me nervous, and I don’t want it to happen.”

Oh, BTW, Trier is a sixth-grader. I always get depressed when reading about kids and athletics in the US and this article is no exception.

Getting into character

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2009

Yesterday I wondered if athletes see themselves as two separate entities (the person and the player) like the actors that Mike Leigh works with.

For actors to be able to differentiate between themselves and the characters they are playing while at the same time remain in character and spontaneous requires a sophisticated combination of skills and spirit.

Nelson, commenting on Wreck & Salvage, is a pro basketball player in the Netherlands:

I do have an on the court persona, without a doubt, that has been cultivated throughout the years, like a character, and it’s extremely easy to slip into. There are definitely times when I don’t feel like playing/performing, but when the ball goes up a switch gets turned on. We do watch a ton of video and analyze what we could do better, or what we’ve done wrong. I guess the point is, one runs on instinct, the other is a learned/cultivated behavior, and a great performance is a mixture of the two, which exists not as a duality, but combined in one person, expressed easily from a lifetime of dedication and practice.

A more extreme case involves Herschel Walker, who has been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (aka multiple personality disorder):

Walker and Mungadze believe the disorder actually helped Walker — who started for a number of NFL teams, including the Minnesota Vikings and the Dallas Cowboys — succeed on the gridiron. Mungadze offered a theory about the subconscious logic in Walker’s head. “Since people are laughing at you, we’re going to make you so strong, so fast, so talented, that you’re going to be above everyone. And that is what went into building this super athlete.”

Getting into character extends into other professions as well. In Pulp Fiction, before they go into an apartment to retrieve a briefcase for their boss, Jules tells Vincent to “get into character” after a conversation about foot massages.

In this Vogue profile of Melinda Gates, she describes her husband Bill’s transformation when he went to work.

Lately, they have begun to edge into each other’s territory. “I hope that one of the things about a great marriage is that you bring out the best in each other,” she says. “Look, I dated Bill for a long time before we got married, and I knew where his heart was. But I also knew that not many people saw it. The wall would go up the minute he stepped into Microsoft. Sometimes he would come into the foundation with the wall up. I would even tease him about it. He would be talking to me in the car, and by the time we got to the elevator I would be like, Whoa, where did he go?”

When my dad ran his own business back in the 70s/80s, he deliberately cultivated a “business voice” that he used on the telephone, a voice that was quieter, deeper, calmer, and more serious than his regular voice. The transformation when he got on the phone was pretty amazing. (thx, pavel)

Is two steps really traveling?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2009

TrueHoop recently investigated a seemingly simple aspect of the NBA game: the traveling violation.

The question is basic: If you’re dribbling the ball in the NBA, and you pick up your dribble … how many steps can you take before you have broken the traveling rules? It’s a fundamental part of the game. But I asked several NBA players, and the answers were far from simple.

In addition to asking the players, TH’s Henry Abbott also talks with some NBA officials, gets the low-down on how the call is really made, and makes an argument that the rule should be rewritten. The intro to the series is here.

No free throw improvement

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2009

As athletes get bigger, stronger, faster, and more well-trained and records repeatedly fall in other sports, the percentage of free throws made in college and NBA games has largely stayed the same.

The consistency of free-throw percentages stands out when contrasted with field-goal shooting over all. In men’s college basketball, field-goal percentage was below 40 percent until 1960, then climbed steadily to 48.1 in 1984, still the highest on record. The long-range 3-point shot was introduced in 1986, and the overall shooting percentage has settled in at about 44 percent.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s amazing that with so much at stake in the NBA game (wins, money, championships, glory), there are still players whose FT% is in the 50-60% range over the course of a season…for a shot that undefended and never changes! I wonder how the putting percentages have changed over the years in golf (if they even keep such statistics). The Times’ Room for Debate blog has a related discussion on unbreakable sports records.