View Full Version : The Confessions of an NBA Scorekeeper

12-12-2009, 01:41 AM
From Deadspin (http://deadspin.com/5345287/the-confessions-of-an-nba-scorekeeper)

A thoroughly informative article on how the statistics in basketball can be entirely misleading--especially those of an NBA star. Note the lack of guidelines and training materials given to these teams of stats keepers and the absent regulation and oversight of stats.

A choice section on the freedom allowed to them:

Alex quickly found that a scorekeeper is given broad discretion over two categories: assists and blocks (steals and rebounds are also open to some interpretation, though not a lot). "In the NBA, an assist is a pass leading directly to a basket," he says. "That's inherently subjective. What does that really mean in practice? The definition is massively variable according to who you talk to. The Jazz guys were pretty open about their liberalities. ... John Stockton averaged 10 assists. Is that legit? It's legit because they entered it. If he's another guy, would he get 10? Probably not.".

And another on administrative interference. The claim is that it only happened once, but that's only once in a three year span of a single team--and it was for an opposing player. For those of you not young enough to remember the Grizz during 95 - 98, they were bad, indicating that this is probably even more common with marquee players at their home courts.

"Someone in management came to me and said, basically, Thou shalt give Hakeem Olajuwon a triple-double. Come hell or high water, he's getting a triple-double. I'm like, uh, OK." The Grizzlies had small monitors on which they kept a running box score. Anyone could see if someone was closing in on a milestone. "If a guy is in vicinity of a record, people are tracking those things. I know those things," Alex says. "If a guy has an eight-game streak of getting 10 rebounds, I'll know that. Am I gonna help that? Probably." The Rockets game, though, "was the one time someone said, 'You'll do this.' And I did."

There is also an issue of process, as illustrated below, which speaks to an allowance of much....uhh...discretion (manipulation).

Alex was the caller, which meant that he'd call out the game to someone tapping feverishly away at his computer and rarely even glancing at the floor. "I would sit there, and I would call out things like, 'Field goal, miss, Bryon Russell, 18-footer from the elbow.'" He'd note "location, shot type, whether it was missed or made, assisted if necessary, blocked if necessary," and all this information would coalesce into a box score that would wind up, in shrunken agate type, in your morning newspaper. The process allows for what Alex calls "two points of failure the guy subjectively seeing the action on the floor and then calling it out to the inputters." Errors, deliberate or otherwise, weren't easily corrected, given the NBA's growing desire for "immediacy over accuracy" in the Internet age.

A thoroughly interesting article.

12-12-2009, 02:05 AM
I would think it is hard to forge stats now a days or misinterpret them since media has expanded, coverage and equipment has been improved upon. I do not question however, that it happened in the past ala Wilt Chamberlain years

12-12-2009, 08:02 AM
I've had enough conspiracies and scandals for the year already.

12-12-2009, 09:38 AM
I would think it is hard to forge stats now a days or misinterpret them since media has expanded, coverage and equipment has been improved upon. I do not question however, that it happened in the past ala Wilt Chamberlain years

Speaking of Wilt Chamberlain, I really hope that this scorekeeping thing didn't effect that 100point explosion. I mean, I can see him scoring a lot of points on a nightly basis, and even going off for a ridiculous amount every once and a while considering his size and the rest of the league back then.

But I did always find it kinda ironic that he scored exactly 100. Why not 101 or 99?

Like you said not many people paid attention to the stats other than those scorers. Who knows if he actually got 100. The game wasn't even televised!! I really hope that didn't affect his night though...

12-12-2009, 09:58 AM
Teams usually have someone on the bench scoring the stat sheet(s) as well, and nowadays there are people who re-watch the games at home and keep track of stats sites.

So I doubt really crazy stuff happens without it getting noticed.

12-12-2009, 08:11 PM
I think the very point of the article, if you read it, is the subjectivity of some of these things.

So when assists simply tabulate a player that makes a pass that contributes to a basket, then it's subjective to the scorekeepers call. You can't argue with it. So if you have your own tape of the game even if you disagree, arguments can be made the other way as well, so the numbers can be fudged. It's pretty simple, and happens every game.

12-12-2009, 08:28 PM
Well, when it comes to assists there is room for error. When Cousy played it was hard to get an assist. I think the rule was that if the player dribbled before shooting then the assist didn't count, so you'd essentially only get an assist if you passed it to a guy who then shot, or went right into the basket, so dropping it into a guy in the post wouldn't get you an assist. So Stockton would have for a fact gotten less assists back in the 60's, but the rules changed and the definition was broadened.

Blocks, steals, rebounds and FG% are all pretty clear to me. You either got the steal, or you didn't. You either hit the shot, or you didn't. Long rebounds that hit the floor should just go to whoever picks up the ball.

As for fouls, you just have to go by what the officials say, but that is the most subjective thing of all if you ask me, and what with these officials admitting to influencing games, I gotta say as a fan that is a big concern for me.

12-12-2009, 08:34 PM
interesting article nonetheless

Jacob K.
12-12-2009, 11:47 PM
it feels like the nba is becoming the WWE

12-13-2009, 03:49 AM
Old subject, turns out you can account for these variables with the stats themselves. And no to the youngsters questioning the validity of Wilts 100. You cant fudge with scoring stats, you either made the shot or you didnt, come on kiddies stop trying to buy into the first conspiracy you read.

12-13-2009, 11:37 AM
^yeah, but when your scoring that much, people lose count. No one paid much attention to that stuff so at one point they couldve said he's got like 80 pts and then at the end say he got 100 and make up how many field goals he hit and free throws to add up to 100. No one knows for sure

12-13-2009, 04:35 PM
I've seen a few mistakes, but not conspiracy-thread worth mistakes.