“The similar revolution in baseball took a couple of decades, at least, and this took about half the time, in part because [baseball] helped pave the way” – Kevin Pelton, NBA writer for ESPN Insider
Andy Glockner’s seminal work on the history, struggle and future promise of basketball embracing the allure of analytics is charming and compelling. Though the lessons of cultivating appropriate analytical models in an attempt to build a “perfect” NBA franchise are littered with provocative possibilities and inevitable pitfalls, the magic of this book is in the story he weaves together.
It is a story of how perfect equations found in the infinite truths of math and science are colliding with the upper echelon of the NBA. From the office suites of NBA team management, to the lockers rooms of NBA coaches to the hallowed courts where only elite ballers of the day ply their trade, the invasion of analytics has already forever changed the game.
Glocker does a masterful job of introducing you to all the major players who have and continue to shape this ever unfolding story of analytical transformation. Anyone new to this topic will find his contextualization and introduction of the early pioneers of basketball analytics illuminating. Highlighting the analytical contributions of Dean Oliver, Jeff Sagarin and John Hollinger help to provide an astute perspective on where the game has come from and where it inevitably is headed.
Glockner takes complicated concepts like the hunt for future perfected players and the tricky art and science of turning data into wins and brings them to life through the gritty tales of real life heroic human feats as well as disheartening failures. The stories he pens are ones that will help to shape the way you watch ballgames from now on.
Some of the greatest opponents of the new wave of analytics are ironically enough the icons of NBA past. Most of the NBA talking heads on ESPN & TNT include primarily former players. More often than not these former players still scoff at the analytics movement due to insecurities of potentially losing their primacy of position.
One day these former players/talking media heads will look as foolish in the annals of the sports history books as those that opposed the Copernican revolution do in the science textbooks of today. Thankfully a new breed of basketball players are embracing this inevitable analytics revolution. Every level of basketball has been fully infiltrated with this analytical approach to the game from USA basketball to college ball to even much of elite high school hoops. The analytics movement is here to stay, no matter how loud Sir Charles doth protest.
“There was only one thing I was trying to do — put numbers in front our team to get them to understand that what we are doing is in their best interest and that their efficiency numbers would be off the chaarts if they did this right…And that no one would be hurt by less minutes; you would be more efficient.”John Calipari, head coach, University of Kentucky
For anyone who wants to take their understanding and appreciation of the world’s most enchanting game to the next level Chasing Perfection is a sensible place to begin.