Cultural Alienation and NBA Fan Ennui

I love the sport of basketball, from shooting around at the playground to watching the greats of the NBA do their thing on national television—or, better still, on local television in Indianapolis that I happen to watch in Seattle thanks to League Pass.

I abhor celebrity culture, gossip, and the parts of sports that are collectively known as “off-the-field issues.” I detest ESPN’s chattering pundit shows, and whenever someone on their NBA coverage veers off into something not related to what’s going on on the court, I tend to mute the sound.

I’m also a history buff and a stat nerd; as regular readers of this site know, I’m in my element when I’m putting the events of today’s game into historical context, scouring Basketball Reference and its companion site Stathead to bring precedent to what the foolish chatterboxes believe to be unprecedented.

This has, however, created an interesting dilemma for me as a basketball fan and a basketball writer. Doubly so since this gig got demoted to hobby in as much time as it took my job to eat my life.

But then again…

When Excel Spreadsheets Attack

Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets

In a few of my jobs in data analysis and accounting, I’ve drawn the attention of bosses because a talent for taking apart statistical data and finding patterns in it is a useful job skill.

Watching Kevin Durant play basketball is certainly entertaining. But to me, the real fun is in going on Basketball Reference and seeing how he and Kyrie Irving have turned an otherwise mediocre Nets team into the 19-12 4 seed in the East, winners of six straight and 10 of 11 to go from 9-11 to that 19-12 record just mentioned.

Durant’s putting up .213 WS/48, his best mark since before he blew his Achilles. The last time Durant was in this kind of territory, he put up .215 WS/48 for the 2018 Warriors.

Speaking of Irving, he’s not only not the second-best player on the Nets according to advanced stats, he’s barely better than the mediocre Ben Simmons. Nic Claxton is putting up .189 WS/48 as the second-best player. Irving’s at .132. Simmons, just .124. Nobody else over the 400 minute mark this year is any better than you’d expect to see from rotation players on 25-win teams.

Notice I didn’t say a word about any of those guys off the court. Nor did I say a word about stuff you’d think to yourself from watching games live and trying to suss things out from the feats of athleticism on offer.

That’s not the way my brain’s wired. I have an accounting degree and a resume full of jobs involving solving data puzzles.

On the bright side, this does mean I can use Pace and Space as resume fodder.

Citation Needed

Another part of my writing I enjoy more than the games themselves is when some piece of research I’ve done for a statistical test shows up on Reddit or in an article on another blog.

My work on D’Antoni Index has provided authors with shorthand for teams’ ability to shoot 3-pointers and get to the free throw line when attacking the rim.

Along the same lines, there’s an entire body of work on this site from last season that takes apart pretty much every playoff scenario in terms of which team will win a series in any given situation. If you’re a fan of, say, an underdog that just split the series on the road, you can find out from this site that you’re toast if you lose Game 3.

Basketball is just a vehicle for a greater interest in sports forecasting. It’s the stat nerd in me coming out again.

The Lack of Social Interaction

I got off Twitter in December of 2020 and don’t miss it at all. My New Year’s resolution for 2021 was to stop letting dumb crap on the Internet make me angry. And all I can say to that is “mission 100 percent accomplished.”

But ditching social media also meant unplugging myself from pointless arguments that don’t mean anything. I don’t have a dog in the LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan argument other than the statistical cases I’ve made in LeBron’s favor over the years writing my articles about him.

And yes, if LeBron surpasses Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time scoring title, the debate is over.

My Point In All This

Well, besides “sorry my job ate my life and I haven’t been writing as much this season”, it’s that I hope you all continue to enjoy this site precisely because it’s not the kind of stuff you’ll normally get from people who write about the NBA.

This is a site for people who don’t care about the stuff that ESPN wants you to care about. This is a site for people for whom “shut up and dribble” isn’t a dog whistle or a petty complaint but a genuine disinterest in the parts of sports that don’t involve athletes playing sports at that specific moment.

I guess I’m just throwing this out there in hopes that someone is going to nod his head like “Yeah man, I feel you.”

Anyway, Christmas is coming. And oh man, it’s bad enough when Jeff Van Gundy runs his mouth, now I gotta hear Mariah Carey sing that stupid “All I Want For Christmas Is You” song?

Ugh…better hit mute before the games even start. Happy Hoopsmas, folks.