Sports Night

Basketball season is just around the corner! This year, the NBA is installing a new data collection system in all 30 arenas. Stat nerdery and data mining have been a part of sports for years, but we’re moving into an era of serious big data, and it’s going to change how the game is played and teams are run.


Another type of basketball big data: A Trail Blazers fan has over 3,000 scorecards stacked up in her home, dating back nearly 40 years.

Rice's collection contains 3,280 regular-season games and another 300 postseason Blazers games, as well as computer and hand-made records of all of the defunct National Basketball League and American Basketball Association teams, and complete records of the Basketball Association of America (an organization that predates the existence of the ABA). There are so many hand-scored sheets that stacked up, they tower over 10-feet high.

Even more fun with sports data: Play “Six Degrees of Kevin Garnett” with players across the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL:

What’s even more remarkable is that it’s possible to connect players who didn’t even play the same sport. Cross-sport athletes like Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson are exceedingly rare, and some combinations of sports are hardly seen at all.... Thanks to this handful of multisport athletes, no more than 12 degrees is ever needed to make one of the more than 2 billion possible connections between any two athletes from baseball, football, or basketball.... “Twelve Degrees of Separation” is not quite as catchy as six, but it's still impressive that any two athletes who played for any of 6,000 teams over 140 years can be covered in just a dozen steps.

We use the term “freak of nature” to describe athletes all the time, but in Steph Curry’s case, the stats are really freaky, and it’s part of why he’s such a joy to watch:

That's what's most fun about all this: that it's fun at all. Often—not all the time, but often enough—stats are wielded as a sort of smelling salt. They're presented as a sobering means of instruction, urging fans not to be quite so impressed by the most viscerally exciting players—Derrick Rose has to draw more fouls, after all, and remember that Kobe's PER usually isn't top 10, and please be mindful of sample size as you watch the comet known as Yasiel Puig streak through the sky. Thrilling players, slouching toward the mean. With Curry though, the stats inspire something else: Wait, you've been doing what over there???

It’s not basketball, but Super Smash Bros Melee is a great game. East Point Pictures has a documentary up on YouTube about the game and its tournament scene.


By the way: Solar Surfing in Opti Space has been entered into the competition for IGF 2014, along with every other video game in existence. Wish me luck!