By Ryan McNeill
Something that I’ve been thinking about this past week is the emphasis that fans, players and coaches place on statistics. When entering into a discussion about an upcoming game or talking about a game that we recently watched something we focus on is who scored the most points, snagged the most rebounds, blocked the most shots and or a variety of other stats that can be derived from a particular game or season.
While individual and team stats can be a great tool to explain who wins or loses a game, I feel that using stats isn’t always the best tool to measure the worth of an individual player to his team.
In a recent Toronto Star article Raptors rookie Jorge Garbajosa had to say about North American’s love of stats:
“Here, I think the problem – and it’s just my first year – is that everybody is talking about the stats. Everybody is saying, ‘He scored 25 points with 47 per cent field-goal shooting.’ I think this is not a good thing for basketball. Because a lot of things that you cannot write in the paper help a lot for a team to win. But this is maybe the way you do things.”
Garbajosa followed this quote up later in the article when he stated:
“The stats are not important. When they show the game on TV in Spain, they don’t take too much care about who’s scoring points. … The next day people are not talking about how many points you scored. They are just talking about how the game was. Maybe that is the difference. I don’t know.”
These quotes by Garbajosa reminded me of a key concept in Brian McCormick’s book “Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development.” In that book Coach McCormick tries to take the focus off of winning or losing games in youth basketball and instead switch the focus to the development of skills in young players. He feels that when coaches place to high of an importance on winning games that it’s detrimental to the development of young players. I feel that if coaches can get younger players to stop looking at their stats following games and convince these players to make an extra pass or put the work into being a strong defender than fans will see great improvements in the level of basketball played at the professional level in the NBA within the next decade.
I feel that Garbajosa has a great point when he says that North Americans place too high of an importance on individual statistics from games. Case in point – who cares if Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson are two of the league’s top scorers if the Nuggets can’t win ball games?