There were many bits of history on the line in Sunday’s NBA Finals Game 7 — among them, the city of Cleveland’s nearly 52-year-old championship curse (now broken), the all-time rank of the 73-win Golden State Warriors (probably not No. 1), and LeBron James’s case as G.O.A.T. (maybe?). So after a night in which the specter of the past hovered just about everywhere, let’s put in perspective how the Cavaliers made history in winning the 2016 NBA title.First, they became only the fourth team in NBA history to win a title after replacing its coach mid-season, having ousted David Blatt in favor of Tyronn Lue in January. As my colleague Nate Silver noted at the time, Cleveland’s case was especially unusual because the Cavs under Blatt were not playing badly — they had by far the top Elo rating of any team to fire its coach during a season — and weren’t undershooting their preseason Vegas expectations — usually a key indicator for coaching job security. But in the end, the Cavs rounded into better playoff form under Lue than they had under Blatt the year before.After accounting for strength of schedule, we find that Lue navigated Cleveland through one of history’s great playoff journeys. If we use pre-series Elo ratings to judge the difficulty of a team’s postseason path and weight its opponent-adjusted scoring margin by the importance of each game, the 2016 Cavaliers’ run ranks as the fifth-best by an NBA champion since 1984:1The season the NBA adopted its current playoff structure. YEARTEAMOPP.PRE-SERIES WIN PROBABILITY (ELO) Shaquille O’Neal2002436.363.612.33.832.2 RANKYEARCHAMPIONGAMESMARGIN OF VICTORYSTRENGTH OF SCHEDULERATING 101992Chicago Bulls22+7.1+6.0+13.0 91998Chicago Bulls21+6.9+7.3+14.2 Strength of schedule was determined using the pre-series Elo ratings of a team’s opponents. Games were weighted according to how much they swung each team’s title odds.Source: Basketball-Reference.com 262007San Antonio Spurs20+5.3+4.3+9.6 72009Los Angeles Lakers23+8.3+6.2+14.5 Notably, the Cavs faced the most difficult schedule of any champ since 1984, granting that most of it came from facing the historically great Warriors in the Finals (which, by definition, contains the most important games of the season). And by the numbers, Cleveland pulled off a colossal upset against Golden State: the second-biggest in a Finals since 1984, according to the pre-series Elo ratings. 131990Detroit Pistons20+7.0+5.0+12.0 42001Los Angeles Lakers16+10.0+4.9+14.9 Michael Jordan1993641.055.88.56.330.7 61986Boston Celtics18+10.8+3.8+14.5 Dwyane Wade2006634.718.104.22.1686.9 142004Detroit Pistons23+7.2+4.6+11.8 152012Miami Heat23+6.6+5.1+11.7 2006MIADAL23.8% Shaquille O’Neal2001533.057.515.84.829.1 171987Los Angeles Lakers18+8.4+3.0+11.4 182003San Antonio Spurs24+6.2+5.2+11.4 LeBron James2016729.722.214.171.1247.7 1995HOUORL47.6 Game Scores were adjusted to a pace of 100 possessions per game.Source: Basketball-Reference.com 111985Los Angeles Lakers19+7.1+5.4+12.5 1988LALDET44.4 242010Los Angeles Lakers23+4.5+5.4+9.9 251995Houston Rockets22+3.4+6.5+9.9 For his NBA Finals career, James also ranks third since 1983 in average Game Score, behind Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal. And beyond the Finals, LeBron now ranks shockingly high in a variety of advanced statistical categories: He’s No. 1 in lifetime Box Plus/Minus (both for the regular-season and playoffs, although both stats extend back only to 1974) and its value-based offshoot VORP (again, both regular-season and playoffs); No. 1 in playoff career Win Shares; No. 2 — trailing only Jordan — in lifetime regular-season Player Efficiency Rating; and No. 3 (behind MJ and George Mikan) in the playoffs.In short, it’s a statistical legacy unmatched by basically everyone in NBA history except Jordan. And although James’s championship tally will probably never reach MJ’s level, he achieved a measure of immortality among the “Count the Rings” crowd on Sunday night.Finally, the 2016 Cavaliers officially proved that God Doesn’t Hate Cleveland. I wrote that story more than two years ago; for most of the time since, the city continued to be plagued with its typical amalgamation of terrible management and disappointing play. Even I was beginning to doubt that the curse would ever be lifted, statistics be damned. But with a once-in-a-generation player leading a playoff run for the ages, the Cavs have validated the faith of their city’s long-suffering fans.Andrew Flowers contributed research. 282013Miami Heat23+3.9+4.5+8.4 292005San Antonio Spurs23+2.1+5.3+7.4 2016CLEGS27.4 311984Boston Celtics23+3.8+3.0+6.8 31991Chicago Bulls17+10.5+5.2+15.7 PLAYERYEARGAMESPTS/GTS%REB/GAST/GGAME SCORE/G 222002Los Angeles Lakers19+4.6+6.1+10.7 2011DALMIA44.1 2008BOSLAL39.2 331988Los Angeles Lakers24+2.0+4.2+6.2 201999San Antonio Spurs17+6.8+3.9+10.7 302000Los Angeles Lakers23+2.6+4.3+6.9 2012MIAOKC30.8 232006Miami Heat23+4.0+6.1+10.1 21996Chicago Bulls18+11.0+5.2+16.2 Best statistical NBA Finals performances since 1983 12014San Antonio Spurs23+12.9+4.5+17.4 192011Dallas Mavericks21+4.3+6.9+11.2 211989Detroit Pistons17+6.5+4.2+10.7 Michael Jordan1992635.8126.96.36.1996.7 The Warriors have not been themselves since Stephen Curry’s injury in late April, so maybe the magnitude of Cleveland’s upset is overstated by Elo. (Lending some credence to this idea is … Elo itself, which now considers the Cavs to be the best team in the NBA.) But still, beating the team that broke the all-time league wins record in a do-or-die Game 7 on its own home court — where favorites tend to be nearly invulnerable — gives the Cavs’ run special place in NBA history.We also have to discuss James, who shook off whatever doubt remained about his primacy in his era. James capped off the third-best individual playoff run since 1974 according to Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) and averaged the seventh-highest Game Score in an NBA Finals since 1983:2The earliest season for which Basketball-Reference.com’s game-by-game NBA Finals data contains offensive and defensive rebounds, steals and blocks. SERIES AVERAGES Magic Johnson1987626.259.08.013.028.3 Michael Jordan1991531.261.26.611.432.8 The best NBA championship runs since 1984 161997Chicago Bulls19+4.0+7.4+11.5 VIDEO: The greatness of LeBron James 82015Golden State Warriors21+8.4+6.1+14.5 321994Houston Rockets23+2.2+4.6+6.8 52016Cleveland Cavaliers21+6.1+8.6+14.7 1998CHIUTA45.1 Shaquille O’Neal2000638.057.616.72.332.0 2004DETLAL40.5 Biggest Finals upsets since 1984 Michael Jordan1997632.353.27.06.027.0 271993Chicago Bulls19+2.9+5.7+8.6 122008Boston Celtics26+7.4+4.7+12.1
J.R. Smith arrived in New York before this season believing he would be a starter. When he was relegated to coming off the bench, he was not happy. But Smith showed something he had not in his career: maturity.That personal growth allowed him to accept the role and then flourish in it, culminating with Monday’s announcement that he earned the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award.Smith received 484 points, including 72 first-place votes, from a panel of 121 writers and broadcasters. The Clippers’ Jamal Crawford finished second with 352 points, getting 31 first-place votes.“I just wanted to show everybody that I could be a team guy and it’s all about the team,” Smith said at a news conference attended by his family, teammates and coaches.Smith averaged 18.1 points in 80 games, all off the bench. He had 29 games in which he scored 20 points as a reserve, tying Crawford for the NBA lead.“Couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” said coach Mike Woodson. “I’m so proud of him, in terms of buying in to what we wanted him to do earlier in the season. And it started this summer. I wasn’t going to start him, coming into this year, and I knew that. And he bought in. He didn’t like it, but he bought in. And it couldn’t have happened to a better person, because he put in the time and he worked his butt off to get to this point, and he got rewarded for it. I’m happy for him.”Smith helped the Knicks win the Atlantic Division title for the first time since 1994. New York is the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and leads the Boston Celtics 1-0 in their first-round playoff series.Smith is the third player in Knicks history to win the NBA’s Sixth Man Award, joining John Starks (1996-97) and Anthony Mason (1994-95).Despite not making a start, Smith was one of the Knicks’ most important players. He played more than 40 minutes seven times and was often their only scoring threat behind Carmelo Anthony.Anthony, who teamed with Smith for 4½ seasons in Denver, noted that Smith had a more mature approach to the game this year.“I think there comes a point in time in your life where you’re almost forced to grow up, you’re almost forced to mature. You gotta be willing to want to do those things. I think right now, this season, J.R. has done that,” Anthony said. “I think J.R. was forced to grow up, he was forced to be mature and he was willing to take on that challenge, too.”
The NFL continues to bolster its reputation as the “No Fun League.” In this latest case, the competition committee announced it would penalize players–notably the New Orleans Saints’ Jimmy Graham–for dunking the football over the goal posts following a touchdown. Seriously.NFL competition committee co-chairman Jeff Fisher said Graham’s routine–which he copied from now-retired tight end Tony Gonzalez–was at the heart of the decision to add the goal-post celebration to the list of post-touchdown actions that will draw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.“The background is when the committee basically defined unsportsmanlike conduct and celebrations, it grandfathered in the Lambeau Leap, provided only one person jumped into the stands,” Fisher said. “And also (the committee) made an emphasis, made it illegal, to celebrate using anything as a prop, whether it was a pen or it was a ball or what have you. But then again allowed the players to, in essence, use the goal post as a prop, to dunk, to shoot, whatever.“And then last year we had an incident in one of the games where there was a dunk and the goal post was tilted and the game was shut down for about 25 minutes until they could get the goal post corrected. That’s unnecessary, and so we just felt that we would include the goal post in that category as props.”Fisher didn’t specifically name Graham as the inspiration for the decision to add the dunk to the list of celebration no-nos, but when asked if it was the tight end he said: “It was a player that’s done it before that’s real tall, catches a lot of touchdown passes and is pretty good.”NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino revealed the change in how the goal-post dunk will be officiated Tuesday during a radio interview with “The Dan Patrick Show.”Graham, a former basketball player at the University of Miami, has tilted the crossbar twice during his career with a post-touchdown celebration. In the Saints’ game in Atlanta this past season, the game was delayed as stadium workers reset the crossbar.“And the same play he dunked and the goal post shifted, and then he used it as a punching bag,” Fisher said. “Now we’re not going to penalize back to back but the first one, the dunk, now is going to be a penalty. We just can’t afford — can you imagine if someone had a hamstring issue after a 20-minute delay in the game because we allowed a player to dunk?”
In the final paces to become the first American to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years, Meb Keflezighi slapped hands with fans lining Boylston Street, where two bombs detonated during last year’s race, killing three and injuring 260.“As an athlete, you have dreams,” he said. “Today was the day when dreams and reality met. My career is fulfilled.”Keflezighi led for most of the 26.2-mile run, and even earned the cheers of his competitors as he flew past them toward the finish line. He crossed the tape after 2 hours 8 minutes 37 seconds, a personal best.“This is probably the most meaningful victory for an American because of what happened last year,” he said. “I’m almost 39. I just ran a personal best. I just won the Boston Marathon. I feel blessed.”The list of winners of all major marathons in recent decades is dominated by Kenyans and Ethiopians. Runners from those countries have won 24 of the 30 Boston Marathons since 1983, when American Greg Meyer won. While Keflezighi is a familiar name and successful marathoner, nothing about his life fits history or convention.Keflezighi is one of 10 children. He fled to Italy from Eritrea with his mother and his siblings while his father worked cleaning jobs to support the family and arranged for them to immigrate to San Diego. Keflezighi was a high school champion who went on to thrive at UCLA, where he won multiple NCAA championships.Keflezighi and Josphat Boit, a late entrant, pulled away from the pack midway through Monday’s race. After the runners hit the Newton hills, Keflezighi pulled away from Boit, who finished 11th.“He was so far away,” Kenyan Wilson Chebet said, “I couldn’t see Meb. I only saw straight road.”Around the 20th mile, Keflezighi said he fought off a stomach ailment and “prayed a lot” to earn the title.Rita Jeptoo of Kenya successfully defended her women’s title, pulling away in the final three miles to win Boston easily for the third time. Besides winning last year, Jeptoo, 33, also won in 2006. She set a course record of 2:18:57 on Monday, and the top four women all beat the former course record of 2:20:43.
Today’s players, who en masse bolt college for the NBA before completing four years, likely had not ever heard of Spencer Haywood before he was finally added to the Basketball Hall of Fame this week. Not only should they know him, they should thank him.When Haywood was 19 and among the best players in the world, he left the University of Detroit after his sophomore season in 1969 for the ABA Denver Nuggets, the professional league that was an alternative to the NBA. He averaged 30 points and 19.5 rebounds as a rookie, which tells you about the skill set of the 6-foot-9 forward, and then signed with the Seattle Supersonics.But the NBA blocked the contract because the rule was that players had to have four years out of high school before playing in the league. Haywood stood firm with his convictions and sued, taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court in 1971.And he won in a landmark decision that eventually led to college underclassmen (and, later, high schoolers) being able to leave college early to join the NBA.Maybe it would have eventually happened—Spencer Haywood made it happen.He went on to be a celebrated star player, averaging 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds over his pro career. He had four NBA all-star appearances. He also, at 19, led the U.S. to the gold medal in the 1968.But for 27 years, he was denied entry into the hallowed Hall. One never to shy away from sharing his accomplishments or how good he was, Haywood said before the announcement about the two dozen anonymous voters: “They should view my career in a total package. I have the Olympic career. I was the outstanding college player of the year. I won a high school championship. I went to the ABA, was Rookie of the Year, leading scorer, leading rebounder, player of the year and MVP of the All-Star game. I left the game afterSpencer Haywood was a force as a scorer and rebounder.14 years with 20 and 10. That’s pretty serious stuff there. I had a great career. And also, I went to the Supreme Court to have Haywood vs. the NBA. That rule has ushered in all of these players. The Jordans, the Magics, the Birds. All the way up to LeBron and Kobe and those guys today.”He was right, and the voters finally got it right, ushering him to a place deserving of someone who changed the game.At 65, the former University of Detroit star said he took the courageous step to challenge the NBA when he was not happy with a new coach hired at his college.“That’s when it first came into my mind that I can’t play (there). I said, what about (other talented players) who were lingering out there?’” Haywood said to nba.com. “They could play but couldn’t maintain the college life. George Gervin had just got kicked out of Eastern Michigan. I decided I’d fight it. I thought it would be a short fight.”It turned out to be a long fight, but one that impacted college and pro basketball from that moment forward.“Personally, I thought I was going to be in the Hall 27 years ago,” Haywood said. “But it never happens on Spencer time, and I have to surrender to it being on God’s time, which is really right on time.”It has been a long journey for Haywood, who grew up picking cotton, battled a cocaine addiction and public marriage and breakup with supermodel Iman.“My brothers and I, in between doing farm work, we played basketball in our bare feet with a rubber ball and sometimes with a sock,” he said of his upbringing to the Detroit News. “We’d put cotton in a sock and that was our ball. It wouldn’t bounce. You had to do imaginary bounces.“Basketball was my way out and, sure enough, it has been my way out. I’m just saying, the beauty of the game — that was my reward.”
Before Serena Williams these Black athletes made a mark on tennis and golf.She Moved North to Escape the Jim Crow SouthAlthea Gibson (Aug. 25, 1927 – Sept. 28, 2003) was part of the Great Migration northward when Black people from the south moved to the urban and industrialized north to escape Jim Crow. She came from the little town of Silver, South Carolina and ended up in Harlem. Her family was hopeful for a new life but they soon learned that the north was not much different from the south. Gibson and her family experienced tough economic hardships. She Was a Table Tennis ChampionThe first sport Gibson played was table tennis. She was so good at it that she became a local champion and captured the attention of musician Buddy Walker who inspired her to play tennis for real. In 1941, Gibson started playing at the local Harlem River Tennis Courts.
Entering Denver’s Monday night AFC West showdown with the first-place Kansas City Chiefs, there are few people who hold out much hope for the Broncos’ offense. The unit is perhaps the most beleaguered in the NFL right now. (And there are some really beleaguered units out there — have you watched the 49ers?) After routing the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2, Trevor Siemian and the Broncos have scored just three touchdowns in their past four games — and in their last outing were completely shut out by the Chargers.Now Denver is 3-3, with two more games against divisional leaders looming after tonight. But here’s the interesting thing about the Broncos’ apparent unraveling: The offense may be terrible, but it’s been terrible for three years — including the 2015-16 Super Bowl title run.A closer look at the numbers reveals that the vaunted Denver defense is perhaps not getting enough share of the blame. The Bronco defense is hardly struggling, but Denver’s recent formula for winning allows very little margin for error, and this year there’s been some error.Over the previous two seasons, the Denver defense was truly dominant — No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA1Defense-adjusted value over average, explained here. for both 2015 and 2016. The Broncos also finished first in passing yards allowed, first in passing net yards allowed per attempt and fourth in total points allowed in both seasons. This despite well-documented struggles at quarterback that limited the offense’s output.While the Broncos’ defense is ranked No. 1 in total yards allowed in 2017, it’s lagging behind the 2016 and 2015 editions in many key metrics. Going into Week 8, the Broncos were ranked fourth in defensive DVOA, and they were allowing a ninth-best average of 5.5 net passing yards per attempt — worsened from league-leading marks of 5.0 in 2016 and 5.1 in 2015. They’re now allowing an average of 19.7 points per game, up from 18.5 in 2015 and 18.6 in 2016.The uptick in points per game might be due to some decline in the unit’s play in high-leverage spots. Per TruMedia, before this weekend’s games, the Broncos were ninth in rate of first downs allowed per pass attempt, down from third in 2016 and first the year before. After two straight years of far surpassing the rest of league in defensive expected points added,2EPA is a metric popularized by ESPN’s Brian Burke, capturing down-to-down effectiveness based on game situation. the Broncos’ 44.84 is a very distant second to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 83.84 — which shows the Broncos are still great at slowing offenses but not quite as great as they’ve recently been.The other culprit is the Broncos’ lack of turnovers. They’ve forced just four turnovers through six games, which currently ranks 30th in the NFL. That’s an average of 0.67 turnovers per game, down from 1.69 in both 2016 and 2015.All these stats paint an almost-complete picture of what’s going on: The Broncos are allowing slightly more yards, first downs and points to come out of the passing game while forcing far fewer turnovers, so they’re less effective at stopping opponent drives.3For the record, the Broncos had the No. 1 per-carry run defense in 2015, fell to No. 18 in 2016 and currently rank No. 2, per Pro Football Reference. But these swings haven’t made much impact on overall defensive effectiveness because of the pass-heavy nature of the NFL — and how dominant the pass defense has been.It’s easy to point to the offense here, too. If you have an offense that can’t win the field-position battle and can’t give the defense time to breathe, it’s hard to dominate on defense. This year, Broncos opponents’ average start position is 32.5 yards out, the furthest-downfield starting position in the NFL.But again, Denver’s defense should be used to this. The previous two iterations of the Broncos’ defense weren’t helped much by the offense and special teams, either; their opponents’ average start positions from their own end zone of 29.5 yards in 2015 and 29.3 yards in 2016 ranked 30th and 23rd, respectively. The field-position woes are also inflating the Broncos’ yardage defense; they’re ranked No. 1 partly because their opponents have the shortest distances to go.Really, the Broncos’ consistency has been remarkable — this year’s dip aside — especially considering the personnel changes. Pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware and safety T.J. Ward were two of Denver’s five Pro Bowl defenders from 2015; the former has since retired, and the latter was released at the beginning of the season. But plenty of superstar talent remains, including All-Pro pass-rusher Von Miller and All-Pro cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib — and new arrivals like free-agent DT Domata Peko have made an impact.It’s literally impossible to win when a team’s offense is shut out, as the Broncos’ was in Week 7. But if Denver’s defense can regain the slight edge it had the past two years, the team doesn’t need Siemian to perform like Peyton Manning did in 2014. It just needs Siemian to perform like Manning did in 2015, when taking care of the ball in big games and moving the ball in key spots were enough to win an NFL championship.
Michael Jordan41,011+8.77,474+10.2+1.5 Leonard’s BPM playoff bump — +4 — is tied for the 16th largest increase since the NBA-ABA merger among players that logged at least 2,000 regular season minutes and 500 playoff minutes in a single year. Some other players to increase their BPM by at least 4.0 points include Hakeem Olajuwon during the 1997 playoffs, Tim Duncan during his 2003 title run and LeBron James during his 2016 title run, to name a few.And this isn’t anything new for Leonard: He’s been upping his game in the postseason ever since he came into the league as a role player with the San Antonio Spurs.Below is a similar chart to the first, but this time we’re looking at career performance — comparing a player’s career average BPM in the regular season to their career average BPM in the playoffs since the merger in 1977. (In order to make sure our sample consists of players who played often in both the regular season and deep into the playoffs, each player’s career average BPM has been weighted by both their minutes played in the regular season and playoffs.2Specifically, we weighted the averages using the harmonic mean of the player’s regular season and playoff minutes in a given season. This gives us a better representative sample of players to compare Leonard’s career against.) Draymond Green14,979+3.84,332+6.5+2.7 Kawhi steps up his numbers in the postseasonBiggest average change in Box Plus/Minus (BPM) between the playoffs and regular season, among NBA players with at least 10,000 regular season and 2,500 playoff minutes since 1977 Most of the players that have a similar career BPM in the regular season to Leonard are right at or just below the dotted line, meaning they either get worse during the playoffs or at best they don’t improve. The few players who buck that trend include Michael Jordan, LeBron, Olajuwon and Leonard himself. Each of these players consistently dominated the league in the regular season and even more so in the playoffs.The players with the biggest difference between their regular season and playoff career BPM tend to be toward the middle of the pack in regular season BPM for the simple reason that the lower a player’s regular season number, the more room they have to improve their playoff production. Still, despite having one of the higher career BPMs in the regular season, Leonard ranks sixth on the list. The players in front of him are Isiah Thomas (the Pistons legend, not the other more recent one), Draymond Green, Rajon “Playoff” Rondo, Derek Fisher and Robert “Big Shot Bob” Horry. Those are the type of guys Green was referring to when he talked about the difference between 82-game players and 16-game players. Michael Cooper23,635+1.14,744+2.7+1.6 Career regular season and playoff BPM averages are weighted so as to give more importance to seasons where a player logged many minutes in both the regular season and playoffsSource: Basketball-Reference.com Isiah Thomas35,516+2.84,216+6.4+3.6 Kawhi Leonard14,404+5.73,806+7.4+1.8 Reg. SeasonPlayoffs Regardless of whether the Raptors ultimately finish off the Golden State Warriors and win the NBA title, Leonard’s performance this postseason will instill dread in opposing fan bases of “Playoff Kawhi” for years to come. Leonard wasn’t kidding when he referred to the 82 games during the regular season as “practice” and that the “playoffs is when it’s time to lace them up.”Neil Paine contributed to this article. Tayshaun Prince31,576+1.14,977+2.4+1.3 LeBron James46,235+9.710,049+11.1+1.4 Robert Horry27,069+2.86,823+4.8+2.0 This year’s NBA postseason has been a striking reminder of the difference between regular season and playoff basketball, particularly with respect to individual performance. The three finalists for the MVP award — James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George — all failed to match their production from the regular season in this year’s playoffs. On the other end of the spectrum is Kawhi Leonard, who after “load-managing” his way through the regular season, is now considered one of, if not the, best basketball players alive and has the Toronto Raptors one win away from their first NBA championship. (That win could come Thursday night in Game 6 in Oakland.)Before this year, LeBron James was the often-cited case of the rare player who took his already outstanding game to an even higher level in the playoffs. But during this year’s postseason, it’s Leonard, the two-way force of nature, who has become the go-to example of a player who seemingly flips a switch and magically turns into a better version of himself once the playoffs start.During the regular season, Leonard posted a +5.0 box plus/minus (BPM), a catch-all stat designed to capture a player’s all-around impact. Leonard’s regular season BPM was 15th best in the league. But in the playoffs, Leonard’s BPM has risen to +9.0, tied for second-best among all postseason players.It’s rare to see a player of Leonard’s stature lift his BPM at all in the playoffs. Of the 15 players that had a regular season BPM of +5.0 or better,1That does not include LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony-Towns and Jusuf Nurkic, who all had a +5.0 BPM or better in the regular season but did not play in the playoffs. only Leonard and Nikola Jokic increased their output in the playoffs. It’s even rarer to see someone as productive as Leonard lift his BPM by as much as he did. Ron Harper31,199+2.23,000+3.8+1.6 Vinnie Johnson24,308+0.02,671+1.6+1.5 Boris Diaw28,768+1.13,144+2.8+1.7 Derek Fisher32,719-0.86,856+1.1+1.9 PlayerMinutesBPMMinutesBPMDiff. Hakeem Olajuwon44,222+5.45,749+7.1+1.6 Rajon Rondo26,119+2.43,944+4.6+2.2 Bryon Russell19,805+2.43,081+3.8+1.4
Last fall, Lindsey Vonn, a gold-medal Olympian and the second winningest World Cup skier of all time,1She has 81 wins, only five behind male Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark, who retired in 1989. repeated a request she’d made before: to race against men. U.S. Ski & Snowboard made a formal petition on her behalf to the International Ski Federation (FIS), which currently does not allow mixed-gender competitions.2There are team events in Alpine skiing that have mixed-gender teams, one of which will be featured in the Pyeongchang Olympics for the first time. But in those events, women are still racing in heats against women and men against men. The FIS won’t rule on the petition until spring at the earliest, so as Vonn competes in Pyeongchang this weekend, she won’t know if she will ever get a chance to race against her male peers.3Even if the FIS were to approve the petition, it probably would not permanently change the rules regarding mixed-gender racing. Rather, it is likely to make a one-time exception for Vonn to race in the men’s World Cup race in November 2018.Vonn’s quest made us wonder: What would the Olympics look like if men and women skied against each other? We got results for four Alpine events in the Winter Olympics4Excluding combined and team events. going back to 1948 and looked at the median speed5We used median speed rather than an average of the field because competitors who did much worse than the field each year had too big an impact on the average. for competitors in the men’s and women’s events in each year.6 Because Alpine courses are not specific lengths (they follow general guidelines), we needed to know how long each course was so that we could compare speeds from different races, rather than just race times. The results came from Sports-Reference.com, and the course information is from Wikipedia. Neither dataset was complete, so races in which we are missing either times or course lengths are excluded. As women have gotten faster, they have also been racing longer distances. It seems that distance is not a limiting factor for female skiers. And yet, while the range of women’s speeds is comparable to that of men’s — and even in some events, such as super-G, women have the fastest average speeds in our dataset — in no event have women raced on the longest courses (though in many cases they raced the same distance or greater than men did in other Olympic years).Apart from any questions of inequality, this feature of Alpine skiing makes comparing men’s and women’s performances very difficult. Distance may, in fact, affect average speeds, and requiring separate courses also means that other factors, like gate placement and steepness, will be different for men’s and women’s races.The separation of genders in Alpine skiing, combined with the fact that women are usually asked to do less than men, implies that if men and women were in head-to-head competition, women would never have a shot at gold.8Atle Skaardal, race director of the women’s World Cup, has maintained that keeping genders separate has nothing to do with relative performance, saying, “For me it’s a meaningless comparison. It doesn’t matter if she’s one second behind or a half-second ahead. We compete female against female and men against men. To me it doesn’t matter if one gender is faster or slower. It doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, just because it’s of interest to one racer.” But we simply don’t know for sure if that is true — with all the differences between men’s and women’s races, the data can’t really tell us. Vonn herself has expressed doubts about how she would perform directly against men, telling the Denver Post, “I know I’m not going to win.”“But,” she said, “I would like to at least have the opportunity to try.” In slalom, giant slalom and the super-G, women’s and men’s performances seem to vary in comparison to each other. However, in downhill, the event that most emphasizes speed rather than making turns, the men consistently run ahead of the women — though female downhill skiers today are faster in general than the men who competed in the late 1970s and earlier.But these comparisons hide a key difference between the men’s and women’s competitions: namely, the courses themselves. Men and women rarely race on the same courses, which are set according to different guidelines, with men’s courses requiring a greater change in elevation. Courses also vary in their steepness, but there has not been a marked difference in the average gradient of men’s and women’s courses. This means that men’s courses, which tend to have the same gradient as women’s but a greater vertical change, are usually longer than women’s. In other Winter Olympic sports where events are defined by their lengths, such as cross-country skiing and biathlon, the women’s races are also almost always significantly shorter.7Curiously, the same is not true for most analogous Summer Olympic events, such as track and field races.So here’s another question: Is there any reason for women’s Alpine courses to be shorter? For example, do women go faster on shorter courses, either relative to themselves or to men? (Though that in itself would not be a reason that women’s courses had to be shorter but might give some explanation as to why they are.) To investigate, we plotted average speed versus course length for the winning female competitor in each event for every year.
New Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer has added Mickey Marotti to his staff as assistant athletic director for football sports performance. Marotti’s responsibilities will primarily include running the football program’s strength and conditioning program. “I believe the strength staffs that Mickey has led have been the best staffs in college football,” Meyer said. “He is the best there is at developing physically and mentally tough football players.” Marotti will leave the University of Florida where he’s been employed since 2005 and most recently served as the Gators’ director of sports performance. Meyer and Marotti first met when the two were graduate assistants at OSU in 1987. They also worked together at the University of Cincinnati and Notre Dame where Marotti led the schools’ strength and conditioning programs. When Meyer became Florida’s head coach in 2005, Marotti was one of his first hires. During his seven years at Florida, he helped mold 22 All-Americans and eight first-round NFL draft choices. Marotti is one of 100 strength trainers that have a master of strength and conditioning, which is considered the highest honor in the profession. Known for innovative training techniques, Marotti has had players carry rocks, flip heavy tires, and start workouts at midnight. Meyer said he trusts Marotti and his methods. “There are times in the year when the strength staff has more contact with the team than the coaching staff,” Meyer said, “and I have complete trust in Mickey Marotti’s abilities to prepare our student-athletes to be the strongest, fastest and mentally toughest football players they can be.” Marotti will step into his new role on Jan. 2 after OSU returns from their Gator Bowl matchup against Florida. Jerry Emig, associate director for athletic communications, said the details of Marotti’s contract, including his salary, are not yet available. Eric Lichter, director of football performance at OSU, and Troy Sutton, OSU’s coordinator of strength and conditioning, previously worked to design OSU’s football strength and conditioning program. Lichter made $151,860 during 2010 and Sutton made $72,804, according to The Collegiate Times. A June 2010 report from the Orlando Sentinel reported Marotti’s annual salary was $240,000.