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I’m with Jalen Rose on the topic of analytics. I think they have their place. But as Rose indicated in an interview with The New Yorker, analytics should be a tool for teams to use — and not the entire toolbox.
Like Rose, I often wonder why so few former players are in positions of power in the NBA. More specifically, why are there so few African-American general managers in a league that thrives off African-American men?
I’m not here because of some sort of agenda. On this website, I have to answer to just one person — me. So I write what I want when I want without fear of repercussion. People who love basketball will visit this site, period. It’s been proven over time.
And for the record, I have no real political views. I rarely vote. Almost never. To me, politics divide. They create hate speech, endless streams of propaganda, wars and things in which I have no interest.
I’d rather get along with my brothers and sisters. In my eyes, we are all God’s children. He created all of us. He wants us to love one another and treat each other as equals. Politics muck that up.
My views on politics are my own. I don’t expect you to agree. Frankly, I don’t even find politics interesting enough to debate.
So vote. It’s a good thing. You should. But I am exercising my right not to care.
That’s all a really long way of saying I love God, my family, my job and basketball, and I am not writing this column for any purpose but one question. And I stated it above.
Here it is again: Why aren’t more former players represented as the main men in NBA front offices?
Well, I think Rose gave us some answers. And like him, I think analytics may play a role.
Rose made his name as a member of Michigan’s Fab Five team in the 1990s. He went on to a successful NBA career and is now an analyst on ESPN.
In case you missed the interview, Rose answered a question about why many former players may not like the increased focus on analytics and advanced stats used by so many of today’s teams.
Here is how Rose responded in The New Yorker piece:
“No. 1, there are many people that feel like it has a cultural overtone to it that basically suggests that, even though I may not have played and you did, I am smarter than you, and I know some things that you don’t know, and the numbers support me, not you.
“Two, you notice that, when it is a powerful job in sports — whether it is an owner, whether it is a president, whether it is a general manager, whether it is a coach — usually in football and basketball, sports that are primarily dominated by black Americans, it’s also an opportunity to funnel jobs to people by saying that, ‘I am smarter than you because the numbers back up what I say, and I am more read. I study more. I am able to take these numbers and manipulate my point.'”
Rose later admitted that when he said “cultural” overtones, he meant “racial” overtones.
Now, I don’t think the majority of teams give a lot of thought about the skin color of the people they hire. And I’m certain that is not what Rose was suggesting. Most people throughout the league fervently believe teams hire the absolute best person for the job. But when you make analytics the basis in which you do absolutely everything … well, you’re not giving every option (or person) an equal opportunity.
And truth is, only one team wins a championship each season. Everyone else who used analytics failed. Sometimes, it’s best to try another method.
Sometimes, former players know more than the people who crunch numbers, or the people who can tell you who is great at shooting left-handed in the final 30 seconds of a game. Granted, analytics goes way beyond that, but you get the point.
Anyway, I would say former players know more about the NBA than people who didn’t play in the NBA. I don’t care who they are.
Rose supported this point.
“When you play — for example, somebody like me, who has been playing my entire life — for some strange reason that experience gets diminished when it’s time to talk about powerful positions in sports — like, He doesn’t have experience,” Rose told The New Yorker.
“There is no bigger experience than being in the foxhole, in the huddles, and out on the floor — being a part of the game plan and being game-planned against. But also all the people you learn from: your teammates, the coaches, how to navigate with the media, how to navigate with the fans.
“Instead of it being, He doesn’t have experience, it really should be, He has more experience than almost anybody walking the earth.”
Now, there are some former players in GM and team executive roles. Some have most certainly failed.
But so what?
So have a lot of analytics guys. Yet, doesn’t it seem like analytics-types are still all the rage?
It is a fair question and I’m glad Rose had an opportunity to talk about it. Not every former player deserves a position as a team’s head of basketball operations. But they at least deserve an equal opportunity, and as someone who has covered this league for 20 years, I can say without a doubt they have not gotten one.
Analytics aren’t bad, and that’s not what I’m implying. It’s not nearly what Rose tried to imply. He clearly doesn’t think every GM has to be a former player, either.
But the men who have shaped this league know a lot about how to make it work. It is way beyond time for team owners and others in charge to acknowledge it.