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The upcoming NBA hackathon: You’ll never guess the top 10 topics . . .

Jason Rosenfeld writes:

We’re hosting our second annual NBA Hackathon this September. This year, there will be two tracks, basketball analytics and business analytics. Prizes include a trip to NBA All-Star 2018 in Los Angeles and a lunch with NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver. Any help spreading the word among your students and beyond is greatly appreciated.

Sounds like fun. Anticipated top 10 NBA hackathon topics:

10. The Knicks aren’t so bad; they won almost twice as many games as the legendary 1972 Miami Dolphins!

9. If Stef Curry juiced like Barry Bonds, would he be able to hit 50% from half-court?

8. The WNBA uses smaller basketballs. Shouldn’t they use smaller hoops too?

7. Remember that article exaggerating the effects of fan distraction in basketball? Was that the worst sports article ever published in the New York Times?

6. I want to an NBA game a couple years ago and it was REALLY LOUD. Like, that jumbotron would never shut up. Could those business analytics guys convince them to chill out a bit? It’s a sporting event, not a circus, for chrissake.

5. The Tebow effect.

4, 3, 2. Ummmm, I’m running out of ideas here . . .

1. The myth of the myth of the myth of the myth of the myth of the myth of the myth of the myth of the myth of the myth of the hot hand.


  1. Eric Tassone says:

    Nothing on the causal impact of high fiving??? “Suns Tracking High Fives to Measure Team Camaraderie”

  2. Jordan Anaya says:

    I’m not sure if you’re inviting other ideas or not, but I follow the NBA very closely so I guess I’ll add a few.

    People always complain on Reddit how Draymond Green gets away with yelling at the refs and never getting technicals. I’d be interested in looking into how much you can say to the refs without getting T’d up, but obviously what you say is probably more important than how much you say. It could be interesting to see which ref has the quickest whistle though. To make this a Nature paper let’s throw race into the mix.

    Bill Simmons calls himself the body language doctor, and I don’t think enough has been done in this area. For example, some teams don’t high five very much after free throws. You’re supposed to high five even if you miss the free throw. I think looking at team celebrations could be interesting, although it’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem. Are happy teams more likely to win? Or does winning make teams happy?

    We have a bunch of analytics for players, but we don’t have any analytics for owners/GMs. We need to do better.

    It’s currently free agency, and there’s always a lot of anticipation on where stars will sign. One thing people do to predict this is check whom the players are following/unfollowing on Twitter and Instagram leading up to the decision. This seems to work pretty well, especially when combined with other information such as the fact Carmelo Anthony was recently spotted at the Houston airport. I wonder if there’s an opportunity for a Nate Silver type of person who collates all this data into a free agency algorithm.

    We know that obesity is contagious, but is passing contagious? Is shooting contagious? Maybe you don’t need a team of good shooters, you just need one, and it will trickle down to everyone else.

  3. Ignazio Ziano says:

    Has anyone checked play-by-play NBA data controlling for match-uo? It makes sense that I keep on scoring (higher than chance) if I’m LeBron guarded by Kelly Olynik. Not so much if I’m JJ Redick coming off screen and getting the same 40% three-pointer with two feet of space over and over again. I guess the guys at SportsVU have the play-by-play data to answer these questions now instead of doing ntuplets like Gilovich and the guys who found the hot hand. And BTW this is a serious question! It’d be a confound basically?

    • Alex says:

      In a word, yes. In more words, I think it might have been a Sloan conference paper but I don’t remember for sure. It might have even been a hot hand paper or at least included that aspect; the punchline was that players do indeed get hot but they basically offset it by then taking more difficult shots.

  4. Ignazio Ziano says:

    After looking into some of the literature, I guess the answer to my question is yes AND no? controls for in game performance only looks at 3-point contest only looks at pro bowling

    All three find evidence of small hot hand effects. I guess what laypeople think of ‘hot hand’ encompasses more situations such as the LeBron vs. Olynik match-up and the JJ Redick example. In this case it could be explained both my matchup AND by small ‘real hot hand’ effect AND by ‘hot hand’ illusion combined.

  5. Noah Motion says:

    The [myth of the [myth of the [myth of the [myth of the [myth of the [myth of the [myth of the [myth of the [myth of the [myth of the hot hand]]]]]]]]]]

    So, just to keep track of where we currently stand, if we encode the original “myth of the hot hand” (i.e., the ((purportedly) incorrect) belief in the hot hand) as -1, and if we multiply that by -1 each time we reverse positions, then this means that our current state is:

    [-1 [-1 [-1 [-1 [-1 [-1 [-1 [-1 [-1 [-1]]]]]]]]]] = (-1)**10 = 1

    That is, we believe the hot hand is real. Got it.

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