Jim Rome is No Woman Beater, but is David Stern a Fixer? Inconclusive
Jim Rome now has a soundbite for the ages. And I can only imagine he will be using it with the frequency that 1980s Morning Zoo DJs utilized the fart button. David Stern needs to attend a rookie seminar about public relations with the 2012 draft class because he will be hearing about this one for the rest of his reign as the Grand Ragu of the Basketball Universe.
When confronted with the idea that the NBA Draft Lottery might be fixed, Stern got defensive and asked Rome if he beats his wife. It was an idiotic non sequitur, and a something only a true jerk would say to another man. His point, I guess, was that Rome has no reason or evidence to question the integrity of the lottery just as he has no reason to suspect Rome beats his wife. But that is not the case. Rome would need to grow a mullet, trade in the three piece suits for a wife‐beater and start broadcasting from Tonya Harding’s trailer before he could accumulate as much circumstantial evidence that pointed to him being a wife beater as already exists damning the NBA draft lottery.
We do not need to recap the deep, dirty history of the draft lottery from its beginning to make this point. Lets just examine the results of the current weighted system instituted in 1994 and the events that led to that change. Only a cursory glance raises questions. Questions Stern should not be afraid to answer. But instead of answering, he got rowdy.
First of all, lets not forget why the current system was instituted. In 1992, two years before the current system was set up, the Orlando Magic took Shaquille O’Neal with the first overall pick. The way it worked was like the Lotto. Stern grabbed one out of 66 ping pong balls to decide the first pick. Out of the 66 ping pong balls, 10 of them had Orlando’s name on them, second only to Minnesota’s 11. So Orlando pulled off a slight upset, beating the 6.6/1 odds. No big deal there. But when it gets strange is in 1993, when Orlando had only a one in 66 chance of receiving the first overall pick, which would ultimately be used on Chris Webber. They had about a 1.5% chance of getting the first pick, and it came through for them. But hey, things happen. And some team with a 1.5% chance is bound to get lucky every few decades, right? Well, sort of.
In the NBA, it seems like teams with lower odds are actually more likely to get the top pick. Although Stern insisted the lottery results were kosher in 1993, the league did institute the current system the next year. It changed nothing. NBA.com documents the weirdness right here. The page only includes drafts up until 2006, but that is plenty of sample size to show how often teams beat the odds to improbably land the top pick.
Here are some simple numbers that make you go hmmmm…:
– In the years between 1994 and 2006, the team with the highest chances of winning won the lottery exactly twice.
– Five of the 13 teams that won the lottery in those years had a 10% or less chance to win. So something that should happen about once every ten years according to the maths, happened 5 times in 13 years. Weird.
– In 8 out of 13 years, a team with less than a 20% chance took the first pick.
13 years is certainly a small sample size to try and make any mathematical conclusion. It could easily be an aberration that the team with the best odds only landed the top pick twice in 13 years. It seems odd, but it is not astronomical. But when you consider the rest of these simple numbers, it is hard not to scratch your head. Perhaps Rome should have rephrased the question and asked if Stern could explain why so many teams defy the odds to land the top pick so consistently. It really makes no sense. Based on the numbers, who wouldn’t be suspicious?
Either way, Stern did nothing to change anyone’s mind. He is depending on the public to keep dropping dough on his product regardless of what a dick he is or how fixed the league can seem to be at times. He might be right. But it would be nice if he would just cowboy up and explain how all these lottery underdogs keep getting luckier than a two dicked dog on a Saturday night* so often. There is no smoking gun, but there is every reason to ask questions.
*Thank you for that phrase, Coach Burlingame, sir.
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