Posted by Neil Paine on February 1, 2010
Last week, Zachariah Blott of Empty the Bench wrote a piece examining LeBron James' low rate of personal fouls per game, using some statistical techniques (a chi-square test) to come to the conclusion that LeBron was receiving preferential treatment from referees above and beyond what Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade get on defense.
Now, Roger Pimentel of How to Watch Sports issues a rebuttal that discloses some of the fine print that could have been attached to Blott's post -- namely, that the p-value of any statistic close to the league lead is going to be small, because the p-value asks "what is the probability that the result is due to random chance alone?" In other words, given James' observed rate of PF/MP, one has to conclude that the odds of James' foul-avoiding ability being league-average are almost nonexistent, but this doesn't really prove LBJ gets favorable treatment from referees any more than it proves Steve Nash and Derrick Rose (to name others atop the league in fewest PF/MP) do, it just means James' ability to avoid committing fouls is almost certainly better than the NBA average. Whether this has to do with his own physical skills, a series of conscious defensive choices on his part, the team defensive scheme, or referee bias, we can't say for certain.
Anyway, read both posts and give me your take... Is LBJ getting favorable treatment beyond the usual superstar non-calls that everyone accepts as a part of NBA ball?