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The Bird-Dirk Advanced Stat-off

Posted by Neil Paine on May 19, 2011

Bill Simmons and BS Report HoF guest Chuck Klosterman are discussing Larry Bird vs. Dirk Nowitzki in a podcast. Simmons says that the advanced stats place Dirk in the same category as Bird, perhaps even giving Dirk the edge, and he's not sure how he feels about this.

I wasn't sure how I felt, either, so I looked up the numbers. Here is a monster table with their advanced stats -- each has played exactly 13 years:

Plyr Yr Age Tm mp pts36 ts% trb36 sb36 ast36 tov36 ospm dspm spm tORtg %Pos tDRtg per ws ws48
Bird 1980 23 BOS 2955 19.0 53.8 9.3 2.1 4.0 2.9 2.97 2.52 5.50 111.2 24.9 100.1 20.5 11.2 0.182
Bird 1981 24 BOS 3239 17.6 52.8 9.0 2.3 4.6 2.9 2.26 2.91 5.17 108.7 24.1 100.2 19.9 10.8 0.160
Bird 1982 25 BOS 2923 19.6 55.7 9.3 2.3 5.0 2.8 4.28 3.08 7.36 114.0 25.2 99.7 22.6 12.5 0.205
Bird 1983 26 BOS 2982 19.8 56.1 9.2 2.3 4.9 2.6 5.01 2.53 7.54 117.4 24.8 100.4 24.1 14.0 0.225
Bird 1984 27 BOS 3028 20.8 55.2 8.7 2.3 5.7 2.6 5.18 2.35 7.53 115.0 26.6 100.4 24.2 13.6 0.215
Bird 1985 28 BOS 3161 23.6 58.5 8.6 2.3 5.5 2.5 6.72 1.80 8.51 118.4 27.8 102.1 26.5 15.7 0.238
Bird 1986 29 BOS 3113 22.1 58.0 8.4 2.3 5.8 2.8 6.63 2.53 9.17 117.3 27.6 99.4 25.6 15.8 0.244
Bird 1987 30 BOS 3005 23.1 61.2 7.6 2.3 6.3 2.7 7.50 1.89 9.39 119.7 27.4 102.6 26.4 15.2 0.243
Bird 1988 31 BOS 2965 25.8 60.8 8.0 2.1 5.3 2.4 8.54 0.89 9.43 120.4 28.8 105.3 27.8 15.0 0.243
Bird 1989 32 BOS 189 20.6 51.6 6.6 2.0 5.2 2.0 2.22 0.81 3.03 109.1 25.4 106.8 19.8 0.5 0.129
Bird 1990 33 BOS 2944 20.8 54.6 8.1 1.9 6.4 2.8 4.23 1.84 6.08 109.8 27.0 104.2 21.9 9.5 0.154
Bird 1991 34 BOS 2277 17.1 53.0 7.5 2.4 6.3 2.8 2.53 2.39 4.92 107.9 23.7 102.6 19.7 6.6 0.140
Bird 1992 35 BOS 1662 18.8 54.7 9.0 1.6 6.3 2.6 3.40 1.48 4.88 111.0 24.7 103.4 21.0 5.5 0.159
Tot 34443 20.8 56.4 8.6 2.2 5.5 2.7 5.03 2.20 7.24 114.7 26.1 101.6 23.5 145.8 0.203
Plyr Yr Age Tm mp pts36 ts% trb36 sb36 ast36 tov36 ospm dspm spm tORtg %Pos tDRtg per ws ws48
Dirk 1999 20 DAL 958 14.9 49.1 6.3 2.2 1.8 2.8 -2.42 -0.41 -2.82 99.3 21.8 109.6 12.8 0.8 0.040
Dirk 2000 21 DAL 2938 17.0 56.4 6.3 1.5 2.4 1.7 2.01 -0.48 1.52 115.6 20.5 110.5 17.5 8.1 0.132
Dirk 2001 22 DAL 3125 20.2 60.1 8.5 2.0 2.0 1.8 4.63 0.99 5.62 122.6 22.8 104.3 22.8 14.6 0.224
Dirk 2002 23 DAL 2891 21.9 59.9 9.3 2.0 2.3 1.8 5.49 0.99 6.48 122.8 24.3 106.8 24.1 13.4 0.222
Dirk 2003 24 DAL 3117 23.0 58.1 9.0 2.2 2.7 1.7 5.84 2.17 8.01 120.9 25.9 101.7 25.6 16.1 0.249
Dirk 2004 25 DAL 2915 20.4 56.1 8.1 2.4 2.5 1.6 3.87 0.89 4.76 121.0 23.0 108.6 22.5 11.5 0.190
Dirk 2005 26 DAL 3020 23.9 57.8 8.9 2.5 2.8 2.1 5.44 1.76 7.20 119.5 27.4 101.4 26.1 15.6 0.248
Dirk 2006 27 DAL 3089 26.2 58.9 8.9 1.7 2.7 1.9 7.69 -0.15 7.54 124.3 28.3 104.4 28.1 17.7 0.275
Dirk 2007 28 DAL 2821 25.0 60.5 9.0 1.5 3.4 2.2 6.89 0.36 7.26 123.7 27.9 102.6 27.6 16.3 0.278
Dirk 2008 29 DAL 2769 24.0 58.5 8.7 1.6 3.5 2.1 5.47 0.60 6.07 117.9 27.7 103.9 24.6 12.9 0.223
Dirk 2009 30 DAL 3050 24.8 56.4 8.1 1.5 2.3 1.9 4.24 -0.40 3.83 113.1 28.3 106.5 23.1 10.9 0.171
Dirk 2010 31 DAL 3039 23.8 57.8 7.3 1.7 2.6 1.7 4.08 0.06 4.14 115.6 27.0 105.0 22.9 12.3 0.194
Dirk 2011 32 DAL 2504 24.3 61.2 7.4 1.2 2.7 2.0 4.93 -0.04 4.89 118.4 26.2 104.8 23.4 11.1 0.213
Tot 36236 22.6 58.3 8.3 1.8 2.6 1.9 4.85 0.55 5.40 119.1 25.7 105.1 23.7 161.3 0.214


mp = Minutes played
pts36 = Points scored per 36 minutes (adjusted to Pace Factor of 91.6)
ts% = True Shooting %
trb36 = Total rebounds per 36 minutes (adjusted to Pace Factor of 91.6)
sb36 = Steals + blocks per 36 minutes (adjusted to Pace Factor of 91.6)
ast36 = Assists per 36 minutes (adjusted to Pace Factor of 91.6)
tov36 = Turnovers per 36 minutes (adjusted to Pace Factor of 91.6)
ospm = Offensive Statistical Plus/Minus
dspm = Defensive Statistical Plus/Minus
spm = Statistical Plus/Minus
tORtg = Translated Offensive Rating
%Pos = % of Team Possessions used while on the court
tDRtg = Translated Defensive Rating
per = Player Efficiency Rating
ws = Win Shares
ws48 = Win Shares per 48 minutes

Here are their key rate stats side-by-side at each age:

Dirk Bird
ws48 per netRtg spm mp Age mp spm netRtg per ws48
0.040 12.8 -8.0 -2.82 958 20
0.132 17.5 5.8 1.52 2938 21
0.224 22.8 21.8 5.62 3125 22
0.222 24.1 19.6 6.48 2891 23 2955 5.50 15.2 20.5 0.182
0.249 25.6 24.2 8.01 3117 24 3239 5.17 11.9 19.9 0.160
0.190 22.5 16.1 4.76 2915 25 2923 7.36 18.6 22.6 0.205
0.248 26.1 24.2 7.20 3020 26 2982 7.54 21.1 24.1 0.225
0.275 28.1 26.8 7.54 3089 27 3028 7.53 20.1 24.2 0.215
0.278 27.6 27.7 7.26 2821 28 3161 8.51 22.7 26.5 0.238
0.223 24.6 20.4 6.07 2769 29 3113 9.17 24.2 25.6 0.244
0.171 23.1 13.4 3.83 3050 30 3005 9.39 23.2 26.4 0.243
0.194 22.9 16.3 4.14 3039 31 2965 9.43 22.5 27.8 0.243
0.213 23.4 18.8 4.89 2504 32 189 3.03 6.8 19.8 0.129
33 2944 6.08 11.4 21.9 0.154
34 2277 4.92 8.4 19.7 0.140
35 1662 4.88 11.4 21.0 0.159
0.214 23.7 18.7 5.40 Tot 7.24 18.2 23.5 0.203

("netRtg" is simply translated offensive rating, adjusted to a uniform 20% usage level using skill curves, minus translated defensive rating)

I can see what Simmons is talking about -- Dirk ranks ahead of Bird in career PER, WS48, and net Rating. Only SPM considers Bird to be better than Dirk (in fact, SPM says Bird is significantly better). Dirk's ridiculous efficiency numbers really jump off the page -- his career translated offensive rating is 4.5 points higher than Bird's, and it's not the product of a usage discrepancy, either. It's hard to argue that Dirk Nowitzki isn't a more efficient offensive player than Larry Bird was.

However, does that mean he's necessarily a better offensive player? By definition, SPM better predicts the behavior of 5-man units than a simple skill-curve based combination of offensive rating + usage, and SPM says Bird was actually a slightly better contributor to an offense than Dirk, despite Nowitzki's huge efficiency edge. Bird's assist rate per 36 minutes dwarfs Dirk's, as does his offensive rebounding rate, so while Dirk dominates on pure scoring skill (the ability to create high-percentage shots), Bird's all-around offensive game is being undervalued by efficiency-based metrics. The numbers also say Bird was a significantly better defensive contributor than Dirk, which jibes with their reputations (Dirk was once known as "Irk Nowitzki" because he lacked "D").

All told, though, it's closer than we would probably like to think. Bird has a near GOAT-level rep and Dirk is best known as the leader of a Dallas team that frequently underperforms in the playoffs (this year notwithstanding), but the evidence at hand says Dirk Nowitzki is either at or at least near Larry Bird's level as a player, depending on how much you value raw offensive efficiency vs. all-around offense.


224 Responses to “The Bird-Dirk Advanced Stat-off”

  1. ek Says:

    That table is begging for a graph!

  2. Neil Paine Says:


  3. Ryan Says:

    Do any of those "advanced stats" take into consideration the fact that teams Dirk faced generally had a lower defensive rating than the teams that Larry Bird faced given the era of their careers?

  4. Neil Paine Says:

    That's what the translation process accounts for. Also, for SPM, WS, and PER it's irrelevant because everything is relative to league-average. The per-36 metrics are adjusted for pace but not offensive environment, though, so those will be affected by the phenomenon you mention.

  5. David Says:

    Any chance of getting Berri's WP stats as part of this? I think +/-, PER, WS, Rtg, and WP48 would be, well, really neat.

  6. huevonkiller Says:

    Well Neil it does matter though, since you've said SPM ranks Chris Paul and Barkley differently than other metrics.

    I don't really know who is better, but this doesn't seem to settle it either. Newer eras probably have deeper pools of talent as well.

  7. Neil Paine Says:

    #5 - Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons (I can't calculate it, philosophical differences), that's not going to happen.

    #6 - What does matter? I'm confused about what you're referring to.

  8. huevonkiller Says:

    "That's what the translation process accounts for"

    Does it?

  9. Neil Paine Says:

    It does account for the different league efficiency levels, at least in a technical sense. If I have a 101 ORtg in a league where average is 100, it will tell me exactly what ORtg gives me the equivalent production in a league where average is 108.

    Now, basketball-wise it's up for debate as to whether the conditions that allowed me to have a 101 ORtg in one league would allow me to have 109 in another, but statistically it is a sound equivalency.

  10. marparker Says:

    According to wp48 Dirk has never had a year that measures up to Bird's career average.

  11. wiLQ Says:

    "Simmons says that the advanced stats place Dirk in the same category as Bird, perhaps even giving Dirk the edge, and he's not sure how he feels about this.
    I wasn't sure how I felt, either[...]"
    So after this entry how do you feel about it? ;-)

    IMHO it's a classic example of a battle between memories/feelings and actual events.
    Assuming both are equal in quality, 99% of us would choose former, right?

    What's more, I'm pretty sure than Bird's teammates were better than Dirk's so team's accomplishments only cloud our judgement on this one.

  12. AYC Says:

    In general, SPM seems to produce results closer to the conventional wisdom of the avg knowledgeable basketball fan than WS/48 or PER (and not just in this case). I'd be interested to see a post comparing the postseason stats of the two, because-- reputation aside-- Dirk has been a statistically dominant player in the postseason.

  13. Rob P. Says:

    Excellent post. Makes me a little sad as a Celtic fan but I really, really enjoyed this one.

    Any chance netRtg could make it as a site-wide category? It sounds superior to Off-Rating. Just as tORtg and tDRtg seem superior to O-Rating and D-Rating, respectively. Am I reading that wrong?

    Side note: Have you written anything on PER vs. WS?

  14. Dan Says:

    Is there anyway you can get SPM as a measurable stat in the play index?

  15. AYC Says:

    Something tells me that's not gonna happen... I'd settle for an updated version of the all-time leader list found here:

  16. Neil Paine Says:

    SPM... we're still working on it.

    NetRTG is just a little metric I whipped up to create an all-in-one rate stat from tORtg/%Pos/tDRtg, so I think we'd have to give a lot more thought to how to make it work.

    The translated ratings, though, might be on the table when we import over this feature from baseball-reference:

    We'll see.

  17. Matt Johnson Says:

    "By definition, SPM better predicts the behavior of 5-man units than a simple skill-curve based combination of offensive rating + usage, and SPM says Bird was actually a slightly better contributor to an offense than Dirk, despite Nowitzki's huge efficiency edge."

    Y'know I love that Neil and others are exploring the concept of statistical +/-, but when actually have +/- data for Dirk and it makes him look far better than SPM does it becomes hard to take seriously the inclusion of SPM with a catch phrase about predicting the behavior of 5-man units. I mean, obviously the statement about prediction is literally true, but the stat is still box score-based which means its in the same genus as PER, WS, etc.

    To the general points, I think this is a comparison people need to start taking seriously. I do think it's important to understand that Bird adds a BBIQ component that gives him an edge that goes beyond APG, but the notion that Bird is in another league as a scorer compared to Dirk could not be further from the truth.

  18. Neil Paine Says:

    I know what you mean, but until we have +/- data for both Bird and Dirk, we need to go apples-to-apples, you know?

  19. DSMok1 Says:

    Man, Ek (Ed?) that's a wonderful graph.

  20. Rob P. Says:

    #12 @AYC -- I'm in awe of Dirk's career WS/48 in the playoffs. I probably check out his WS/48 after every playoff game. haha

    His all-time rank is ridiculous. He's a few stratospheres below MJ and LeBron,

    (I made the minimum number of games 73 because that accounts for the top 250 leaders in career playoff games.)

    Of course Bird played his final 3 postseasons (19 games) at ages 33, 34 and 35 -- leading to a dip in his career WS/48. But really, Bird appears to have never been competing with Dirk's WS/48 rates.

    Q for anyone who can answer: I vaguely remember when adjusting players best regular seasons by multiplying a player's highest single-season WS totals by 1.0; 2nd highest x .95; 3rd highest by .90; and so on. (I think it was an All-Decade post)

    Is it less valuable adjusting postseason numbers the same way because players sometimes go years between trips to the playoffs? Does the infrequency of postseason trips ever complicate evaluations?

  21. Matt Johnson Says:

    I feel ya Neil, and I realize you're in a bit of a bind. How else are you supposed to briefly explain SPM to those unfamiliar with it? Apologies for the negativity being directed at you, just felt like grumbling.

  22. Rob P. Says:


    *** "...MJ and LeBron, but there's even greater distance between Dirk and Bird."
    *** "I vaguely remember when Neil was adjusting"

  23. David Says:

    I'm just a bit curious, but what are the "philosophical differences"?

  24. Jason J Says:

    We've discussed the possibility of Larry Bird being undervalued by ratings based on ORtg in the past for two reasons:

    Low statistical appreciation for assists (maybe not too low, but generally assists don't make much impact on these metrics outside of SPM which loves the VI).

    Bird's low FT rate - which is one of the going concerns I have generally with metrics on two counts.

    1st, what constitutes a foul in the NBA today is very different than what was a foul in the 90s which was different than the 80s, which was different in the 70s, etc. So while the metrics may balance out to league average, in this day and age a perimeter forward with a high post game (Dirk / Bird) gets to the line more than he would have ten, twenty, or thirty years ago.

    2nd, because we can't track passes that lead to fouls but not and-1 opportunities, it's very difficult to gauge just how many free throw attempts a high volume assist generator like Bird may have produced for his teammates. If DJ and Chief each got an extra 2 free throws a game because LB hit them with his great touch passes... why do they get all the credit for getting to the line, and Bird might as well not have been part of the play?.

    Also I think we should point out again that not just a historical comparison with Bird, but a comparison with contemporaries, shows that Dirk outshown Duncan and Garnett over the length of his career in WS.

  25. Greyberger Says:

    Oh man just swing by the website sometime. It's like Springfield and Shelbyville. Apparently that well was poisoned a long time ago, before I started following this stuff... I guess you could call it a 'rift' between the front page poster in the WP world and people who see things in more of a 'Basketball on Paper' sort of way. The current stances are so defensive and environment is so toxic that real communication between the two groups is difficult. Not that they have much to talk about anyway.

  26. Walter Says:

    It looks like Dirk may be penalized in the table by including his years before he was 23. Bird benefited by playing his "developing years" in college where his lower numbers don't affect these stats while Dirk (a foreign player) came over to the league earlier and developed here. It would be interesting to compare the two across only the ages where they both played (23 - 32)

  27. Matt Johnson Says:

    @23. I won't speak for Neil, but as Grayberger alluded to their is a clear rift in the stats community. I don't want to come off as someone with an ax to grind, but the issue of who has more credibility has always seemed quite clear:

    -The rift is essentially between the APBRmetrics community and the Wages of Wins community.

    -The APBRmetrics community represents a wide variety of different statistics point of view and includes a variety of people working directly for NBA teams, Wages of Wins represents one stat.

    -Part of the issue is a lack of communication. APBRmetrics people want to discuss this online, Berri wants to discuss this through academic papers. Both are legit viewpoints, but where Berri gets into credibility trouble is that he's actually quite active online through his site, so it's not as if he can't spare the time to have debate there. He simply refuses to do so by and large: doesn't participate in APBRmetrics and regularly bans people who ask too many questions from his own site.

    -Additionally, one of the cardinal sins of sports stat people is to have way too much confidence in their stats. Lots of people, including people in the APBRmetrics community are guilty of this. Berri comes off as one of the real extremes though on this front. He really gives the impression that he's found exactly the way to analyze basketball, and that anyone not using his stat is completely wrong. That may not be what he actually believes, but the tone he takes certainly suggests it.

    Suffice to say, most people who know the game of basketball find anyone so fundamentalist lacks credibility because they know that box score statistics by no means represent everything that happens in a game. Up to each person to decide what they think is right, but everyone should realize that basketball statistics doesn't exactly require super-advanced math, so the notion that statistical skeptics "just don't understand the math" is comical.

  28. aknel Says:

    who cares.....dirk who is a wonderful wonderful player but is not bird. you cant be better than bird. all of these stat geeks waste time with this stuff.

  29. AYC Says:

    Walter, it evens out because Dirk hasn't reached his downside yet, while Bird had several years in decline. When I compare players based on stats, I try to look at their best 10 year stretches; that's long enough to qualify as a "full" career, but it leaves out the sub-par later (or early) years which bring averages down; it's truly eye-opening to look at the best 10yr stretch of someone like Kareem who played so long past his prime.

  30. Anon Says:

    Chalk this up to nostalgia.

    Bird played for the great Biston Celtics franchises in the 80s. Three-time NBA champ with those teams. Credited with "bringing basketball back" along with Magic. Fiery and engaging personality. The great white American-born basketball player. How is Dirk, a player who cones from overseas and is still looking for his first ring with a less "memorable" US sports franchise supposed to compete with that legend? People will have their biases set up before they make the comparison between the two players.

    I'm not saying Dirk is better than Bird, but the comparison is NOT far-fetched. SPM loves Bird, the other metrics love Dirk. They are all valid metrics about the sport (and I'll even show PER some love here; Hollinger DID after all win the season predictions over at APBRmetrics with PER). I've watched the man play (Dirk) and he is an all-time great baskeball player (and quite frankly, the "rings people" need to pipe down. Don want to hear from you.) Dirk deserves to get his props and he is arguably the best basketball player of all time no one talks about.

  31. aknel Says:

    ayc....when did bird have several years in decline?
    anon....dirk is not the best of all time that doesnt get talked about. thats elgin baylor.

  32. Matt Johnson Says:

    @31, go look at how much worse Baylor's efficiency was compared to contemporaries like West or Oscar, or modern players. This is pretty major issue for someone so known as a scorer (by contrast West was actually known as a "best perimeter defender in the game" level guy to go along with his offensive statistical superiority).

  33. Anon Says:

    By the way, is it possible that SPM may be UNDERRATING Dirk? I know that the data isn't out there for players in the past like Bird, but here are the 5-year RAPM rankings

    Dirk is fourth on that list, right in D-Wade's league. Only LBJ and Nash are a step above.

  34. AYC Says:

    PS Great post Jason J #24. I'm glad I'm not the only person making these points. I think the great virtue of SPM is the way it values assists. But all 3 (SPM, WS and PER) have their strengths and weaknesses. Shot-creation does matter, so I like PER a lot more than many statheads. WS does the best job of accounting for defense; what other metric recognizes the brilliance of Bill Russell so well? WP is a waste of time as far as I'm concerned....

  35. AYC Says:

    Aknel, Bird was hurt in '89 and only played 6 games that year; after that he put up decent numbers, but clearly wasn't the same player

  36. AYC Says:

    Btw, if SPM underrates Dirk, why shouldn't we assume it's also underrating Bird?

  37. ElGee Says:

    I'm so glad to see Dirk getting his due, but i SMH when I hear people compare these players.

    The box score -- where all these "advanced" stats comparisons are from -- are based on a majority of core offensive stats. In that regard, Dirk is great, and right there with Bird. Dude's a phenomenal shooter and scorer, and IMO, a better shooter than Larry Bird.

    But Bird was a better defender. He was a better play maker. He was a far far far superior passer. And what Dirk provides on offense with spacing and high-post presence, Bird matches (or exceeds) with absolute non-stop energy off the ball and getting on the offensive glass. Not to mention Bird's ridiculous random plays of brilliance tapping balls and diving on the floor or whatnot.

    So I'm not surprised some of the core box score numbers are so close. But let's not overlook the differences in the players just because they are both tall white shooters prone to crazy dos.

  38. Greyberger Says:

    Re: 37, it's a shame that all we have of Bird and many of the cherished all-time greats are the box scores they posted, the stories written about them in the media and whatever video has survived and is still reasonably public. I'd spend one whole genie wish on getting play-by-play records for the entirety of NBA history but until then the options are limited.

  39. Anon Says:

    "Btw, if SPM underrates Dirk, why shouldn't we assume it's also underrating Bird?"

    True, although the RAPM post was merely intended to show where he was among his peers. For all of the adherence to "convential wisdom" that you said that SPM agreed with (no slight intended at the metric here btw), Dirk comes out ahead of a bunch of players that alot of people would proabaly would put ahead of him without looking at the evidence.

    Still, if you want to throw it out since the RAPM data isn't available for Bird, it simply brings you back to the tables above - which shows that the comparison isn't something that is non-sensical.

  40. AYC Says:

    The remark about SPM reflecting CW was meant as a compliment, not a slight. I think a player's turnover numbers, which factor big into all the advanced stats, should always be looked at in the context of their assist numbers. Remember, Magic is the all-time leader in TOpg.

    And anybody who thinks Dirk isn't a great player hasn't been paying attention....

  41. Travis Says:

    I've been having this very surprising debate in my head long before this post, so thanks for putting this up, Neil! I am from Dallas and have been a huge fan of Dirk since '02, but I used to laugh off comparisons to Bird, thinking of them as just the media looking for a story in it's usual simplistic way, and it's easy to try to compare two big white dudes who shoot well and score a lot. Not a lot of those in recent decades. Not that anyone said he was better, just "Bird-like". I still think comparing them as far as style is ridiculous, but that's another story (IS it just bc they're big white great shooting forwards?).

    Anyway, my dismissal of such talk changed when I came to this site, saw the numbers, and realized to my total shock, esp as the years went by and Dirk maintained his greatness, how close to Bird he really IS statistically, and in some cases, better!

    My ultimate take is this - Bird is Bird, as u stated Neil, a legitimate GOAT candidate. He's in another league than Dirk as far as passing ability, a better defender, better all around play-maker (first "point forward", anyone?); however, at this point we do have to consider that Dirk may be his equal as a scorer.

  42. Travis Says:

    I was going to say Dirk was a better post-season player, as sacrilegious as that sounds, based on some of the things I've looked at, including that excellent sort from post #20 (side note: amazing isn't it how much Jordan dominates everyone in seemingly every metric??).

    However, I think the poster who made the point about assists possibly being undervalued in some cases must be right. Bird almost AVERAGED a triple-double in several playoffs - look at some of those ridiculous lines:

    85-86: 25.9 9.3 8.2
    86-87: 27.0 10.0 7.2
    89-90: 24.4 9.2 8.8

    Seems hard to believe with numbers like those that Dirk, even being 1 of 4 ppl to avg 25/10 in the post-season, would be considered statistically better in the playoffs. But it's still a lot closer than people would think.

  43. Rob P. Says:

    @41 Oscar Robertson was an earlier example of the Point-Forward, right?

  44. k Says:

    What's funny about this -- and in an on-court, minute by minute analysis of play, I don't think Bird and Nowitzki are nearly as close as advanced metrics make it appear -- that this debate wouldn't even be going on if 1) the Mavs hadn't made the conference finals and 2) Nowitzki wasn't putting up ridiculous stats, as he did in game 1.

    Now, you look at the latter point and you think, well, "duh". But that connects to the earlier issue of actual analysis of play style, skillsets and intensity. That first game between the Mavs and OKC was a disaster on those merits, largely pushing Nowitzki's stats by way of ridiculous officiating or a generally poor rule book that has now made the league softer than high school waterpolo.

    Nowitzki, a guy that doesn't like contact and has often been bothered by it, shoots 24 fts accounting for half of his direct output.

    Comparatively, Larry Bird played in a league where players would clothesline each other and not even be called for a flagrant.

    Back to point 1, this is -- regardless of your feelings on Nowitzki -- also sadly typical of hyped media memes wherein a player's worth is defined by the news cycle.

    The Mavs are winning, and Nowitzki is playing very well. Time to ask if he's better than some of the all-time greats? Sure.

    But if he played about the same through two rounds and the Mavs were gone? This talk would not be taking place.

    Team result is far too often confused with individual worth in this league. This may just be another example.

  45. Neil Paine Says:

    #23 - Greyberger and Matt pretty much covered it. I don't want to get into an argument or rehash any of the battles fought at APBRmetrics 5 years ago (although with the hack of APBR destroying all archives, would it really be re-hashing?).

    The most diplomatic thing to say is that there is analysis we agree on, particularly at the team level, and analysis we do not agree on, particularly at the individual level. And let's leave it at that.

  46. Matt Johnson Says:

    "Btw, if SPM underrates Dirk, why shouldn't we assume it's also underrating Bird?"

    Brilliant! So we can just assume they are being underrated to exactly the same degree, and consider SPM to effectively state who was better. But wait, couldn't we also do the same thing for any other stat and if would be roughly as valid? (or ahem, invalid?). ;)

    Speaking generally to the concept of "who should get the bigger boost for presumed intangibles", one can obviously make a good case for Bird. Typically the higher a guy's BBIQ, the more good things he's doing that are too tricky to record in a box score, and Bird's about as BB smart as they come.

    However, imho one of the biggest problems with all-in-one box score metrics is that they really reward an on-ball player for racking up numbers (assists, FTAs, and even FGAs to some degree) that other players could have racked up in that situation. Hence, Westbrook & Durant during the regular season score comparably by PER even though it's quite clear that much of Westbrook's non-scoring could be taken up by a less glamourous but more fundamental point guard. This leads to someone like Dirk getting systematically underrated in a way that Bird doesn't.

  47. Rob P. Says:

    @ #44

    "But if he played about the same through two rounds and the Mavs were gone? This talk would not be taking place."

    I agree largely with what your saying in your post, but I feel like sample size is of importance. If Dallas got swept in the first round, it would require Dirk to produce on historic levels in order for me to stop and reflect on his numbers. He'd have to drop 63 like Jordan did in Celtics first round sweep of the Bulls in '86. And it's not because I don't appreciate his individual contribution, but because the production comes over a mere 4-game stretch.

    This postseason Ray Allen had a TS% of .700+ after the C's first round series vs. the Knicks. It's cool, but I don't know how much value comes from closely examining that. It's trivia, really.

    These averages can get watered down when you play 26 games and log nearly 1,000 MP over a full stretch.

    So I find team result significant in that regard -- team result is what provides ua with sample size.

    [I hope I'm understanding that part of your post correctly.]

  48. andy Says:

    putting aside the rings, bird was a better passer and defender, dirk a MODESTLY better offensive player. bird was the better player. that much is clear to me

  49. Cort Says:

    Dirk is a great player, but a notch below Bird all-around. Larry was a better defender (made 3 all-defense teams primarily as a great team defender), a much better passer, a basically equal rebounder and a better clutch player. Smarter and tougher too. Plus the NBA in the 1980s was better than it is now; pre-expansion era teams had more depth and better quality. The influx of foreign players has helped shrink the gap, and the league is more balanced now than it has been in 20 years or more.
    I would rank Bird as clearly the best all-around forward ever, followed in order by Baylor, Pettit (very underrated), Havlicek and Barry. People didnt like Rick but he was Larry Bird-lite. He carried Golden State to the 1975 title and should have been league MVP that year. Look up his stats that season.
    Dirk fits in somewhere in the next tier with Erving, Barkley, Malone, Cunningham, DeBusschere, etc. Hard to say until a guy is done playing. But as others said before, Bird's last 3-4 years were in decline due to injuries. Dirk hasnt had the decline phase yet.
    On top of his great numbers, few if any players also had Larry's intangibles.
    Bird's rebound stats compare favorably too when you consider he played with other very good rebounders (Parish, McHale, Maxwell, even DJ was good for a guard) so there were less boards to be had. Plus Larry played inside a lot more early in his career and was a good offensive rebounder. When McHale emerged and they went double low post on offense with Parish, Bird moved out to the perimeter and his primary responsibility then was to get back and defend against the fast break. His first 4 years Boston was a running team and he posted up a lot, and thus was in position for more offensive boards.

  50. Jason J Says:

    I'm comfortable saying Dirk is the more efficient scorer (one of the MOST efficient scorers of all time), though I would be interested to see what Bird's TS% was like if he'd gotten a few more of the those perimeter touch fouls we've see since the 2005 rule change, AND if his team incorporated more three point shooting into the game. People forget that the difference in 3PT attempts is so dramatic between eras.

    As someone who got to watch a lot of Bird growing up in the '80s in New England, I think the thing that set him apart was his ability to both orchestrate an offense and to impact the game without the ball. He could play point forward and was very effective doing so at the power forward position where he'd stretch defenses thin and pick them apart with his passing. He could also run defenders to death off of screens and shoot a high percentage on perimeter catch and shoot. Add to that his superb leadership skills and tremendous rebounding, and you've got yourself a 3 time MVP with GOAT aspirations.

    The one weakness Larry had was his one on one defense. Like most tweeners who are able to exploit small quick defenders with their size and big slow defenders with their speed / skills, Larry was exploitable for those same reasons at the other end. If you can find it on youtube, watch the 1988 series against Atlanta. They've got Larry on Tree Rollins for a long stretch because Nique, Willis, and Carr all took advantage of Bird in their own ways. (for what it's worth that's always been a knock on Dirk as well)

  51. Jay Gibbons Says:

    Why don't you put statistical +/- on player pages?

  52. Bill Says:

    What's the adjustment for team performance? Bird played on much better teams than Dirk has played on -- Dirk has been the only dependable offensive threat on his team for his entire career. He has played with perhaps two HOFs in his career -- Steve Nash before he peaked and Jason Kidd long after.

    Bird, by contrast, spent most of his career with at least 5 HOFers on his roster. Of course he had more assists -- he had an embarrassment of riches of guys to pass to.

  53. Cort Says:

    Larry wasnt as bad a defender as people like to think. It is just that the other aspects of his game were so transcendent that his 1 on 1 defense looked worse by comparison. He was a GREAT team defender and made 2nd team all-defense 3 times in the early 1980s, at a time when the league coaches voted on the award, not the media. I think that probably counts for more.
    Bird MAXIMIZED his teammates with his great passing, spacing and instincts. Dirk has gotten better as a passer but Larry simply created opportunities for his teammates with his pinpoint passing. He always hit his mates in the right place at the right time in stride, and with touch. He led his teammates into their move or shot better than anyone I have seen other than Stockton.
    Boston was 29-53 the year before he came there. Then with basically the same roster, they went 61-21 and had the best record in the league. Best 1-year turnaround ever. At that time, it was also the biggest statistically (+32 games). It has been surpassed since by a few teams who were so bad that it wasnt as hard to improve by more games.

  54. Cort Says:

    Funny (and telling) how no one ever mentions that Earvin Johnson was a PATHETIC defender and benefited from playing alongside great offensive players who bloated his assist numbers. Yet a lot of people like to nitpick about Bird, who got double teamed far more than Johnson and was guarded by people roughly his size.
    Jabbar and Worthy were Hall of Fame teammates of Johnson who made his game much easier. Norm Nixon, Bob McAdoo, Jamaal Wilkes and Michael Cooper were excellent Laker players too. The Laker running style and the Forum habit of inflating assist totals also helped create the illusion of Magic.
    Johnson never even had a jump shot. Think about that. No jump shot, benefited from a huge size advantage at his position and couldnt defend. How anyone can think a guy who couldnt shoot a jump shot or guard anyone is among the very top players ever shows how brainwashed people are about "Magic."
    MSU played zone in college, and actually LA played a thinly veiled zone a lot in the NBA under Riley too that helped hide his glaring weaknesses. But people liked Johnson because he smiled and put on an act for the cameras, and played with often unnecessary flair. Bird was all business, didnt smile or kiss up to the media and thus suffered from far worse media coverage. So Earvin got a free pass. Even after getting HIV and probably infecting a bunch of people Johnson still comes out somehow as a hero. Nothing sticks to the guy.
    Yet SI had the nerve to include Bird in its infamous "Where's Daddy" article about athletes fathering numerous kids out of wedlock when he had ONE kid with his EX-WIFE during a brief reconciliation shortly after their divorce. Hmm, interesting...
    Anyone ever notice that Draymond Green at MSU and Earvin Johnson have very similar looks and move similarly?? He wears 23, the transposition of his LA 32 number.

  55. Bob Says:

    (read in colonel klink accent) it should not surprise you that dirk is a more efficient player as he is the product of superior german engineering.

  56. Owen Says:

    Worth mentioning that the linear box score metric that shall not be named indicates Bird was a far better player than Dirk, who for all his scoring prowess has dropped off significantly in total performance of late. I like Wins Produced and I think it gives a more accurate picture here than the above statistics....

  57. JTaylor21 Says:

    Both Magic and Bird were avg. defenders at best. Most of the time both guys were "hidden" on non-offensive threat the same way Kobe is hidden on non-offensive PGs.
    Everyone knows that Dirk is an all-time great but I'm having a hard time believing that he's as good as Bird was at anything on the basketball court. Bird's the better shooter, passer, rebounder, leader, winner and his competitive drive's 1,000X more than anything Dirk has shown so far in his career (even though I've seen a change in Dirk's demeanor so far in the postseason). When one player is constantly brought up as one of the 5 greatest players of all-time while the other would have a hard-time cracking a Top-5 GPFOAT list, there shouldn't be any comparison between the two. The only thing that should be compared between the two is skin color.

  58. Rob P. Says:

    @ #57 --

    "...his competitive drive's 1,000X more than anything Dirk has shown so far in his career (even though I've seen a change in Dirk's demeanor so far in the postseason)"

    I think that sort of talk is GENERALLY the product of heightened media attention and a short-term memory. Dirk, Ray Allen, Kobe.... all methodical shooters. Their intense individual workouts are well documented. It's impossible to know how much someone cares -- the people on this site aren't ones who generally concern themselves with "competitive drive" or "who wants it more." It's tough to question the will of a player like that when it's widely reported they do everything to be prepared. Because, in the end, reports on their preparation is the closest we can come to seeing how devoted they are.

  59. Owen Says:

    Well, the WOW was mentioned I see. I can appreciate that APBR types have their differences with Berri. But for all the criticism of Berri and Wins Produced, I think it's fair to say he has done as much as anyone, maybe more than anyone other than Hollinger, to push advanced stats into the public eye. Whatever you think of Wins Produced, Berri has made important contributions with his work on salary and attendance data. He showed in a very convincing way that compensation in the NBA was driven by scoring without regard for efficiency and that a lot of statistical factors that clearly matter, like turnovers, aren't significant factors in salary at all. Other people had said similar stuff, but that was peer reviewed stuff that he seems to get basically no credit for. It wasn't nothing. Plenty of people have adopted those ideas without much of a footnote.

    And while it's easy to accuse Berri of arrogance, let's be honest, why shouldn't an economist or a statistician feel a little arrogant looking at the way NBA gm's act. There are a lot of really dumb people doing really dumb things in the NBA. Things they say, all the time, show they don't really understand basic math, let alone the ever so tricky math we call advanced basketball statistics. There are a lot of GM's that still think, hey, that guy will put butts in seats, he scores buckets, I got to get him. I am a Knicks fan, I know of what I speak.

    And I know that HaralabobV, who despises Berri's work. at the same time has said, (from article) that...

    "The world of NBA executives is a network of former players and coaches, people who came up through the ranks and "paid their dues." Far from a meritocracy, often the pecking order in the NBA's front offices has more to do with who you know than what you know."

    Which is basically all that Berri is saying with his statistics. That the numbers in a lot areas show that, in spades, they aren't the most rational, efficient bunch.


  60. Frontrange Says:

    #49 . .

    You seem to have pretty big historical bias for old time forwards. I think it bears mentioning that the 50-60's were essentially semi-pro teams. Baylor's dominance of the league while working in the army reserves and flying to games on weekend, speaks more to the level of play in the league that his ability (Hienhson was basically a frat party who average 20PPG). No knock on Baylor who competed at certain time and certain era and invented certain elements of the modern game, but achieving national significance in basketball in 1962 was immeasurable less competive than in 2000 when the whole world seeks to reach the NBA.

    I think Dirk is the most unique scored in NBA history (perhaps second to Kareem's sky hook), and underappreciated. I would take Bird first, but would have no trouble taking Dirk over Baylor, Barry, Malone, Erving or Johnny H . . .ask me later if Lebron passes either of them.

  61. Matt Johnson Says:

    "Bird's the better shooter, passer, rebounder, leader, winner and his competitive drive's 1,000X more than anything Dirk has shown so far in his career"

    That's a cheap statement. Dirk's rep as being soft is based on his team being upset, but there is no one in NBA history anywhere near as likely to get upset as a Bird team and people just forget this because the guy won.

    Not that I'm saying Bird was a bad leader or wasn't competitive, your use of hyperbole to compound something based on oversimplistic thinking is really frustrating.

  62. HY Says:

    Nobody said Magic was a great defender. And as far as I concern, we're talking about Bird vs Dirk, not Bird vs Magic, right?

    BTW, does anybody know why Cort hate Magic that much? Most of his replies are for praising Bird and smacking Magic. Biased Celtics fan? Hmm.......

  63. Cort Says:

    i think the older players do get short shrift in basketball, but not other sports. people have little trouble saying ruth, williams, dimaggio, mantle, mays, aaron, musial are the greatest baseball players ever. in hockey orr and howe are 2/3 of the trinity with gretzky.
    pettit played in the 50s and 60s and retired #1 in points and rebounds in 65. baylor played 1958-72. havlicek 62-78. barry 65-80. not sure that makes the last 3 especially "older" forwards but they had better fundamentals than almost all of today's stars - while also being great athletes.

  64. Matt Johnson Says:

    "And while it's easy to accuse Berri of arrogance, let's be honest, why shouldn't an economist or a statistician feel a little arrogant looking at the way NBA gm's act. There are a lot of really dumb people doing really dumb things in the NBA. "

    Okay, let's side the fact that being arrogant is never a good thing.

    Now consider: Berri is arrogant toward the APBRmetric community, essentially calling them a bunch of amateurs. Had he earned the right to such condescension?

    To answer that you need to think about the lay of the land here. Berri's an academic who was at Cal State Bakersfield and is now at Southern Utah, achieving tenure only recently (the Wages of Wins stuff came before the tenure).

    Now, by no means do I mean to knock those institutions or the accomplishment of any tenured prof. But it's not like this is some academic god who has universities just begging to associate with him that has deigned to enter a field full of people still figuring out long division.

    Quite a lot of the APBRmetrics are PhD's. A number of them are profs from various fields. And who are the "no names" of the groups? Typically really smart math guys, who know a lot more math than basketball stats required.

    Seriously, people don't seem to understand how big the internet is. Do you have any idea how many people there are with perfect quantitative GRE scores out there? Freaking dime a dozen, and the idea that anyone would believe that that entire anonymous army would be unable to understand the concepts involved here is just so silly.

    So this is the thing, Berri is using his academic pedigree to claim more credibility than the APBRmetric community, and the people there just see this as bizarre because they've got their own academic pedigree and some of them have far more experience working with basketball. More than that though is that aside from concerns about his lack of basketball understanding, there are legitimate algorithmic concerns about what he does that he just doesn't seem to address, even on the rare occasion that he does respond to a criticism.

  65. Cort Says:

    most of the stars today really benefit from being allowed to take 2-3 extra steps on drives, which makes it far easier to make more spectacular plays - which in turn = "better" in many eyes, especially ina highlight oriented, short attention span society. the "older" players werent allow to do that, plus many played in the handcheck era which made it much harder to beat a defender one on one. consequently they tended ot be much better moving without the ball, as passers and as shooters. dirk and bird are 2 greats who didnt get much advantage from traveling, although dirk does get away with an extra step sometimes that bird rarely did. neither drove as much as most of the other greats, partly because they were such superb shooters.
    i saw an ESPN Clssic rerun of game 6 in the 1981 finals last week, and near the end bird was called for a palming violation on a driving pull-up jumper that he drained. watching it on re-run it wasnt a carry and not even close to what most guys do REGULARLY today, especially the stars. yet then the refs werent afraid to make a phantom call on a superstar. rarely if ever happens today, even if a guy takes 4-5 steps or carries the ball for 8 feet.
    james, wade, bryant, jordan, erving and e. johnson, among others, all gained huge advantages from constantly walking and palming the ball. in my mind, if anything, it makes them LESSER players than their predecessors.

  66. Rob P. Says:

    1. I wonder if this is a comparison some people are hardwired to make because of race. (I know Bill Simmons has suggested that race plays a factor in player comparisons.) In this case I can't think of anyone else who could work as a more appropriate comparison to Dirk.

    One person perhaps nearest to the conversation: Dr. J? His box score stats jump out as being similar to Bird's and his advanced Playoff chart looks like Dirk's in some respects.

    2. Dirk shows up on his player profile page as being ranked #9 in Fan Ratings. Is this a different calculation than the Elo Player Ratings where Dirk ranks 13th in Rating, 6th in W, 15th in W-L%?

  67. Owen Says:

    Matt - I think that's misrepresenting Berri's character pretty dramatically. When he attacks adjusted +/-, it's not because he thinks his degree is bigger than yours. It's because there are real issues with the method, as we all know. I haven't really heard any arguments from authority from him. He is generally pretty humble on that score. If he thinks that some of the work on APBR is shoddy, well, there is truth to that. I think it's more the case that he sees less value in engaging in long back and forth comment threads and more in publishing, which is how his bread gets buttered. Nothing wrong with that. He's made a real, permanent contribution with his work on salary and attendance data that stands up pretty well, though as I said it's little acknowledged.

    And at the end of the day, sure, you have a phd, he has a phd, many of the APBR guys have phd. The point though is that NBA gm's generally don't, and it shows, big time. And it's not arrogance to say that. It's just a fact.

  68. Sean Says:

    This is anecdotal but worth noting... Bird's MVP finishes starting with his rookie year:

    Then he essentially missed 1989 with double heel surgery and the back got worse and he was not THAT Larry Bird from 1990-1992, then he retired.

    He is 1 of 2 players (Bill Russell) in NBA history to finish 1st or 2nd in MVP for 6 consecutive years-------and it could have been 8 had Jordan not taken 2nd to his 3rd in 1987, when Bird's team won about 20 more games that season than Jordan's.

    I understand that Dirk has been underrated for some time. But Bird was THE man back when the league was LOADED with all-timers sharing the league with Bird or at least overlapping many of his years.

    Relative to his era, Bird was clearly the greater player, with apologies to a classy and undervalued Nowitzki.

  69. Cort Says:

    1 play larry bird made late in contest vs. the clippers midway through his rookie season helps illustrate how great bird was and how he went out of his way to make his teammates better. i dont think many, if any big stars of recent times would have done the same play.
    bird was having an absolutely great game, 37 points i think as i was watching this replay on NBA TV last year. included in his barrage was a fake pass behind joe (kobe's dad) bryant and pull it back for a jumper over him move, a move bird perfected.
    anyway, near the end bird had a transition breakaway dunk, no clipper even in the screen near him as he passed the foul line uncontested.
    yet he STOPPED, turned and flipped the ball back to a trailing eric fernsten, who was boston's seldom used 3rd string center. fernsten took the pass and threw down a dunk that may have made his month or even season. heck, maybe even career since he scored 175 points that year and just 517 in six NBA seasons as a hard-working, obscure backup's backup.
    NEVER have i seen jordan, kobe, et al make the same play for a marginal teammate, especially as a rookie when they were having a superb game. they are too selfish and dont understand what it really takes to make a team truly a team.
    that type of subtly unselfish play was just 1 intangible reason why bird was so great, above and beyond his great stats. those type of plays do immeasurably good things for team unity, especially when your best player does it.
    not sure if some of the "stars" of the iverson ilk care about teammates that much. or anything but themselves. it is telling of society as a whole today in america. i play 4 days a week with people ranging in age from 18-60 at a local college and i have seen how the youth crowd plays the game has changed markedly since the jordan era, which brought selfishness back into the forefront after superstars like bird, johnson, stockton, thomas made passing cool again. the first thing most try to do is go 1 on 2 put their head and not see the floor, holding the ball instead of moving it. no mid-range shooting skills or moving without the ball.

  70. Cort Says:

    Sean - I totally agree with your post. Plus Bird should have won it in 1981, maybe 1982 too. Dr. J was a popular gift selection in 81, and moses malone in 1982 won it since he dominated an otherwise ordinary rocket team as the complete hub of the offense. plus about half of moses' offensive rebounds were off his own missed layups. he simply threw up slop a lot of the time and went back and got it before others came down again from trying to block his crazy shots. and moses got away with a lot of pushing and initiating of contact on his moves. clearly bird has been shown with the perspective of time to be much better all-around than either player.
    moses deserved the MVP in 1983 when the 76ers dominated. but i think bird should have had 5 season MVPs and 3 playoff MVPs.

  71. Frontrange Says:


    You don't think Wilt was selfish? How about Jo Jo White? Sidney Wicks? Derrick Coleman? Rick Barry? World B Free. Come on. NBA has always had selfish players.

    I'd put Steve Nash's PG skills, passing and making teamates better with anyone, anytime. I'd put Durant shooting form along side Barry. KG and Sheed play help defense as well as any power forward even. Tim Duncan - footwork, position, defense - there is a reason he earned The Big Fundemental nickname. Kobe's offensive footwork is perhaps as good as Mchale's was.

    The players adapt to the rules of the game and culture but there are always some who value the team and winning more and some that look at for themselves more.

  72. Cort Says:

    FR - Oh sure there have always been selfish players, no doubt. Barry was selfish early in his career but became a great passer the 2nd half. Wilt too. Just more selfishness now is my point, on average.
    Duncan dominated in an era where he did not have much quality competition his size. McHale was better than Duncan, as good as Tim has been. Kevin had far more moves but played in a tougher era on a balanced team where he didnt shoot that much. Before he broke his foot he was a better leaper and quicker than Duncan, who is pretty mechanical.
    Kobe and Duncan are examples of 2 great players who - not coincidentally - GREW UP OUTSIDE AMERICA and thus didnt learn all the bad habits so many of the kids do today. They do have good fundamentals. Kobe still walks and palms all the time though, and gets a lot of star calls.

  73. Cort Says:

    FR - I like Nash a lot too, he is the best shooter/passer in the game by far today. But I would rather have John Stockton. As great as Steve is, he dribbles too much. Both are very smart but I rate Stockton as the smartest NBA player since Bird. John was a better defender and was not quite as flashy, but at his peak was definitely quicker and faster and made the fundamental play a little more often. John played at an All-Star level into his 40s, truly remarkable at his relatively diminutive size too. Unprecedented, actually.
    Steve carries the ball some too but shoots better with his left hand.
    Id put Steve on my all-time ambidextrous team with Bird, Paul Westphal, Bobby Jones and at center, hmm...maybe Dolph Schayes from what ive read.

  74. Neil Paine Says:

    #66 - I have no doubt that race is a major factor in the comparison. I always thought somebody like Bob McAdoo was more comparable to Dirk than Bird, but you'll rarely hear that comparison because of skin color.

    Re: the ratings, the main Elo rankings page is updated every time someone votes, while the "fan ratings" table represents the Elo rankings at 6AM that morning. So they both come from the Elo results, it's just that one is constantly updated and the other is updated only 1 time per day.

  75. Cort Says:

    Neil - Agreed on the race comparison issue. When you heard Jason Williams compared to someone, it was always Pete Maravich. John Stockton to Bob Cousy. Bird to Barry or Pettit. True there is some truth in these comparisons...who would you compare Tom Chambers, Bobby Jones or Paul Westphal to? Bob Sura? Rex Chapman? Wes Unseld? Charles Oakley? Probably players of different race.
    It is safer to compare in race because people are scared to talk about race in America. PC. Taboo. But it keeps people from having meaningful, progressive dialogue on both sides and leads to people pigeon-holing or categorizing along stereotypical lines. And if you say something kinda dumb like Al Campanis, Jimmy the Greek or Tom Brookshier regarding race, or out of sports like Rick Sanchez at CNN, you get canned. There is no attempt to educate these folks, just a PR-inspired blindfold and cigarette.

  76. AYC Says:

    Mcadoo is a great comparison for Dirk. I always compare Bird to Lebron because of the passing and versatility (I assume Cort will be outraged).

  77. Matt Johnson Says:

    Cort - If I've wronged Berri's character I thank you for giving me the chance to clarify. I don't want to be "that" guy, but at the same time when the subject comes up I also don't hold back out of fear of causing offense. I'm really not trying to make Berri out to be some kind of terrible person, and did try to make clear that I only spoke to how it appeared. Any any time if he'd like to be more open about things, that would help. It's not a character flaw that he'd choose to stay out of internet conversation, but at the same time, being less open makes it more likely that you'll come off differently than you'd like.

    Re: "attacking +/-". That's actually not how I think of Berri at all. I mean, yes he has been apart of stats in that direction, but he's far from alone. It's actually almost par from the course among those who prefer to try to build stats around box score stats even in the APBRmetrics community. How I've seen Berry sense the beginning as an odd duck who appears to be making really basic errors in his own stats, and who hasn't bothered to rebut such concerns.

    Re: no argument from authority. One does not refer to the group you are debating with as "judged by a consensus of pseudonymous avatars" in your published paper unless you are looking to try to establish your own inherent superiority as an authority. Berri has come off as smug really everywhere I've seen him even when he knows he's debating with other professors. If Berri is truly not a smug individual and not trying to manipulate the conversation, well, then he desperately needs to understand how he comes off as it has everything to do with why there's a rift between him and the rest of the basketball statistics community.

    Re: dumb GMs. Again, when you come off as arrogant to smart people, there is no mystery behind why you come off as arrogant to dumb people.

  78. Matt Johnson Says:

    @ Cort "I like Nash a lot too, he is the best shooter/passer in the game by far today. But I would rather have John Stockton. As great as Steve is, he dribbles too much."

    When a guy uses his dribble to manipulate the defense and buy time to find the open man, and his team results indicate that no player in history has had their offenses be as successful as his, it becomes really hard for me to say that he overdribbles. He may dribble too much for your taste, but the result speak for themselves.

  79. Cort Says:

    Matt - I dont go by stats so much when I say that, it is from watching Steve closely and being a point guard myself. I didnt say he wasnt a tremendous player, I just prefer Stockton's style a little more. Nash is one of my favorite players in the NBA now.
    Actually AYC, I think LeBron is a truly excellent passer, one of the best ever at forward. Just isnt as good as Bird. No one is. After Larry, LeBron is right up there with any of the other to passing forwards - Barry, Cunningham, Manning, Havlicek, etc.

  80. Cort Says:

    I do think Dirk puts the ball on the floor better than McAdoo, but there are similarities. Big Mac was the best jump shooting center arguably in NBA history. Although he wasnt a true "center" in the traditional sense. Dan Issel in the same breath. Sabonis was great too, especially before all the injuries, age and weight. He was best center in the world in mid to late 1980s.
    I remember when Pitino was coaching Boston, he said Dirk had the best stroke the NBA had seen since Bird. It is an easy comparison due to appearances, but I do think Larry and Dirk are pretty similar as shooters, drivers and rebounders. I think Dirk is a little more versatile than McAdoo. Big Mac was a better shot blocker and leaper.

  81. Dre Says:

    I sent you a facebook message for an off-line conversation (it was the only direct line I could find to you) If the message doesn't hit you can you ping me at the e-mail my comment shows up with?

    Don't see your view of Berri as accurate at all. I will say the "open" concern is perplexing at best given he has a five year old blog with an open comment section, many publications and an FAQ section that addresses many of the common questions people have. Not the view I've gotten from him at all.

  82. Matt Johnson Says:

    First off. Clearly, he couldn't have built the community he has if he an irredeemable jerk. I clearly haven't seen all signs of him. With that said...

    I know multiple people who have been banned from his comment section after he dubbed them trolls. I know the internet, I know what trolls are, these were nothing like trolls. Berri just concluded that the conversation was not likely to reach an agreement, and rather than simply saying as much, he banned them. This is very strange behavior on the internet where most statistical blogs and forums have debate as their primary form of communication. Additionally, I've asked questions before on the comments and only gotten responses from people in the community who don't understand my question. I could have tried harder, but I did try.

    I've no objection to him communicating through publications. I do take however issue when he refers to the APBRmetrics community as "pseudonymous avatars" and referring to their supposed incompetence as a "cautionary tale" in his 2010 paper. However nice he's been to you, he's clearly not being nice there.

    Now, it does have to be noted that there's going to be frustrations when the difference in speed between two preferred mediums is so drastically different. Most of the basketball statistics world is hashing things out over the course of days because that's how things go on the internet. The journal article history in question here consists of essentially 3 utterances over the course of several years, and they don't come close to making a full conversation. Of course, though there is a well known stereotype that academics are too slow to get anything done in time to be profitable, I kind of doubt the conversation would have moved this slowly if Berri had really wanted to have it.

    Let me just get to some specifics as it might get help us get to something productive (and frankly it may give you a chance to easily address something I see as a big deal - if you were able to do that, that'd go a long way to restoring my faith in the WoW community).

    You brought up the FAQ page. In both Berri's paper, and the FAQ page he responds to the Lewin/Rosenbaum paper. Now they spent a good deal of time explaining what they call a "barometer", and that they are using adjusted +/- in that role to compare more reliable metrics such as WP. Berri calls their methods "odd", and asks this question:

    "Specifically, if one regresses adjusted plus-minus on Wins Produced, are you testing Wins Produced? Or are you testing the validity of adjusted plus-minus?"

    This disturbs me because I could have told him the answer immediately after reading the Lewin/Rosenbaum paper. The barometer is meant as a gauge on which to test more reliable metrics with the hopes of determining the most valid of those metric. Whether or not this is a correct approach is another question, but their intent is clear to me. How can it not be for Berri? I mean this both in terms of finding it bizarre that he wouldn't understand it immediately, in terms of the reality that it has now been literally years after he saw their analysis, when he could have asked for clarification at any time? Clearly he's just not putting much effort into this conversation.

    Also, for posterity let's just be clear: The notion of using a barometer should not seem bizarre to anyone. Berri himself considers the proof of his stats' superiority to be how it correlates to wins - wins are thus his barometer.

    Berri then goes on to talk about the superiority of judging metrics by their ability to explain current wins, without ever getting into why someone would feel the need to use an out of sample data source in their data set. That reason would be overfitting, and that's a question I've specifically asked about on Berri's site. I figure it's entirely within the realm of possibility that Berri can answer such concerns easily, but again, it's just so weird that he apparently hasn't yet.

    Anyway, I look forward to your respond. If you'd like to email, I'm


  83. JTaylor21 Says:

    Boy, talk about bird fanatics. What a crazy/overly defensive bunch. The way they talk about Bird you would think that the guy walked on water, turned water into wine and fed thousands with 5 loafs of bread. Forget WWJD, how bout WWLBD?

  84. mystic Says:

    Dre, Matt is completely right. Berri banned a lot of people after they just asked questions he couldn't answer. And don't get me started with the stupid e-mails he writes. Seriously, in private messages and in some of his deleted comments (yes, it is quite funny when he starts to rant and after awhile those comments are gone :D) he clearly showed that he thinks he is right due to his academic accomplishments. And when I see the endless mistakes in simple algebra on his blog entries it is hard to take him seriously.

    WP48 has a serious methodical flaw in terms of evaluating players. There is no denying that the formulas used for WP48 aren't able to describe the player's individual usage. Berri is using formulas working for teams and obviously in the sum he should get a pretty good impression about the team overall amount of wins, but so are many methods which are using point differential. I don't need WP48 to know how many games a team should have won according to their point differential. Other than that WP48 provides nothing of enlightment, well, it provides a lot of entertainment when we can see that in 2001 the best SF in the league was guy named Michael Smith according to WP and WP48. Or when Reggie Evans constantly measured out like the GOAT by WP48. Yes, those results are really entertaining, but they also show the obvious flaw in that metric.

    To make one thing clear here: A shot clock violation is a team turnover, not credited to any player. If nobody takes the shot, the possession is lost and it will not show up in the individual boxscore stats. The opportunity costs for a missed shot is also a missed turnover, but how should an economy professor ever think about opportunity costs.
    Berri NEVER showed that his metric evaluates players, he showed the his metric can replicate the team's overall scoring margin, but that kind of thing can also be done by a scoring rate + defensive adjustment like we showed here: (yes, it is not a scientific paper, but it is still correct!). Berri didn't found some holy grail, he found out that the scoring margin is pretty good at predicting wins. Wow, nice job.

    Dre, you were the guy saying that he would take Kris Humphries over Dirk Nowitzki. You actually really believed that Kris Humphries would make the Dallas Mavericks better and the Mavericks made a mistake by trading him away. I specifically asked that question to you and that was your answer based on WP48. Do you still honestly think that replacing a high efficiency and high volume scorer like Nowitzki with a lower efficient scorer would be positive only because WP48 is telling you that? Do you honestly think that Humphries battling Chandler for rebounds would do any good?

    For me one of the bigger concerns regarding Berri is his lack of actual economic knowledge regarding the NBA. When I read articles written by him I find myself smh, because they is no knowledge about the CBA in those articles. He doesn't have any clue what he is talking about regarding the salary structure of teams. He had a blog post about the Hornets and concluded that the FO has no clue, because they made trades which didn't really improve the team. Heck, the trade were made for salary purposes, they cutted their payroll down while still maintained their level of play. Seriously, those moves were overall great, because they not only stayed competetive, but also improved their financial flexibility. And that kind of stuff has to be included in an evaluation, especially by an economy guy like Berri.

    The next thing is the completely lack of understanding in regards of biases. Berri runs into a selection bias and he doesn't even see it. He isn't the guy selecting the coaches or players, they are all selected by the FO of the teams. He is using the data produced by pre-selected players. How he can come up with the conclusion that those people have no clue what they are doing is beyond any comprehension. His null hypothesis is based on his flawed opinion and isn't even refutable. Even if all teams are changing up everything like Berri suggest they will still be a winner and a loser, they will still have players who perform better on a per minute basis afterall and don't get minutes. And Berri can go on with his mantra over and over again.

    The player's minutes are selected by coaches for a reason, the players have to perform in certain roles and putting lesser players in lesser roles will for sure improve their performances. But those decisions are made by the coaches. You can't asked a guy like Kris Humphries to take over on offense, to create opportunities not only for himself but also for his teammates, that is just not something he can do. If he would be in Nowitzki's position, expect the Mavericks to produce a lot of more shot clock violations. And yes, WP48 will not blame Humphries for this, that's for sure.


    How about a comparison of their playoff numbers? It is also quite interesting that Bird lost a lot of more series in the playoffs with HCA than Nowitzki, while Nowitzki's Mavericks beat 4 teams without HCA, the Celtics never done that with Bird. So much about the reputation.

    I also think your SPM is underrating Nowitzki in comparison to Bird. When we look at the real APM numbers by Wayne Winston for the last decade Nowitzki constantly has a higher value than you get for him. In average Nowitzki is on par with Garnett and Duncan, and somehow I have the feeling that your SPM for those two is also significant higher in average as Nowitzki's.

  85. huevonkiller Says:

    #12 Not really, it is somewhat arbitrary with defense. Which is why Barkley will rank higher than Duncan.

  86. huevonkiller Says:


    Yeah SPM says Chris Paul is a better defender than he actually is. It is questionable in that sense.

    I'm with you about Berri but why do you care about homecourt advantage? I'm more interested in individual performance.

  87. mystic Says:

    Huevonkiller, well, in the NBA their is a distinct measurable home court advantage, not taken that into account will give us a misleading picture for a predictions. The HCA should indicate a favorable situation for the team and we should expect that a team with HCA wins a series more often than not.

    In the opening post Neil said that Nowitzki had a reputation as a leader of an underperforming squad in the playoffs besides this years playoffs. But when we look at that deeper we will find that the Mavericks beat the Utah Jazz in 2001 without HCA in the first round, they went on to win against the Spurs twice without HCA (in 2006 and 2009) and now they done it for the 4th time against the Lakers. If I counted it correctly Bird's Celtics lost with HCA 7 times, Nowitzki's Mavericks "only" 3 times. Bird's Celtics never won a series without HCA. That is quite telling how less facts are behind those reputations. We never hear about the bad playoff series by Bird, they are all forgotten.

    And I know those things I brought up are without context, just wanted to point that out, that we better not try to judge players via their reputation.

  88. huevonkiller Says:

    Ah I see your point Mystic, well said.

    LeBron is more like 1989 Jordan instead of Bird. The last couple of years for sure if you adjust for pace.

    #24 Jason J, Zone defense is now legal which makes free throw rates lower now than back in 1990. The assist issue is interesting but I do think the overall quality of the league is better. The contemporary era is slower paced and more defensive oriented

  89. Sean Says:

    At # 71:

    Wilt was such a specimen. So big, so athletic. He was also so oblivious to his selfishness that it is comical. At least at one point in his career. He didn't like being called selfish and to prove to everyone that he wasn't selfish, he said he would lead the league in assists----------which, because he was so unbelievable, he did (total assists). Problem is, the mere stating that you will lead the league in assists, then consciously making it happen---------in a fluid TEAM game---------is inherently selfish. He became more selfish trying to prove he wasn't selfish. WILT!

  90. AYC Says:

    Huevon, I didn't say SPM was good at capturing defense; I said it's good at reflecting conventional wisdom... and CW often doesn't value defense properly. In a later post I explicitly said I think DWS is the best advanced stat for measuring individual defense

  91. Travis Says:


    If Magic was such a "pathetic" defender, why did he lead the league in steals 2 years in a row early in his career, averaging 3 per game one year! You can put all the advanced metrics up, calculate this and that, but thats a raw number that simply cannot be achieved without some strong defensive skill. I was too young to see him play in those early years, but I know that in that era as well as now, averaging 3 steals per game for an entire year is ELITE.

  92. AYC Says:

    PS Sorry Cort, I detect a serious old-timer bias in your comments, but I shouldn't have assumed you have a problem with Lebron. But do you really think Baylor, Barry, Havlicek, etc. are better than LBJ?

  93. Greyberger Says:

    Whoa, internet explotivo. If we can't agree on whether the main poster at is sufferable or not, let's just agree to read Arturo's stuff or Dre's (almost daily) writings if we want to cruise through WP town.

  94. David Says:

    Wow, I'm sorry for dredging this backstory up, since I did ask originally. I also read the "Why I'm not a WP fan" thread. Thanks for the link, did not know about that site. For the record, I read Berri's blog, this one, and had digested much of sonicscentral before it disappeared. I think their are insights everywhere and it's regrettable that there is such bad blood.

    By the way, I'm on record, I think here even with a comment in a long ago thread, as saying that the Mavs will never win a title with Dirk as their #1. Too soft. I think that will still pan out this year. I remember the first 20 games of this season when the Heat were a 500 team, roughly, but had a eff diff that was the incredible. I wanted a rematch but now I'm not sure the Mavs will beat the Thunder. And this brings me back to Dirk vs Bird. I can't think of any good way to include championships in some composite ranking. Small n problem, 5 on 5 problem. But I can't help but rank Bird a bit higher because he was a meaningful cog on a Championship team. Is that bias? Same thing haunts me with Malone and Barkley too. Other way: The 2001 Lakers (I think) went 16-1 in the playoffs. They only lost game 1 of the Finals in OT because, imho, of a long layoff. I know it's only n = 17 etc. but that somehow means more because that streak of domain happened when it really counts. So Bird > Dirk?

  95. David Says:

    "domain" should be "dominance" in above, sorry.

  96. Neil Paine Says:

    #85 - I don't think you know what "arbitrary" means...

  97. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Cort@49: "I would rank Bird as clearly the best all-around forward ever, followed in order by Baylor, Pettit (very underrated), Havlicek and Barry. People didnt like Rick but he was Larry Bird-lite. He carried Golden State to the 1975 title and should have been league MVP that year. Look up his stats that season."

    I'd rank Bird first also, and I agree Barry and Pettit tend to be underrated and rank high, but they aren't next on the list.

    Baylor and Havlicek were great, but both overrated. Three of the guys in your second tier (Erving, Malone, Barkley) were for sure better than those two and Barry (I'd put Pettit in their area).

    Dirk is on the short list of best forwards all time.

    I'm a big old-time celtics fan, and I have to say, I don't even think Havlicek belongs in the conversation for the short list. He was an excellent player and the face of the franchise after Bill Russell retired, but his record just doesn't stack up to the other all-time greats. Hall-worthy for sure, given who is there, but no-way no-how anywhere near the greatest forward of all-time conversation.

  98. AYC Says:

    Lebron is better than all of those old-timers....

  99. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    92: holy crap, I didn't even notice he's leaving Lebron of the all-time forward short-list. Realistically, I have to put him in the #1 slot already, I think. Maybe Bird still nudges him out barely if you value team performance more than I normally do, but a few more years like this one and a championship or two, I think there will be no question Lebron deserves the #1 slot. He's as good a passer, an even better defender, and just as efficient at scoring. The only question left for Lebron that will be left is how he stacks up against Jordan, Wilt, et. al on the GOAT list.

  100. Owen Says:

    Matt - I don't want to get into an extended debate. It's not going to go anywhere. I can understand that Berri has ruffled some feathers. He isn't a diplomat. But at the end of the day, leave Wins Produced aside, his work has moved things forward in a substantial way with his analysis of salary, draft, and attendance data. Those were very useful contributions. They showed massive inefficiency in decision making in NBA. Would anyone argue that? Would anyone argue that it isn't just a little bit weird that scoring efficiency hasn't been a more significant factor in compensation over the years?

    At the end of the day, Berri also really moved the needle on the usage/efficiency debate and shone a light on players who deserve more of the limelight, maybe not Reggie Evans but certainly Kyle Lowry. From your comment it's clear you are a little more on the usage side. And that's fair. Maybe Berri is too much of a fundamentalist on efficiency. Although with Derrick Rose having won the MVP maybe not. Maybe there are too many WOW'ers out there trying to win barroom debates by citing Wins Produced. Maybe he was using a dubious metric to sell low hanging fruit (insight) to the American public that was old hat to APBR types. The bottom line though is that he has played a major role in changing the context of conversation about the NBA, to where, at least these days you might hear someone actually say that Derrick Rose is the new Iverson. It's not nothing.

  101. HY Says:

    Here is another metric for comparing Bird and Dirk: Kevin Pelton's WARP

    Bird: 209(total), 16.1(per season) in 13 seasons

    Dirk: 164(total), 13.7(per season) in 12 seasons

    I don't have Dirk's number for this season, but I don't think that will make any big difference.

  102. Neil Paine Says:

    #101 - Not surprising, since I believe WARP was re-tooled last summer to better track with adjusted plus/minus. This means WARP and SPM should pretty much agree on any given player.

  103. Jason J Says:

    Huevon - Not sure how much zone is a factor and how much increased usage of the 3 point shot is a factor, but, either way, I still think it holds true that players operating out of the high post / wing area get more whistles now than they did years ago. The low post is definitely negatively impacted by the zone though, as it's possible to double a player away from the ball legally now.

    As an illustration, take a look at Jordan's free throw rate in 1996 and 1997 in Chicago. This was a very high usage, physical wing whose reputation says he got every call to go his way who was getting 7 to 8 ftas per game in 38 minutes. Yet this season Kobe, playing a similar style in only 34 minutes a game got the to line about as often as Michael did while officially taking 3 fewer field goals than Jordan and more three point attempts. Essentially he had far fewer opportunities to get to the line but gets their the same amount while playing the same role in the same offense.

    I think that's the handcheck rule in action, which to me has the larger impact on perimeter scorers like LB and Dirk. I guess we could run a breakdown of fta% for guards pre and post rule change, though the rule's only been in effect for less than a decade, and the data could be skewed by a few high usage perimeter guys... Another possible explanation for a change in ft rate, in addition to vastly increased 3pta, is pace. As pace slows, defenses get set, and you don't get those common transition fouls.

  104. Frontrange Says:

    Let's at least give Dirk's fall away, horizontal, fading 16 foot jump shot, from behind the head, off the wrong foot, with his legs kicking out . . the most unique scoring weapon in NBA history. I have watched a lot of basketball in my life and can't remember anything as unexpectly effective as that move.

  105. AYC Says:

    Last week on TNT, Barkley compared Dirk to Hakeem for his ability to consistently make shots the opposing defense WANTED him to take....

  106. Matt Johnson Says:

    Owen - To be honest, when people cite Berri's impact, it feels like it comes from an alternate universe to me. That may shed some light on my own ignorance for you in a number of ways, one of which being that I'm simply not really paying much attention to things like attendance.

    When I see Berri, I don't see a guy who was a spearhead, I see him as a guy who showed up into an already relatively mature arena of basketball statistics championing a stat that yields extreme conclusions. Granted an extreme-conclusion stat can be a spearhead, but when you see it as a spearhead to something like the Rose-Iverson debate I don't think you are working from a reasonable reference frame.

    When Iverson won his MVP, there were people knocking his efficiency then. Those voices have gotten louder ever since as the basketball statistic community has gotten more prominent. It would thus only be reasonable to give Berri's a major chunk of credit if people were regularly citing Berri's work as the reason why they link the two players.

    Over on RealGM (which I realize some people here don't know, but it's a huge site, and really the best place to go if you want to get a sense of what hard core basketball fans think), the Rose-Iverson connection has been discussed over and over again, and Berri's work never comes into it. He shouldn't feel too bad, Berri's competitors like PER rarely come into it either. The discussion centers around usage, efficiency, and team defense directly. Meaning, the people aren't working downstream from Berri, they are working with basketball-reference themselves.

    And I'd say this is the true reality of the trends in stats: They aren't coming because of Berri or Hollinger, they are coming because the internet gives people access to data.

    Last thing, when you say Berri moved the needle on usage vs efficiency, and then say I'm clearly someone more on the usage side, this sets of alarm bells for me. I'm not a "usage" guy. I'm on record saying that I consider the most impactful offensive players to actually be the amazing distributors a la Magic Johnson. I looked over what I said before, and the only thing I can see that even pertains to usage vs efficiency was when I talked about Baylor's weak efficiency being a major problem - which I'd think WP supporters would have liked.

    Now look, I'm not offended that you'd mislabel me, it's not that. I'm disturbed because it makes me think of the expression "when all you've got is a hammer...". Berri tends to present the debate as one where he is an efficiency guy in a world full of usage guys, and this has never made any sense when talking with other stat people. Yes, his stat is less usage-positive than PER, but the stat community never took PER as gospel. Their objections to Berri have always been about his methods, his certainty, and his attitude, not about his love of efficiency which is a trait that pretty much every stat guy shares.

  107. Panic Says:

    I want to add something really quickly to one aspect of this discussion, which is comparison of eras. More specifically, I've seen people suggest that the 80s were "better" than now because it was a "pre-expansion" era. This point of view doesn't take into account: 1. The rise in US population from the 80s to now, and 2. The massive internationalization of the game. How the overall talent levels of current eras compare to each other is a current research interest of mine, and my work suggests that these two factors more or less offset the effects of dilution by expansion.

    As for the older guys, Baylor in particular: the vast majority of the players on every roster except the Celtics up until the mid-60s were guys who couldn't touch the NBA now, not even close. This is mostly a demographic phenomenon: the American South wasn't desegregated yet, so black southern high schoolers weren't being recruited by the major colleges. What would today's NBA look like without any southern blacks or international players? It would be a pretty sorry state of affairs.

  108. dbm Says:

    I would agree that Dirk is closer to Bird than what it might appear, for several reasons.
    Post 107 brings up one point: the rise in the quality of the game in the NBA. Due to the reasons laid out, it likely is better today than it was.
    Another reason is that Bird is viewed through a rosy arc of history as far as the 80's. The NBA still hypes that period as a great time for the league (as does ESPN, etc.). I do not remember any other sport looking back so far to hype itself. Even MLB does not do that. As a side note, it is worse with Magic than Larry. In a desire to crown new stars, re-write history and so forth, Magic is given a far greater weight of credit for the titles he won as opposed to Kareem. It is kind of absurd.
    Finally, I would say Baylor and the others were probably a bit overrated, but to say that some of those guys would not cut it at all in today's NBA? Wilt would be good today. West would be as well. As dominant as they were? Maybe not. BUt they would be good.
    The overrated older players are: Baylor, Pettit, Cousy, Russell, and Robertson (too much triple-double emphasis). Wilt at times gets underrated when people call him a choker and all the rest.

  109. khandor Says:

    First question that comes to mind in this situation is:

    Why are these 2 players even being compared to one another, in the first place? ... since one was a Small Forward, during his NBA career and the other a combination Power Forward-Center.

  110. Owen Says:

    Matt - I am not talking about moving the conversation forward within the basketball stat community. I am talking about changing the popular perception. And I think he has played a role in changing how the public views players, both directly and indirectly. Maybe he didn't make the most original contribution. Maybe he said something that others said before him. The fact remains, that's a hugely popular blog he is running over there.

    Also, I know you think his views are "extreme", but I can assure you, having read a lot of different things he has published, he is not a one trick pony. Wins Produced is what you know, but it's really a small part of what he does. I mean, is his work showing that black quarterbacks have been under compensated relative to their talent over the years "extreme?"

    Re the usage/efficiency thing, I get you are a sophisticated advanced stats guy. You are posting on this thread so of course you are. What I was really trying to say is you seem like the kind of guy who thinks "Rose is overrated and not MVP worthy but a great player," while I am not even sure he is the best player on his team and think there are a lot of guys you could stick into that lineup who would do just as well.

    Anyway, ad infinitum this will go, we should just stop....

  111. Cort Says:

    Travis - Steals are not a good indicator at all of defensive prowess. In fact they often are made by weak defensive players who gamble way too much and give up more points than they create with their steals. Not to mention the pressure they put on teammates to help out when their gambles go awry. A lot of bad defenders go for steals so they wont get exposed either in 1 on 1 spots, and Johnson fits that moold. Never was he even close to an all-defense selection, and the coaches made the picks back then for much of his career. Bird made 3 all-defense teams. Johnson played zone in college almost exclusively, and Riley's Lakers played a zone trap and a lot of illegal halfcourt zone to hide Johnson. He didnt have the quickness to cover small guards at all, and his lateral movement was sorely lacking.

    DBM - I think the guys you mentioned are not overrated, with the exception of Cousy and Oscar to a slight extent. Cousy was flashy and a fan favorite, but a weak defender and not a great shooter. Great passer, yes, and a great entertainer who could score.
    I definitely agree there is way too much emphasis on the triple double. It is a misleading and overused stat. A guy can have 30 points, 9 rebounds and nine assists but no TD. But a guy gets 11-10-10 and people/major media go nutso. Yet who had the better game? Kidd and Johnson got a lot of those low # TDs. Oscar dribbled way too much and monopolized the ball on his teams, but he was great.
    One way to judge a player is by how they dominate their era. You cant penalize them for when they played.
    I totally disagree on the comparison to MLB. Baseball worships its past - Ted Williams is usually regarded as the greatest hitter ever, Ruth as the greatest player ever, DiMaggio, Mantle and Mays among the best, along with Musial and Aaron. The NBA players we talked about played more recently than most of those baseball greats, yet guys like Pettit are viewed as playing in the dark ages. Yet he is much younger than most of the baseball greats I mentioned.
    The level of play in the NBA was simply better in the 1980s and early 1970s than now. And I am only in my early 40s. Today there is far more emphasis on athleticism and entertainment than skills. Players now travel and palm constantly, and superstars get far more preferential treatment nowadays in order to sell the game better for TV ratings.
    In a 1974 SI article, Bill Russell called Havlicek the greatest all-around player in the history of the NBA. Of course, many greats followed him, but such a mention gives a sense of how good Hondo was all-around. He did everything exceptionally well, was superb in the clutch and was understated, unlike most self-promoters today. And athletically, he was great. All-state in 3 sports, recruited to play football at OSU and had a tryout with the Browns as a receiver and was the last one cut when they were the champs.
    Dr J was a favorite of mine as kid but he had no jump shot and was a very poor defender until he got older. He was not a particularly good rebounder either, although he was pretty good on the offensive glass. Barkley did not make his teammates better and simply compiled stats, did not know how to win and was totally undisciplined - it showed in his behavior, outbursts and wasitline.
    Ask anyone who played with those guys in question and the teammates would certainly rather play with Havlicek, Pettit, Baylor, et al than Barkley. Everything was all about Chuck, and it still is on TV. Entertaining, emotional and explosive, yes. For a few years he was great. Fans respond to that. But greater than those guys? No way. Dave DeBusschere was clearly a better all-around player than the Chuck Wagon. There is a reason why Chuck never won a title and those guys did.
    As for LeBron, it is too hard to judge a guy in mid-career. Clearly he has shown to be wanting as a shooter and in the clutch. He benefits from all sorts of star calls too. Great passer, good rebounder and shot blocker too for his position. But to rank him above any of those greats would be premature. He needs to do it in the playoffs like Barry, Hondo, Baylor, Pettit, etc. to be included with them. Barry was 1975 playoff MVP and carried a team to a title. Hondo was 1974 playoff MVP and won 8 titles, 5 before they even gave the award.
    Pettit scored 50 points in the title-clinching game 6 of the 1958 NBA Finals against Russell and defending champ Boston, including 19 of the last 21 points in a 110-109 win! Think about that. If someone did that today, people would go berserk. More people know about Dirk's great 48-point game in game 1 of the WCF than what Pettit did to win a title against the greatest defender in NBA history. BTW, that was the only year between 1957 and 1966 that Boston didnt win it all, so chew on that for a bit when considering what Pettit did.
    So no way that LBJ is in the same class as Bird. So much more hype and better marketing and emphasis on flash and appearance nowadays. We're talking totally different galaxy there. Bird and those guys all knew how to win and win big, and did it over and over in the biggest moments when LBJ has been lacking. Mentally, intangibly and emotionally too, they were far above LeBron. In terms of leadership, toughness, maturity and clutch play he is sorely lacking compared to those greats.

  112. Matt Johnson Says:


    You've got a reasonable post there. You nailed us on the difference between opinions on Rose. Something I feel compelled to say, and I'm sorry if this is a jerk-ish move, but when you say "The fact remains, that's a hugely popular blog he is running over there", I feel the need to hammer in the scale of things. According to Alexa, here is the rank of various basketball sites:

    RealGM: 4,329
    basketball-reference: 14,146 32,800
    freedarko: 289,506
    Berri's blog: 391,600
    shamsports: 623,295
    hoopspeak: 658,279

    This may seem like I'm just trying to find something to say to be hurtful. Achieving the commercial success Berri has with a stat-focused site is fantastic. However, the popularity of the site is not so impressive that the popularity itself should give Berri a "50 million Elvis fans" kind of credibility. WP supporters cannot speak as if they have a huge chunk of the "smart basketball fan" community with them. The raw popularity of Berri's blog is that of a successful satellite blog that has been fortunate enough to have some big names bring attention to it, not the popularity of a truly dominant genre hub or a crossover phenomenon.

  113. Matt Johnson Says:

    (Misspoke there, sportsbybrooks is not a basketball-specific site, I have it there to represent what a blog phenonmenon looks like popularity wise)

  114. Sean Says:

    Matt Johnson says: one of the cardinal sins of sports stat people is to have way too much confidence in their stats. Lots of people, including people in the APBRmetrics community are guilty of this.>>>>>>>>>>>

    Ding Ding Ding!!!! Give that man a Ceeeeeeeeeeegar!

  115. Greyberger Says:

    Re: 114

    He of course means in their 'own' stats: there are many online both famous and obscure who have created their own version of the 'holy grail' basketball statistic (one number that represents performance or value summarizing different aspects of the game. Of course these days you can expand that to include people who are known for pioneering different plus-minus techniques, who I guess have a similar pitfall to avoid when it comes to their own work.

    Like all things in life, this topic is completely covered in a few pithy pages in Basketball on Paper. Roll-up stats can be fun and informative, but don't confuse measuring performance for measuring true ability.

  116. Matt Johnson Says:


    No doubt, and the +/- people are certainly no more immune to such myopia than the box score people.

  117. bla Says:

    @111 "So no way that LBJ is in the same class as Bird. So much more hype and better marketing and emphasis on flash and appearance nowadays. We're talking totally different galaxy there. Bird and those guys all knew how to win and win big, and did it over and over in the biggest moments when LBJ has been lacking. "

    There is noone in the history of the NBA who would have won with those Cleveland teams.
    Especially considering LeBron put up the best postseason stats of all time 2009 by about a 15% margin in advanced stats and still got eliminated while putting up a 38/8/8 series.

  118. Matt, Colombia Says:

    @117 His winshare was .399. That means his team had a 40% chance of winning and only needed just 2 subpar performances in each of 4 wins to advance and couldn't even get that. Instead he got nearly terrible performances from every player on his roster nearly every night.

  119. marparker Says:

    I think Owen has a point. Berri is a polarizing figure which like it or not gets people talking. Look at the comments section here in the past two days. Much better posts barely get 10 comments. Those blog numbers are very good when you consider that his only content is 1 or 2 posts a week for most of the year.

    I think Berri's behavior is more human nature than hubris. Look at how defensive the normally uber-cool Neil has gotten on this subject matter. I was really surprised.

    I'll leave my usage vs. efficiency opinion mostly out of it. A team needs someone who can take risks and have a positive expectation. We have these metrics but none of them have a method of calculating risk. That is the rub.

  120. AYC Says:

    That brings us back to the "Wilt question"; was Lebron dominating the ball too much in Cleveland? Did his dominance take away from his teammates' ability to contribute to their fullest? I think statheads are too quick to dismiss this possibility.

  121. Anon Says:

    "I think statheads are too quick to dismiss this possibility."

    You do know this is a main focus of what "statheads" study right?

    Not that W-L records is a good way of determining player impact (a bunch of extraneous variables to account for), but didn't you notice how the Cavs did without a high usage/high efficiency scorer this season?

  122. Anon Says:

    The fan perception of "glass half-empty" is definitely apparent when a star who has to carry an overall so-so cast doesn't win a title with that team.

  123. bla Says:

    LeBron dominating the Ball did not stop his teammates from contributing during the regular season, some had their best seasons with him and fell off after he left.

    If we look at Clevelands main minute players and check how their FG% changed from 2009-2010 with LeBron to 2010-2011 on the same team without LeBron there seems to be a pretty clear trend:
    Varejao 57% -> 53%
    Jamison 49% -> 43%
    Parker 43% -> 40%
    Williams 44% -> 39%
    Hickson 55% -> 46%
    Gibson 47% -> 40%

    I think Cleveland that year was a mix of players who played so hard all year that they could not pick it up in the playoffs (West, Varejao), were too old and physically unfit for the playoffs (Wallace, Ilgauskas) or plain choked (Mo Williams after guaranteeing a win against Orlando). Mo Williams did not have 4 consecutive games with FG%<0.34 even once in all his time with LeBron except the first 4 games against Orlando which pretty much sealed that series.
    And again, this came up because someone was dissappointed because this group of turds + LeBron won less often than the 80's Celtics.

  124. Anon Says:

    Good work Bia.

    Really, you don't need to be a "stathead" here to see how LBJ "dominnating" the ball helped his team. Of course he didn't won all those games in Cleveland by himself and needed the support of his cast, but as the lone star in that lineup he had to pick up the slack (especially against better competition in the playoffs). Notice how his usage has gone down (both regular season and playoffs) when he plays alongside another star, and you can also watch during the games how he plays off the ball more often. LBJ's didn't dominate the ball to "pile up stats"; he did it out of necessity.

  125. Anon Says:

    Also, I've always said this all along, but when LBJ "dominates" the ball, he's "looking out for his numbers", "doesn't want his teammates to be in the spotlight", etc. When he doesn't dominate the ball as much, he's "Wade's Robin", "not assertive", "doesn't want to be the man", etc. A nice double-standard by his (irrational) critics.

  126. John K Says:

    OK, I haven't read any of the comments, so sorry If I'm repeating what someone else said, but the elephant in the room is Bird's 3 NBA Titles to Dirk's Zippo. Now, some may say Bird's Celtics had a beeter supporting cast than Dirk's Mavs, but still, a cursory glance at their respective PLAYOFF performances will show why Nowitzki ain't in the same class! This is a great example of why stats, whilst fun, are not that reliable.

  127. AYC Says:

    Anon, nobody's saying the Cavs are better without Lebron. What I'm suggesting is there's a balance to be struck between a star and his teammates. Even if the star is highly efficient, the team as whole might not be maximizing it's potential if one player dominates the ball too much. What if there's a reverse skill curve?

  128. Anon Says:

    You seem to be good at throwing theories out there without providing any evidence for them.

  129. bla Says:

    LeBron had 61%TS his last two playoffs with the Cavs. So even if that team had absolutely maximized it's potential they would not have been anywhere near as efficient as LeBron. Compare that to players like Kobe and Rose, who have much higher usage than LeBron even though they have a bunch of guys on their teams that are significantly more efficient scorers than themselves.

    I mean forget LeBron and the Cavs regular season records and just look at those Cavs rosters in the LeBron years. Let's say you had those rosters and you could put any player at all on them - would you have put money on them even making the playoffs?

    I fondly the remember his 2007 NBA finals co-starters Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic against Duncan, Ginobili, Parker, Finley, Bowen - that's comedy gold right there.

  130. khandor Says:

    One of the reasons that Nowitzki and Bird should NOT be compared against one another as individual basketball players is because, within the context of a 5-on-5 team game, these two players would rarely, if ever, be used to check one another.

    Bird was a SF and Nowitzki is a PF/C.

    Now ...

    When it comes to determining which one was/is the most effective player, within the context of a 5-on-5 teeam game, it is really no contest ... even though both were/are great players in their own right.

    Even though it would have been a difficult 1-on-1 individual match-up for him ... Larry Bird would have been able to check Dirk Nowitzki in a more effective way than Dirk Nowitzki would have been able to check Larry Bird, when you consider the 3 distinct phases of the game, i.e. offense, defense and rebounding.

    The only phase of Dirk's individual game which would have given Larry trouble would have been the Howitzer's ability to shoot over smaller defenders when side-posting on the left mid-low-block.

    Conversely, there is no way Dirk would have been able to contain "The Legend", by chasing him around the court incessantly in an effort to curtail Larry's efforts/will to win the game by-any-means-necessary ... whether that meant scoring points, himself, getting key rebounds or steals, or creating easy - and, often times, miraculous - baskets [stemming from no-look passes, in transition or half-court situations] for his lesser talented teammates, in a vsriety of different/ultra-imaginative ways.

    A strictly numerical-based analysis of the finer points of these two giants' individual games does neither of them justice, as full-blown artists of incredible reknown.

  131. khandor Says:

    Someone who believes that LeBron James can reasonably be compared to Larry Bird, in a favourable way, as an effective and efficient passer, at the SF position, simply has not had occasion to see both of these players for the entirety of their respective careers and, instead, has come to maturity during the rise of LeBron's individual game.

    OTOH, those who have been fortunate enough to have had the privilege of seeing both of these fine individuals play the game at their zenith will almost always tell you that Larry Bird was/is by far the better passer.

  132. Anon Says:

    Khandor, I've seen BOTH players play at their "zenith". Bird can pass but LeBron is the better passer, just like Bird is the better outside shooter.

    The "watch the games" argument doesn't fly here.

  133. Matt, Colombia Says:

    @133 Seriously? Larry had less assists passing the ball to HOFs than Lebron has had throwing to the dregs that we have called his teammates.

  134. khandor Says:

    @ 132, re: "Bird can pass but LeBron is the better passer,

    Seriously? ... because the available evidence suggests that Larry Legend actually made a few pretty good passes in his day.

  135. Anon Says:

    Khandor, showing me a little clip of a selective handful of a player's passing highlights (and I've WATCHED Bird play in his day) isn't exactly adequate evidence for your argument.

    I know a bunch of Celtics/Bird fans who would disagree with you on this point.

  136. Matt, Colombia Says:

    I think he means the more aesthetically pleasing passer.

  137. Walt Says:

    I love the reference this site provides. However I dont understand the continued attempt to quantify that which is not quantifiable, not by numbers anyway. You can not even the playing field, you can not place players in a vacum,its not possible. The only comparisons that can be made, if any, are same postion same era & still variables exist. Evaluating players drafted 20 years apart is entertaining but not constructive.

  138. Anon Says:

    Aesthetics are nice, trust me. I prefer results though

  139. khandor Says:

    Matt C,

    By better I mean qualitatively.


    Just because you [personally] might know a bunch of Celtics/Bird fans who would choose to disagree with my assessment of the passing skills of Larry Bird, compared to those of LeBron James ... does not serve to invalidate the rightness of what I've said here - i.e. "OTOH, those who have been fortunate enough to have had the privilege of seeing both of these fine individuals play the game at their zenith will almost always tell you that Larry Bird was/is by far the better passer" - on a qualitative level.

    Accurate qualitative assessments are what rightly determine "best" and "better" from "not-the-best" and "not-the-better" while quantative measures reflect numerative values like "most" and "more".

  140. Walt Says:

    with that said...Bird is better then Dirk. Both knock down shooters with range of 25'.
    Bird was a better rebounder & passer. Neither is a big part of Dirks game. Dirk is an elite level scorer (Barkley is right, he is unguardable), also I would like to say that more talented does not equate to better player. I think we have countless evidence of this fact.

    One player I would love to reference is Karl Malone. He has accolades & statistics to rival most anyone in league history. The notion that Karl Malone is a legendary player is humerous to me. (He is coach class hof, with a frist class boarding pass) -- be careful of statistics.

  141. Cort Says:

    statistics simply do not the story of basketball as well as they do other sports like baseball especially, football and hockey to a lesser degree. there is simply too much else going on in hoops away from the ball with its more constant action compared especially to baseball and football with all their dead time and specialization.
    for instance, no one officially keeps track of successful screens set in a game. call it SS. if a guy sets 30 good screens surely he is doing a decent amount o help his team. another stat like screens leading directly to baskets - not unlike assists in a way - could also be kept but to my knowledge isnt.
    another one could be blockouts missed. even if a player doesnt get a rebound, if he boxes his man out and allows a teammate to get the carom, he has done something positive.
    assists themselves are not a great indicator of passing ability. you can make a great pass but if your teammate misses - or gets fouled and doesnt finish - you get no assist. i think there should be a stat for assists when you make a good pass and the guy gets fouled and makes both (or 1 of 2, perhaps half an assist?). and everyone knows that sometimes the pass before the pass is more vital in leading to a basket a la the hockey assist.
    plus assists still are somewhat subjective and prone to biases. one can make a fine pass to stimulate ball movement or break a press that doesnt lead to a basket, but is a fine pass nonetheless. and of course, one's quality of teammates directly affects assist totals. as does style of play. a running team like the 1980s lakers are going to get more baskets and easy transition hoops, and more assists in turn.
    certainly lebron did not play with great teammates in cleveland. he also MONOPOLIZED the ball far morwe than bird or any other forward ever. oscar, e johnson, jordan all monopolized the ball too but were guards. the cav system was set up for lebron to post huge numbers because everything was run through him. he had far more time of possession and touches than bird, yet still didnt do as much with them as larry. james is a helluva player and is still evolving, but he has not mastered the variety of passes that bird routinely did.
    james' teammates looked worse because they were forced to stand around and wait for passes, limiting their involvement and chance to do more. bird, with the possible exception of DJ, clearly made all his teammates better with his skill set, leadership, and passing. parish was considered a bit of a talented but underachieving bust in 4 years at golden state before coming to boston, where he developed into a hall of famer. maxwell fed off bird, as did ford, mchale, walton, ainge, etc. plus there is a huge gap in leadership and toughness between bird and james. not to mention clutch play. could bird have won a title with james' cleveland supporting cast? no not in the 1980s, when even the average team had 2-3 stars and the qualty of play was higher. but in a watered down, expansion-diluted 1995-20010 era, he might have, especially coming out of a weak east. when bird played the east was loaded, with great teams like the 76ers, bucks and pistons to fight through just to reach the finals.
    bird mastered the touch pass and didnt hold the ball like james has, esp in cleveland. his ball movement stimulated player movement and involved everyone. lebron is an excellent passer, no doubt. he just didnt see the game 2-3 steps ahead like bird. not sure anyone did. maybe stockton or cousy, or ernie digregorio and e johnson to a lesser extent. kidd is a great passer but such a weak shooter by comparison it is easier for him to look to pass, especially as a point guard.
    lbj is a little immature too/tries too hard to make a great play too often instead of the easier one (today's pervasive highlight mentality helps feed this, equating spectacular with great) and seems to need to POSSESS the ball too long before sharing it. that split second can cost a teammate an open shot or easy layup. bird never did that, despite his superior shooting and scoring ability. that is unselfishness and leadership, playing the game as it ought to be played. bird could have scored much more than his considerable 24 ppg but on top of all else, he was totally unselfish.

  142. Anon Says:

    Okay Khandor, if were walking into the subjective realm with your posts then yes; you're entitled to your opinion. If we're talking about "flash", "oohs" and "aahs", IMO Jason Williams is the best passer in NBA history.

    If we're talking about ACTUAL results and who gets you more wins because of passing? LBJ is a better passer than Bird.

  143. Walt Says:

    Now the conversation is moving to Lebron? Its funny people can comprehend size as it relates to 4's & 5'S but lose the prespective when it relates to the backcourt. Lebrons biggest gift is his size. He has talent no question,buts its his talent combined withhis size that makes him a great players. (He is 6'8 260pds) he damn well better grab 7 boards a game, but is still 'three" --he handles the ball extensivly, he better have six assists --- if he is great.

    The book as far as I am concerned is closed on Lebron. I dont give a damn what he does, or doesn't do at this point. He is a all time great player, (top 25) but he will never crack the top 15. Thats reserved for immortals, immortals dont run for cover, or south beach.

  144. Anon Says:

    "james' teammates looked worse because they were forced to stand around and wait for passes, limiting their involvement and chance to do more."

    Once again, when your teammates are Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao instead of McHale, Parish, and Johnson, you as the star HAVE to do more in the first place.

    Your posts sound like rants of nostalgia, btw. More specially Larry Bird rants of nostalgia.

  145. Anon Says:

    "He has talent no question,buts its his talent combined withhis size that makes him a great players."


    I know I work harder for rebounds than the 7 footer who snatches 10 per game just by standing there, but if a coach picks me over the 7 footer for rebounding because I "look" like the superior rebounder, even I would smack him.

  146. Walt Says:

    Obviously I dont know the people making these posts but I will say with qualification that those attempting to pass eithe lebron or dirk as a better player then bird are: 1) not old enough to have seen Bird play in real time), have never played basketball on a compeitive level, or are simple number crunchers without a valid concept of the game.

  147. Walt Says:

    rants of nostalgia? I'm not a Celtics fan or a Bird lover by any stretch. My first post clearly stated any attempt to compare players of different era is pointless. Any player worth a damn better be superior in every tangible way then most anyone thet came before him, especially 20 years prior. The evolution of the professional athlete, & subsequent evolution of the league dictate as much. How old are you? Did you watch the basketball in 1980's. If daddy was still wipping your ass you need not submit an opinon.

  148. Cort Says:

    there is also a disturbing tendency in the media (to also help sell ratings) and fans to say that whatever is current is "greatest." not long ago at all pete sampras was being called by most so-called experts the greatest tennis player ever. then right after him came federer and he seemingly usurped pete. before pete, boris becker was the king of grass at wimbledon, and before him it was mcenroe, borg and laver. at 1 time they were all considered the consensus "greatest player ever."
    when i was tiny the consensus after oscar robertson had retired was that oscar was the greatest ever, even though he was not a particularly strong defender and jerry west was. then it was kareem or walton and maybe for a little while Dr J in the late 1970s, then bird for quite a while, especially from about 1981-86, then johnson for a few years before jordan took the mantle for for a long time in most of the 1990s. some say the same thing abiut kobe now or others, but there is a reluctance because he was too similar to jordan and came too soon afterward. his flaws off the court were also exposed while MJ's many foibles were hidden (as were johnson's) because of the media and public infatuation with them.
    rules changes in all sports have more offense easier, along with expansion which has diluted all leagues. johnny unitas threw for a ton of yards in an era where DBs could hold and had no 5-yard chuck rule. defenders could clothesline people or cheap shot QBs the. almost the entire list of QBS who have thrown for over 35,000 yards is comprised of men who played the last 25-30 years, but this doesnt make them better teams simply throw much more now and the rules make it easier to. joe montana was great but he was a dink passer primarily.
    gretzky played his whole career under liberalized offensive rules that howe and orr didnt benefit from. in baseball they lowered the mound after 1968 and steroids gave hitters another edge.
    in hoops, there is a silly mindset that the game has evolved far in the past 20 years or so, making the game somehow better whn it has actually regressed in many ways, especially in terms of shooting, passing and player movement away from the ball. in truth the game has become more dependent on "athleticism" (meaning jumping higher and running faster, being stronger to play more physical defense) for sheer jolt appeal for a short attention span society. there has beena football-ization of the game since america (esp. sports) is so enthralled with power and violence and brute force over brains, finesse and skill. there is little skill in the low post anymore. and because players arent putting as much time on skills like post entry passing, mid-range shooting, FTs, etc. they put more time in on lifting weights and doing flashy, less substantial things.
    not to mention a very LOOSE enforcement of rules like traveling and palming allows players 1-3 extra steps which in turn ALLOWS them to perform more athletic feats and jump higher on drives. it is simple athletic physics to realize i can jump higher and farther if i can take extra steps - kind of like comparing a running long jump to a standing or one step long jump. watch lebron, kobe, wade, griffin, durant, etc. any of the big stars today - they almost all take 3-4 steps and a jump on every drive. jordan and Dr J did too. even on pull up jumpers there is considerable traveling and shuffling of feet to gain a subtle advantage. doesnt make them better than those in the past, in fact makes them worse, if anything. guys like bird and dirk dont get as much edge from the walking allowed in part because they didnt drive as much (but they also learned the game differently, with more emphasis on rule-following), although dirk does travel some with an extra step on drives.
    it is kind of the same thing now with lebron. he travels so much it is almost laughable. in fact i would guess that on close to half or more of his touches he travels or palms the ball to get a big edge, even moreso especially when he drives. the star players get more star treatment today than ever for various reasons, mostly for business reasons and not purely competition oriented reasons.

  149. khandor Says:


    re: "If we're talking about ACTUAL results and who gets you more wins because of passing? LBJ is a better passer than Bird."

    ACTUAL results and gets you more wins because of passing?

    Please tell me that you're not really being serious.

    Larry Legend makes 1 or 2 more pretty good passes

    A younger family member just walked into the room, looked at what you've written here and just said, "No. Tell him to stop. It's embarassing to think that someone could actually watch those 7+ minutes of high calibre passing by Mr. Bird and STILL want to debate the comparative passing 'skills' of LeBron James. Just tell him to stop trying."

    Lebron James has already played 8 years in the NBA and if you try to do a youtube search on something like, "Lebron James passing skills," in all likelihood, you will probably come up empty.

    OTOH, 2 separate 7+ minute clips detailing just a few of the extraordinary passing exploits of Larry Legend are nothing short of being the most beautiful poetry-in-motion possible on the hardwood.

  150. Anon Says:

    "Obviously I dont know the people making these posts but I will say with qualification that those attempting to pass eithe lebron or dirk as a better player then bird are: 1) not old enough to have seen Bird play in real time), have never played basketball on a compeitive level, or are simple number crunchers without a valid concept of the game."

    You're right, you DON'T know me. Because you're wrong on all counts.

    I didn't say LBJ was better than Bird either.

  151. Cort Says:

    #146 - I definitely agree. I was thinking the same thing, but didnt want to say it.
    Im only in my 40s and play 4 days a week with people ranging from 18-60 in quality games at a local college, but I grew up with a healthy respect for the history of all the games and people/elders in general. My dad was a good player til he was 60 so and loved Elgin Baylor, so I never grew up thinking older guys couldnt play.
    I appreciate Lebron and the current set of stars, but there is little or no respect and reciprocity out of a superior or unknowledgable, highlight oriented mindset pervading today. Funny thing is, there is more info and video now for Gen X or Y or Z or whatever the label is now to look up the past than ever before, but it is seemingly ignored to a large extent.

  152. Cort Says:

    Khandor #149
    Amen to your last lines!

  153. Cort Says:

    Yes Bird had better teammates than LBJ in Cleveland. BUT Larry also made them better more than James did, since LBJ monopolized the ball on almost every possession. Robert Parish might be the best example of that. Without Bird inspiring him and passing him the ball for easy baskets, a previously lackadaisical Robert would never have been a Hall of Famer. In contrast to LBJ Bird, as a forward, might go multiple possessions in a row without a significant touch as well, so his stats are even more impressive. Even though Larry was a great shooter/scorer, he averaged just under 20 shots per game.
    Please check out the Bird highlight passes on youtube. Passes almost always in stride, in the shooting pocket, perfect touch and leading teammates to the basket, and highly creative without self-promotion.
    Too many people are caught up in what I call now-ism, the idea that everything today is the best ever.

  154. Anon Says:

    Khandor, I'm glad you think that Bird's passes from an aesthetics standpoint. As long as you remember that it's subjective.

    To today's generation (including those who watch old-timer highlights), LBJ's (or another player of their choice) are better passers TO THEM from an aesthetics standpoint. Are you saying they're wrong because you claim to be older than them? Get over yourself.

  155. Anon Says:

    "Yes Bird had better teammates than LBJ in Cleveland. BUT Larry also made them better more than James did, since LBJ monopolized the ball on almost every possession."

    Let's ask the Cavs and the journeyman Mo Williams how they took off as HOF talents wothout LBJ around "monopolizing" the ball...

  156. Anon Says:

    "A younger family member just walked into the room, looked at what you've written here and just said, "No"

    A buddy of mine who is a diehard Celtics fan from the 80s (and who avidly follows the sport to this day) thinks LBJ is the best passer in the game since Magic. Who's right then?

  157. khandor Says:


    The video clips are self-explanatory. I will simply stop now.

  158. Anon Says:

    Good. Because seeing you pass off a subjective argument as an objective one is laughable.

  159. AYC Says:

    Sorry, had to leave in the middle of posting before. Anon, the proper comparison isn't between the Cavs with LBJ, vs. Cavs without him; it's Cavs with LBJ dominating the ball vs. Cavs with LBJ not dominating the ball. I'm suggesting that even though LBJ was more efficient than his teammates, his dominance of the ball could have been detrimental at the team level; I'm thinking of the play we've all seem: Lebron dribbles out the clock at the top of the key while the other four players stand around watching; LBJ is good enough to create something positive out of that crappy play a surprising amount of time; but in general, the odds are against a team that operates that way. The question is, how much blame for this belongs to the player,and how much belongs to the coach?

    PS if you judge passing by assists-- and that IS the only objective measure we have-- Lebron is a better passer than Bird. Honestly, though, going beyond the stats,I think it's about even.

  160. caseyouainthurd Says:

    a lot of people are scared to say that a modern current player is better than a past legend. With that being said, I'm still not ready to say Dirk is better than Bird. Dirk doesn't have the rings yet, and he has never been close to being the face of the league like Bird was.

  161. Cort Says:

    I agree the Cav supporting cast wasnt the equal of Bird's in Boston during the mid-1980s...but Boston was 29-53 the year before Bird arrived...then with virtually the same roster his rookie season they were 61-21 and had the best record in the NBA.
    And the other starters at that time were an over 30 backcourt of Nate Archibald (still coming off achilles surgery and overweight) and Chris Ford, along with Cedric Maxwell and Dave Cowens in his final full season on the frontline. Solid but not great bench players in Robey, Carr and G. Henderson, sr. rounded out the top 8.
    So that wasnt exactly a great cast either at that point in their careers. Winning 61 (most in the NBA) in a more balanced league in 1980 was a better achievement than LBJ's 60+ win years in Cleveland in a VERY WEAK East and an expansion-diluted NBA. In their own division in 1980 Philly won 59 that year, and there were several other really good teams in the NBA then too.

    As regards allowing guys, especially stars, to travel and palm a lot now I hope you can find Game 6 of the 1981 NBA Finals on youtube. Go to the last part of the game, the final 3-4 minutes. Bird takes over with several big shots, but also has a basket disallowed on a false palming call.
    Almost imperceptibly does he lose the ball slightly (due to a nudge on the hip from R. Reid) on a left-hand drive and pull up shot from the circle. Even by strict standards it wasnt a carry. Yet they called it in a crucial spot in the decisive game of the title series, near the end no less! NO WAY they make that call on Jordan, LBJ, Dr J, Earvin Johnson, etc. at any point, especially the end. Telling, I think, on a lot of levels.

  162. Anon Says:

    "I'm thinking of the play we've all seem: Lebron dribbles out the clock at the top of the key while the other four players stand around watching; LBJ is good enough to create something positive out of that crappy play a surprising amount of time; but in general, the odds are against a team that operates that way."

    Ever think that it's usually of a team that runs a play, doesn't get its other players open, then gives the ball back its best player and shot creator to get some offense? I would think LBJ, willig to pass to teammates TO A FAULT even isn't going iso for the heck of it. Same with any other great player.

  163. Cort Says:

    One thing Dirk has lacked compared to Bird as well was a real killer instinct/mean streak. I have seen it this year in Dirk more than ever before, but Bird played with that sort of focus and drive to not BE DENIED from day 1 of his career to the end. Always played with something to prove because he was supposedly not good enough, fast enough, supposedly couldnt jump, etc. from HS to college to the NBA. no one ever exceeded expectations more than bird. even a guy as knowledgable as jerry west ?ed whether bird would even be an NBA STARTER before his rookie year, let alone a star and a multiple MVP.
    I really enjoy Dirk, he is a great player. Larry Bird and a handful of others belong in the most select inner circle of the Hall of Fame though. Dirk isnt there yet and most likely never will be. But if the NBA did its all-time Top 50 or 64 List now, he would be on it for sure, maybe even in the top half.
    Bryant, Nash, Wade, Duncan, James are some other current stars who would be on the list too. I wouldnt put KG, Pierce or Iverson on the list though. They just miss in my opinion.
    As for Baylor, it should be noted he put up astounding numbers while playing virtually the entire 2nd half of his career on a badly mangled knee. Sports medicine wasnt nearly as good then either. I never saw him play except in clips, but his top notch achievements despite injury have to count for something. Yes Elgin never won a title and wasnt as great in the clutch as West, but I would put him in the top 10 players in NBA history, all-around.
    Others on my short list with Baylor are Bird, Jordan, West, Robertson, Havlicek. Others in the running are Bryant, Frazier, Barry and Pettit. James maybe with more top play.but he ha a lot of career left.
    Here is an oddity I want to point out too as evidence of a lack of regard/respect for the past in the NBA compared to other sports. Bob Davies was on the 10-MAN ALL-TIME NBA silver anniversary team announced in 1970. Yet a quarter century later he wasnt even on the TOP 50 LIST! He sure got worse over time lol. And Davies was the originator of the behind the back move, not Cousy. Clair Bee modeled his Chip Hilton books on Davies, who won an NBA title in 1951 with the Royals. He was arguably the top guard of that era.

  164. Sean Says:

    Larry Bird joins a 29-53 team in 1980 as the only new starter and they go 61-21... that was with the Archibald, Cowens, Chris Ford, Maxwell core. It is the greatest single season win improvement with 1 new player in the starting lineup in NBA history. The Spurs made big jumps on 2 occasions-----but their starting lineup/ rotation was much more significantly altered on both occasions.

    Bird misses essentially the entire 1989 season (hobbled for 6, out for 76 games)after going 57-25 the year prior. The remaining core of Parish, McHale, Dennis Johnson and Ainge start out 24-28 before trades are made.

    In 1991, the core of an older Parish, McHale, Brian Shaw and Reggie Lewis go 29-5 with Bird to start the year, then bird misses 22 games with a bad back and Boston goes 10-12. Bird returns a physically compromised player and Boston goes 17-9 with him back at 3/4 speed.

    In 1992, Bird's on his last leg. He plays 45 games and Boston is 31-14. They are 20-17 without him.

    3 different cores. All the same story. Bird plays, they win. Bird doesn't play, they couldn't win half their games.

    The point that is: 'look who Bird had as teamates' must be tempered with: 'look at what they did WITHOUT him'...

    These 3 cores were 83-110 without Bird VS 195-74 with him (if my math is correct). And this sample includes how cores did before they got Bird, after he went down with injury and another time DURING the same season with him, without him-----then with him again. Young Bird, end of his peak Bird & at the end of the line Bird are in this sample.

    It IS remarkable.

  165. bla Says:

    @164 That's a very good point. Especially after all the "I showed Bird highlights to my niece and she liked them" evidence from the Bird camp.

    As for LeBron, he doubled his team's wins when he came from highschool. And since 2007 (when he was Birds age for his first season) LeBrons teams have won 73% of all games with him and 12% of the games he missed, if I counted correctly. That would correspond to 60 wins per season with LeBron vs. 10 wins per season without him. I realize it's only a 17 game sample size and your argument for Bird is stronger here, just wanted to give LeBrons "stats" in this regard.

    And Dallas was 55-18 with Dirk and 2-7 without Dirk this season, meaning a 62 win team with Dirk and an 18 win team without him. I was too lazy to count up Dirks other seasons

  166. Cort Says:

    Sean #164
    Well said. Even in his last season, at 35 with a bad back and 2 repaired achilles that would sideline most people, Bird put together stats that are better than 90-95% of the league: 20.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 6.8 apg, 47% FG, 41% 3-pters, 93% FTs. Think about that. Late in that season he put together one last great triple double in a Sunday TV game vs. Portland, with 49 points, 14 reb and 12 assists with four steals too. Boston beat the league's best team 152-148 in double OT as Bird's incredible running, 1-footed off balance 3-pointer tied it at the end of regulation.
    I saw Bird in one of his first pre-season games as a rookie in 1979 in Columbus when I was a kid. Then I was at his very last game in game 7 of the 1992 ECSF at Cleveland. Still have the ticket stubs from both. I think it was $5-$6 for the pre-season game at the old St. John Arena.
    Thing I remember from that game was a 6-9 Knick rookie named Larry Demic, a fellow Hoosier from Gary, Indiana I think, was really getting rough with Bird. It was clear he was testing the highly publicized Bird. Larry was filling the lane on a fast break, full speed on the right wing when Demic simply shoved him from behind.
    Bird went flying out of bounds on his side, then slid on his back for at least 10 feet off the court and came up with the back of his jersey half covered in black dirt. Just off the court there were no seats (might have been where the band normally sat) at this college stadium where Ohio State used to play, just dirty concrete floor where the wood floor stopped.
    The fans booed Demic heavily and Bird really went back at him hard. Demic ended up being a short-time NBA journeyman.
    Then when I was going up to Richfield for game 7 there were signs all over leading to the Coliseum saying things like "Larry's last game" etc. Of course he didnt announce his retirement until after the Olympics that summer. Bird had a clause in his contract that he would get paid millions of dollars if he didnt announce his retirement until after a certain date.
    But he went to the Celtic front office and told them he was retiring. Celtic president Dave Gavitt, knowing full well the payment would kick in in a week or less, told Larry to take his time and think about it.
    Bird refused, well aware of the money and the deadline involved. He wouldnt take the money if he wasnt going to play, even though he probably saved the NBA more than anyone in the early 1980s. Not too many guys today would turn that down, would they? Of course Bird had plenty of money and was legendarily tight, but still I cant see Jordan or any other big star doing that.
    Ironically, the Celtics had put forth an offer to Bird so he could play one more year by making him the 6th man. He would play only home games and road games that he could drive to, giving him about 50-55 games since flying was really detrimental to his back. But ultimately he didnt want to be 6th man or disruptive to the team and retired.

  167. Cort Says:

    Bla 165
    Yes I remember Dallas was off to a great start this year when Dirk hurt his knee and they went into a funk, fell behind SA and never caught them. Had he not gotten hurt, I think they would have been 1st in the West. Plus Caron Butler, a very good player, also missed about half the season. With him I think Dallas is definitely the best team, especially the way Dirk is playing now too.
    Kidd has improved his open shooting, Barea is playing well and Dallas is passing the ball very, very well. Chandler has given them a solid center, something Dallas has never had. Best passing team Ive seen since those early 2000s Kings clubs. They move the ball crisply, have the shooters and make the extra, extra pass like the 1980s Celtics, early 1970s Knicks and the Walton-led late 1970s Blazers.

  168. Sean Says:

    At #165...

    Sure... the impact LeBron had with the Cavs was evident, absolutely. Remarkable in it's own right.

  169. Sean Says:

    At #166...

    No question, Cort, Bird was one of a kind.

  170. Cort Says:

    Dirk has made some ill-advised passes out of double teams while off balance/leaving his feet in game 3 that Larry would not have done. Costly turnovers that led to easy breakaways for OKC and also give them momentum and energy, as well as easy points. I think Rick Carlisle has helped Dirk be more like Larry though with his passing in general, and leadership. Remember Rick played with Bird, coached under him during the great Pacer run of 1997-2000, and was a very heady and skilled player himself.
    Collison has guarded Dirk better than just about anyone Ive seen. He is good on D, but he is no Bobby Jones.

  171. ElGee Says:

    One could make the argument that the Cavs were incapable of winning a playoff game if LeBron played poorly. That's staggering. I don't like winning -- a team metric -- as an individual measure, but it's something to put into perspective when people discuss what LeBron did with that team versus players who have been in championship situations.

    The same extends to Dirk, although not quite as extreme as LeBron.

  172. Cort Says:

    True Elgee but that was partly because the entire Cav offense was completely built around James. Even in an off game he would get 20 points and some assists because he had so many touches and shot opportunities. He had the ball far more than anyone I have ever seen who wasnt a true guard.
    Sure he was their best player by far, but really that offense was pretty simplistic. Let LBJ create off the dribble from 25-30 feet straight out, others space the floor to create driving lanes and spot up. Boring and limiting to the other players.
    I am glad Dirk made some big shots late in game 3 to help stave off the Thunder. OKC did not deserve to win that game after being far down the whole way. Dallas started playing the clock and lost its aggressiveness. Not sure why Stojakovic didnt play more after a solid first half.

  173. Persefone Says:


    "Dirk has made some ill-advised passes out of double teams while off balance/leaving his feet in game 3 that Larry would not have done. Costly turnovers that led to easy breakaways for OKC and also give them momentum and energy, as well as easy points"

    then explain me please, why Bird accumulated nearly twice as much TO per game then Dirk in his career?
    sorry, but did you ever watched a full of the 80s from Bird? dude was a great passer, but made a lot of dumb passes too.

  174. huevonkiller Says:


    You're exactly right, he just throws stuff out there. Never mind that even when a DOMINANT team's offense and defense flows smoothly, there's still a 20 or 30% chance they lose a series.

    There's an entire half of the game the Cavs failed at, that has nothing to do with ball hogging anyway. It is defense, which there was none. They defended poorly at the 5, 4, and guard positions. It isn't the hardest thing to figure out.

  175. huevonkiller Says:

    Sean and Cort neither of you have true basketball perspective then.

    Have any of you biased Celtic fans watched the Lakers winning titles the past couple of seasons? All your theories are garbage, defense and good teammates win titles. Kobe didn't play that well in the Finals, it didn't matter.

  176. Sean Says:

    @ # 175...

    Dude, I think you have issues. You continuously CREATE a position for someone else based on what they haven't said------rather than discuss what they HAVE said. And instead of asking for clarification about where they stand on what they DIDN'T mention, you just attack, armed with you IMAGINATION.

    E.g., when President Obama spoke about the pre-1967 Israeli borders, he didn't mention spaying cats-------so you must be ANGRY that Obama is against the spaying of cats. (Which he may NOT be-----but the way YOUR mind works, he MUST BE because he didn't say he wasn't in his speech about Israel's borders).

    You tear into people for what they DIDN'T say, assuming they must be against it if they didn't say they were for it. That's just CRAZY.

  177. Anon Says:

    "Sure he was their best player by far, but really that offense was pretty simplistic. Let LBJ create off the dribble from 25-30 feet straight out, others space the floor to create driving lanes and spot up. Boring and limiting to the other players."

    The other players were exactly efficient shot-creators (particularly against good defenses in the playoffs). Once again, where's the offense going to come from?

  178. marparker Says:

    Gotta love the revisionist history around here.

  179. marparker Says:

  180. Sean Says:

    @ # 179.....

    Good stuff. Love the back door bounce passes in the lane.

  181. Cort Says:

    I assume you meant to say that lbj's teammates "were not" shot creators, not were. I have agreed before that his teammates were inferior to those of Bird for most of his career. Although at the beginning Larry's supporting cast in the early 80s was good but aging and not that great. My main point is that bird brought the best out in his teammates more than james. i never said lbj wasnt a tremendous player and passer. he just falls short of bird in every category except as a 1 on 1 defender, yet bird was a great help defender.

    i was a big celtic fan in the bird/mchale era, but not really a boston fan before or in their current incarnation. i dont like how garnett acts, i think allen is overrated and rondo cant shoot. i do respect pierce more than the others, but he is a borderline hall of famer. i just love basketball and i feel bird's celtics played the game at its highest level the way it was supposed to be played, unselfishly and with great skill, smarts and competitiveness, without traveling and palming all the time too.
    had boston been in the relatively weak west and not had key injuries in playoffs, particularly 1982 and 87 - and the crippling death of bias, which not only cost them a great young player, depth and possibly could have forestalled injuries to bird and mchale from overuse, but also wasted a #2 overall pick that the celtics never got during the decade due to their great records - then they would have won at least 5 titles in the 80s. probably more. but the lakers had a cakewalk to the finals from 1981 on.
    that really cant be underestimated. 4 of the top teams in the 1980s were in the east - boston, philly, milwaukee and later detroit. no way la makes it to 8 finals in the 80s coming out of the east. they were always more rested and healthier than the team coming out of the east. the 82 and especially 88 titles were tainted - 82 by boston's absence due to the archibald injury in the ecf vs. philly, and 88 due to numerous calls that gave la not only the finals (and the injury to thomas) but also the 2nd round 7-gamer vs utah, which they probably should have lost.
    laimbeer didnt foul kareem on his missed hook at the very end of game 6 in the 88 finals with detroit up one. phantom call, 2 gift free throws and a 1-point win that should have been a 4-2 title win for detroit.
    then in game 7 with detroit down 3 in the final seconds, several fans and players prematurely stormed the court as detroit tried to in bound the ball for a tying shot. then when thomas caught the ball and turned to shoot despite a badly sprained ankle, johnson ran right into him before he could shoot. time expired and la ran off the court as the bully "winners" because johnson and riley declared the game was over. look it up on youtube!! a disgraceful ending.
    had it happened at boston garden, the laker whiners or pistons and the media would have whipped it up into a major controversy and another garden leprechaun miracle/ripoff, rife with all sorts of other insinuations. but since it was la and tragic/phony pat riley, they let it go. but detroit got robbed, clearly.

  182. Cort Says:

    there is the link for the end of game 7 in the 1988 finals. judge for yourself what a joke it was that the lakers got away with on the last play. laker bench players were on the floor (should have been a technical), johnson fouled thomas and there appeared to be fans in the way too.

    kareem also shuffled his feet, as he often did, while positioning himself for the hook shot with 15 seconds left in game 6. when i just re-watched it again there was a little contact on jabbar's left lead shoulder from laimbeer, but pretty minimal and a highly ?able call, at best. a good example of home cooking, plus jabbar clearly walked before the shot.

  183. Caleb Says:

    I got a real kick out of Khandor presenting his wholly subjective opinion-based argument as if it was an irrefutable fact. I think it's a good rule of thumb to always be wary of any argument based on "anyone who disagrees is obviously X" type statements.

  184. CR Says:

    Has anyone else noticed that LeBron looks much smaller in the chest, neck, face, upper arms and shoulders this season? In the wake of the reported comments by Derrick Rose about NBA players using PEDs, it re-kindled my thought that James may have used PEDs before. James always looked like an unusually developed man even as a teen. Makes one wonder.

  185. JTaylor21 Says:

    #184, I actually think Bron looks bigger *pause* this seasons compared to past years. Also the guy had an OSU strength coach in HS, so the guy was obviously ahead of the curve. While typical HS athletes are lifting weights here and there, Bron followed a college type training program. So you better present accurate facts when questioning someone else's integrity.

  186. Nick Says:


    He moved from Cleveland to Miami. I once moved from Northern California to Malaysia and dropped 20 pounds in 3 weeks from just sweating all the time. It's not even remote weird.

    Also, anyone who thinks LeBron isn't a better passer than Bird is pretty freaking delusional. LeBron is the best passing non-PG of all time. LeBron is Bird if Bird was a less good jump shooter, had better vision, was the best athlete in the world and one of the best defenders in the league. If LeBron had one player on his team as good as McHale the last 4 years, he'd have 4 rings.

    Also, LeBron made Mo Williams an All-Star. A guy who would be the 6th man on several teams. To claim Bird elevated his teammate more than LeBron is hilariously wrong. Bird spent his career playing with stacked teams. LeBron has spent his (until this year) playing with guys who wouldn't make the top 6 of the '86 Celtics.

  187. Sean Says:

    @ #182...
    Look, NBA officiating has sucked for as long s I've been watching.
    Robert Parish took mini baby steps all the time. I used to HATE the Celtics in the early 1980s because I thought they got all the calls.
    Jordan pushed off before his last shot VS Utah in Game #6.
    The hop step has bastardized what constitutes traveling. The league TODAY with regards to traveling violations is RIDICULOUS. Guy move towards the passer at the top of the key, catch the ball, then take 2 steps, hop, THEN start THEIR dribble.
    Guys drive the lane, take 3-4 steps and HOP, then shoot.
    Did the Lakers get calls? Yep. So did the Celtics, Bulls, etc. I hated it---but it happened.

  188. Anon Says:

    "I got a real kick out of Khandor presenting his wholly subjective opinion-based argument as if it was an irrefutable fact."

    He should've watched the 48-minute passing exhibition LBJ put on last night.

  189. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    "Here is an oddity I want to point out too as evidence of a lack of regard/respect for the past in the NBA compared to other sports. Bob Davies was on the 10-MAN ALL-TIME NBA silver anniversary team announced in 1970. Yet a quarter century later he wasnt even on the TOP 50 LIST! He sure got worse over time lol. And Davies was the originator of the behind the back move, not Cousy. Clair Bee modeled his Chip Hilton books on Davies, who won an NBA title in 1951 with the Royals. He was arguably the top guard of that era."

    It seems to me that baseball, at least, affords outsized and undeserved respect to old time players. One reason is that so many casual fans look at raw stats and it turns out that 1920-1939 was a very high scoring era, while 1890-1919 was an extremely low scoring era. That makes pitchers from the deadball era look really good in raw stats versus everybody else, and it made hitters from 1920-1940 look great relative to everybody up until the modern high-offense era. But then you have people who discount the modern high-offense era due to steroids. But realistically, the talent pool pre-integration was really thin compared to post 1950, and the guys who weren't all-star level back then, probably wouldn't even stay in the majors today, much like the NBA role players of the 1950s. Sure the real immortals like Ruth, Gehrig, Cobb, Wagner, Lajoie, Young, Grove, Mathewson etc. would probably have been stars and maybe hall of famers in any era, but lots of guys who put up big but not crazy numbers back then would have been journeymen at best and maybe scrubs in after 1950s MLB.

    Well, pro basketball before 1946 was like baseball pre-1890. And the line where play starts to be comparable to the modern era is somewhere in the 60s.

    Bob Davies looks like he was pretty good, maybe better than Cousy, but he also only played for 6 years, and retired before the NBA became a significant national league in the late 50s and 1960s, so he has nowhere near the name recognition. Back in 1970, the NBA had only been in existence for 25 years, and that team only included players who already retired. So many of the greats of the 1960s were ineligible.

    I did a play index search for guys with at least .1 WS/48 and 40 WS from 1949 to 1970. The list contains 44 players, only 25 of whom had ended their careers as of 1970.

    .1 WS/48 means you are roughly league average in WS. 40 WS means you were at least an average player for 30 mpg for 8-9 full seasons (or better for a shorter time). Going down to 30 WS (or about 6-7 full seasons) you end up with 33 guys who finished their career by 1970, 10 of whom were guards. So your all-time silver anniversary team contained 30% of the guys you could legitimately consider to have had solid careers and 40% of the guards.

    Another thing to note: Bob Davies doesn't appear on that list. Perhaps unfair because he did end up with .148 WS/48 for his career, and we don't have WS data until the 1952 season, and his total WS is not to far short of the 30 cutoff, so he'd almost certainly be on the list if it went back to 1950. I checked out with another search to see who else might have been off the list in the guard spot for the same reasons, and only two candidates popped up, neither of whom realistically could have.

    So out of the guys you could put on that team without it being laughable, they were picking 4 out of 11 for the guard spots.

    If you'd been able to include Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, guys who dominated their positions in the 1960s, would Bob Davies have made that team? doubtful. Whatever you think of their relative merits, Cousy had the far better career, playing at a high level for 13 years. Even a young Clyde already had more WS than Davies, having played only 3 years.

    The reason there is a lack of respect for 1950s players is that most of the players who didn't end up in the hall of fame just weren't very good even by the standards of the late 60s, let alone the 80s, 90s or today.

  190. khandor Says:

    Those who choose to see only subjectivity in what I wrote originally:

    "Someone who believes that LeBron James can reasonably be compared to Larry Bird, in a favourable way, as an effective and efficient passer, at the SF position, simply has not had occasion to see both of these players for the entirety of their respective careers and, instead, has come to maturity during the rise of LeBron's individual game.

    OTOH, those who have been fortunate enough to have had the privilege of seeing both of these fine individuals play the game at their zenith will almost always tell you that Larry Bird was/is by far the better passer."

    are free to think that way, if they wish.

    Perhaps, they should first ask themselves, however, if they think "assists" rightfully fall into the "objective" or the "subjective" category of stats?


    Thanks to Cort for providing the video montage of LeBron James' passing exploits.

    Those who watch the video evidence provided in this thread are now free to make their own assessment of whether Larry Bird or LeBron James was/is the "better" passer, from a qualitative standpoint.


  191. Anon Says:

    "Those who choose to see only subjectivity in what I wrote originally are free to think that way, if they wish."

    It is. Just like people are free to subjectively think that LBJ (or any other player) is a better passer than Bird. The difference however is that you don't recognize what you're arguing isn't objective.

  192. Anon Says:

    Khandor is the guy who would take a player who goes 5-20 and scores 10 points on 18-foot fadeaways over a defender with his eyes closed (and with his off-shooting hand) over the player who goes 15-20 for 30 points with the simple crossover and layup. This site deals more with what you do, not what gets you on Sportscenter's Top 10 plays.

  193. dbm Says:

    @Cort, 111-
    I did not mean to bash the older guys. Some of them were way better than some of the guys today. I just meant that the way the NBA does PR tends to really overrated Magic and Bird especially. And underrate Kareem a little bit. And I have seen people rate Cousy in the top 10 still, so that is why I went after him. And for what it's worth, I think Barkley might be the most overrated modern player. He would only play 60 games a year most of the time and was done being an elite by age 30-32 because he just did not take care of himself. Havlicek may have been a good all-around player, but I am always skeptical of comments from teammates (those old Celtics practially had an old boys club for complimenting each other).
    And, time to start the true debate. Much of what Khandor says is subjective, but then, I have seen him before call Bill Russell the greatest player ever. And before someone responds, Russell is not the greatest player ever. Why? Because, if you gave him four rings, NO ONE would say he was the greatest ever. But he has 11, right? Yes, but rings are a team effort. He had a team with multiple hall-of-famers (But Wilt had better teammates, right Bill Simmons?) and perhaps the greatest coach ever.

  194. khandor Says:


    re: "Khandor is the guy who would take a player who goes 5-20 and scores 10 points on 18-foot fadeaways over a defender with his eyes closed (and with his off-shooting hand) over the player who goes 15-20 for 30 points with the simple crossover and layup. This site deals more with what you do, not what gets you on Sportscenter's Top 10 plays."

    The simple fact is ... Even if you tried your very best to get it 100% wrong, what you said there could not possibly be any further from the truth. LOL, :-)



    re: "And, time to start the true debate. Much of what Khandor says is subjective, but then, I have seen him before call Bill Russell the greatest player ever."

    You've got that one 100% correct.

    Cheers :-)

  195. Anon Says:

    "The simple fact is ... Even if you tried your very best to get it 100% wrong, what you said there could not possibly be any further from the truth. LOL, :-)"

    Same basic argument at work.

  196. khandor Says:


    re: "Same basic argument at work."

    Does it sound reasonable, or evidenciary, to you that someone who actually thinks Bill Russell is the best basketball player of all-time is also someone who ...

    "would take a player who goes 5-20 and scores 10 points on 18-foot fadeaways over a defender with his eyes closed (and with his off-shooting hand) over the player who goes 15-20 for 30 points with the simple crossover and layup."


  197. Sean Says:


    Rolling on the floor laughing ou loud while kissing Arnold Schwarzenneger???

    Ew. What? Did you mean something else?

  198. Anon Says:

    You're not making any sense. I'm not talking about Bill Russell - my comment was in reference to the Bird/LBJ passing argument earlier. I was merely posting a hypothetical example to illustrate my point.

    Also, drop the annoying vocabulary. You're not nearly as intelligent as you pretend to be.

  199. Sean Says:

    Is the claim that Russell is NOT the greatest player of all time LESS subjective that a claim that he is?

  200. SlimeBucket Says:

    I know people get mad at Berry for a bad attitude but he had a post where he asked people on the forums if khandor should be banned. I replied yes and that was the first post I ever made on that site. Anon your posts about khandor not being able to make logical posts is like deja vu all over again. Please just ignore him.

  201. huevonkiller Says:

    #176 Sean I'm not "Creating" anything.

    I'm using real life examples to show how foolish your views are. The Lakers are a perfect example of why no one should listen to two biased celtic fans.

  202. huevonkiller Says:


    Yeah for sure.

  203. dbm Says:

    I did not mean to take the discussion down a sidetrack. Back to the original point: Dirk is creeping up on Bird, and continues to be one of the most underrated all-time greats (although the underrated part might not last long).

  204. khandor Says:


    It is truly unfortunate when certain individuals like "Slimebucket" and "Anon" demonstrate an inability to follow along as a complicated strand develops within a specific thread, like this one now is ... in part, because you mentioned the name of Mr. Russell, and my recognition of him as the authentic GOAT, when it comes to evaluating properly the team game of basketball.

    My sincere sympathies go out to them [and to any others who might also fit into the same category].


    Dirk has definitely evolved into a terrific PF-C who will one day be listed amongst the greats of all-time.

  205. Murph Says:

    ONe thing to consider is playoff numbers. I think you'll quickly see that Dirk's playoff numbers are superior almost across the board to Bird's. And yes, I am a HUGE Bird fan. But, you have to recognize greatness when it slaps you upside the head.

  206. AYC Says:

    Neil, what are the postseason SPM numbers for Nowitzki and Bird? I expect the gap between them is narrowed, but I wouldn't assume Dirk rates higher based on that metric.

  207. sean Says:


    You're NOT 'creating' anything? You took something that I DIDN'T say, then attributed the opposite to me as if it was MY view about 'defense'.

    E.g., because I didn't mention enough about defense---my view muat be that it doesn't matter.


    OF COURSE defense matters. But don't let that get in the way of you making a fool of yourself. I'm rather enjoying it.

  208. Cort Says:

    did anyone else notice how many steps LBJ took on his shot from the circle that made it 97-91 in OT in game 4 of the ECF? nice shot, but he took at least 3 steps as the last big slide step allowed him balance to get that shot off and make it. yet no one mentions it on TV or in post-game analysis.

  209. Anon Says:

    Same here Cort.

    Not the reason the Heat won though.

  210. Sean Says:

    @ 208 & 209...

    Yep. I hate the officiating in the NBA. The traveling rules are pitiful. But, it's how they call it in that league now. I think extra steps and hops in the lane in particular are forgiven------and to LeBron's CREDIT, he may take more advantage of this silly non-enforcement of what many of us KNOW is traveling than anyone. It's not LeBron's fault that the NBA does this.

    Like Marvin Hagler after his middleweight fight with Vito Antefeurmo (sp?) when asked about his OBVIOUS head butting that eventually caused the fight to be called on cuts: 'It's NOT illegal if they don't call it.'

    LeBron James WAS called for an offensive foul at the end of regulation in a tie game (which WAS a good call---but it showed the officials weren't trying to just let him do anything)------that I don't think Michael Jordan ever gets called for an offensive foul in that spot, JMO. Tough to picture Bird getting whistled for doing that to Scott Hastings in the Garden, too.

    I DON'T think LeBron James is getting preferential superstar treatment in these playoffs, but rather the league (for a while now, IMO) has 'adapted' what they consider 'traveling' to some interpretation that seems to suit LeBron James' manner of ball handling PERFECTLY.

    Whether it's something the league did on purpose to 'free up their newest torch bearer' is up for debate, but IMO, the league under David Stern has SEEMED to do similar things before. My best example would be liberating what a player could do (offensive foul-wise when handling the ball on the low block) when Shaq 'needed' more liberal rules so he didn't foul out on 6 offensive fouls every night. The NBA tweaked the rules, and what were really fouls practically every time Shaq dribbled then slammed into someone repeatedly to edge closer top the basket (and you couldn't touch him---just ask Arvidas Sabonis in the Western Conference Finals in Game #7)--------became legal.

    LeBron's manner of ball handling is so often traveling. The league has just decided that it isn't anymore. But I don't think LeBron is getting no-calls where others are getting whistled.

    I don't think there was an advantage for LeBron and Miami. The rules are just screwey now. (Though it could be purposely to 'free up' LeBron's game). JMO.

  211. Murph Says:

    ... I don't have all the numbers mostly because I'm at work and don't have the time. But, interestingly enough, Dirk's Playoff WS/48 is .211 and his PER is 25.0. Bird's WS/48 in the playoffs is .173 and his PER is 21.4. That's a sizable difference for 2 guys that have played in as many playoff games as Dirk and Bird have.

  212. khandor Says:


    If/when you get a chance, please look up the WS per minute played and PER per minute played for Bird and Dirk in the playoffs. Those stats might be very interesting as well.

  213. Rolf Says:

  214. Murph Says:

    One thing to consider is the way the game was played in the 80's compared to during Dirk's career. Scoring is down considerably now compared to then.. So when you look at Dirk's playoff scoring compared to Bird's, it should impress you all the more.

    And then you get to efficiency. Bird was one of many Hall of Famers/All Stars on those Celtics teams. Dirk has played alongside 2 future Hall of Famers that were not in their prime. What does that say about Dirk's efficiency? He's far and away the main focus of defenses, but they still cannot stop him. Even though he's the main focus of defenses, his numbers are still better than Bird's in the playoffs. Dirk doesn't have a Kevin McHale or a Robert Parrish.. He's barely even had a Dennis Johnson quality of a scorer on his team the past decade. At other times, Dirk and Jason Terry were the only guys that could hit an outside shot..

    It's truly amazing what Dirk has done with the supporting cast that he has had over the years. This year's cast is better, but it's far from one of the best teams assembled in the history of the NBA. I'm not even sure how highly it would rate in the 2010-2011 season. So much of what they are accomplishing is because of Dirk. And that has always been the case. For the past 6-7 years, this team probably wouldn't win 25-30 games without Dirk. But with him, they're a 50+ win team every season. And what does Dirk do once the playoffs roll around, he steps up his game even further.

  215. huevonkiller Says:


    You're having reading comprehension problems.

    I said the Lakers completely destroy every stupid offensive theory you have thrown out here. Your ideas are subjective nonsense, and they are a perfect example of why. This isn't just about defense.

    I don't care that you think defense "matters", you have decided to ignore the reason a majority of these teams struggle.

  216. Anon Says:

    Good write up Murph.

    Let's not act as if all Dirk does is score either. He rebounds similar to Bird, and while you're not going to mistake as some shut-down defender he's not useless on that end either (look at the RAPM numbers for Dirk). He's an all-around player and not merely a scorer.

  217. Sean Says:

    @ #215...

    You are so irritable. Why? Because some people choose to discuss things that you cannot quantify to your liking? You're like a child throwing a tantrum when people want to discuss something that is not on your 'list'. The 'subjective nonsense' that you loathe exists nonetheless. You seem like you just want to pretend it doesn't exist because current advanced metrics do not account for certain things completely. They still exist... I honestly don't know why you behave so poorly when somebody talks about it/ them.

    It's childish to call things that you don't like 'nonsense' and 'stupid'.

    I assume you're young---because no grown man acts like this... but I don't think you're 3, either.

    Your behavior is ridiculous.

    I don't CARE what you don't want others to talk about. You seem to have a dysfunctionately inflated sense or self-worth. And you have a totally distorted sense of how much you know about what anybody else thinks about something. And I'm not buying.

  218. huevonkiller Says:

    Why don't you stick to the subject in this discussion? My comments are about your views/ideas and I think they are really dumb. You take it way too personal.

  219. Sean Says:

    @ 218---I know you think they're 'really dumb'. I think your scope of discussion is really limited. And your irritibility when someone ventures outside your limited scope is unnecessary, IMO.

    Out of respect for everyone else here, I'm not going to continue this pitiful discussion with you. It doesn't do the board any good.

  220. huevonkiller Says:

    Why is it pitiful? Because you're so mad you can't control yourself enough to stay on subject?

  221. Sean Says:

    Dirk was 60/ 62 from the free throw line in the series. Wow.

  222. KH Says:

    My personal feeling is there is not all that much seperating the 10-20 players ever so its not really suprising to me that Nowitzki stands up well in comparison to Bird and maybe even grades out slightly better just looking at pure scoring. That being said having watched both of them play extensively Bird's rates a solid edge based on his wizardlike passing ability in my opinion. I really don't think you can quantify perfectly how much a passer of Bird's level adds to a offense. I know its a cliche but there are things like hockey assists in basketball. Great passes that lead to other people getting an assist. Bird had to have many of those. Bird was also a better defender then Nowitzki. Fun discussion, and makes me appreciate Dirk even more, but I'm sticking with Larry Legend.

  223. Murph Says:

    KH, I don't think you can measure how much easier it is to be a wizard like passer when you're surrounded by future Hall of Famers. It definitely makes it easier.

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