This is our old blog. It hasn't been active since 2011. Please see the link above for our current blog or click the logo above to see all of the great data and content on this site.

Layups: Cognitive Bias in the LeBron Narrative

Posted by Neil Paine on May 26, 2011

Cognitive Bias in the LeBron Narrative: People's minds are tricking them when it comes to player narratives, writes ElGee of Back Picks.

38 Responses to “Layups: Cognitive Bias in the LeBron Narrative”

  1. Matt, Colombia Says:

    Another "clutch" game by Lebron. I wish it would just go away so we could enjoy it all.

  2. Sean Says:

    Had the Bulls hung on to win tonight (and it was terrible that they couldn't), after going up 77-65 with little more than 3 minutes to go------Derrick Rose would be getting some sort of special badge from Ric Bucher that said he INVENTED basketball. It would have only taken 1 more basket made of the 20 that Rose missed (9/29 FGA tonight) and 1 more stop by the Bulls anywhere over the course of that 48-minute game. Rose STILL would have been LOUSY, but in a win (though Bucher probably thinks Rose's performance tonight win OR lose now pushes him past Magic Johnson in the pantheon of greats)...

    Rose was THISCLOSE to getting a free t-shirt from the types you are describing that says: 'I wouldn't let is lose'.

  3. Sean Says:

    'I wouldn't let US lose', that should say.

  4. Neil Paine Says:

    It will be interesting to see how the media treats Rose now. Will they give him the 2009 LeBron treatment? If not, why? Because LeBron unquestionably played better in his 1st ECF loss as MVP than Rose did.

  5. Scott Kacsmar Says:

    Guaranteed Rose will get the "he needs more help, he can't do it alone" treatment, even though Chicago had a better cast than LeBron ever had in Cleveland. And look at the way Kerr creamed himself over every one of the (few) baskets Rose made each game in this series. That had to be one of the worst playoff series for a league MVP in a while. Can we get some detail on that?

  6. Greyberger Says:

    The really interesting scenario is this - what if the Bulls don't add a premier scorer, end up with the one or two seed again next year, and Derrick Rose has a better year than he did in 2010-2011?

    Don't we have to give him the MVP again? His competition will change somewhat, but probably won't be changing teams. The one-sentence media reasons why they can't win (for Lebron/Wade and Durant/Westbrook it's, "they have each other", and Dwight can't put up enough wins to get consideration) probably won't change next year. As long as Rose starts next to Keith Bogans the MVP is his to lose.

  7. JTaylor21 Says:

    #4, probably not. We've already heard the "he needs more help" excuse from the media ever since their GM2 loss. Even though before the series and after GM1, everyone was talking about how much deeper, bigger and talented the Bulls were than MIA and how the MVP is going to dominate the Heat's PGs. I haven't yet once heard anyone in the media place an ounce of blame on DRose for the bulls loss even Mr. Homer himself (Wilborn) deflected a question asking him about DRose's performance to how he needs more "help". The Bulls were on the deepest teams in the L, they had the L's best record and home-court advantage, they had the size advantage and superior bench yet they were beat by a team with one of the worst benches, a coach that swears PnR is an offensive set and no reliable C/PG to speak off.
    Sorry folks but this loss falls squarely on the MVP shoulders. The same way the media blasted Bron for all the Cavs failures even when the guy was putting up 38/8/8, I doubt they place any of the blame on their beloved Rose even though had one of the worst series for an MVP ever and time after time again came up shorter than Danny DeVito in the clutch.

  8. Sean Says:

    Rose shot 9/29 last night... the rest of the starting 5 shot 11/32... the bench shot 9/20.

    The Bulls need shot makers... but the media needs to realize that this INCLUDES ROSE. He takes a disproportinate amount of shots for a guy who is NOT a shot maker. It would be different IF Rose finished on his drives to the basket-------then I could see wanting the ball in his hands with the shot clock winding down so often and I could accept him missing jumpers because I know that if he could've driven to the cup on that possession, it's 2 points----and just that maybe on THAT possession, they held him to a jumper... but I could live with that because it's worth the risk knowing that if he drives the lane, we get 2 points.

    UNFORTUNATELY, Rose seems just as likely to throw up a terrible driving shot as he is a jumper.

    I know that Noah is not Kevin McHale... but 4 FGAs while Rose is MISSING twenty?

    Deng was bad---6/17 (and face it, LeBron was too (8/19)---but Rose still isn't justifying why HE gets so many shots. He doesn't create offense for others when he drives. He doesn't make enough shots.

    The apologists for Rose have to show me why the rest of the team doesn't get more shots before I say Rose doesn't have himself to blame (more than they will). It's not as if Rose is MAKING his shots-----and the rest of them are messing up.

    Rose can get his own shot. SO? He's not good at MAKING them.

    I can get my own groceries. SO? If I can't COOK-------it doesn't matter. Dinner SUCKS. Let somebody else cook once in a while. 'But they aren't great cooks'... SO, neither are YOU!

    The problem INCLUDES Rose.

    Anyone know what Rose's +/- was last night?

  9. Panic Says:

    @Sean: Rose was -7 last night, worst on the Bulls.

    @everyone: I wouldn't hold your breath for a wide-scale re-evaluation of Rose's MVP, just as there wasn't one on Iverson's, Nash's two awards, or Kidd's ridiculous near-award. More likely, ten years from now people will look back on Rose's MVP and wonder how anyone allowed this kind of thinking to get so far out of hand.

  10. huevonkiller Says:

    8/19 with a 58 TS%? Nah that's not that bad especially against the top defense in the league.

  11. Sean Says:

    Thanks, Panic. I didn't know what that +/- number was------I just felt like I was watching him (Rose) kill possessions and momentum at times. Kurt Thomas, old pro that he is, looked comfortable taking the open shot. Nobody else did. And I know the defense was good on both sides-------but there were open perimeter shots to be had. Thomas hit his.

    Now, I don't know about the MVP. I don't think people should be alarmed about the MVP vote for the regular season after seeing the results from this 5-game series. My vote would have been for Dwight Howard, personally------but that's another issue.

    Rather, it's the reaction of the media to what we all saw that is alarming. Bucher, for one, actually said after Game #4 that he was MORE convinced of Rose's greatness. Other guys are just apologizing for Rose, blaming the supporting cast.

    If Wilbon gave the Bulls a job to paint his house------then stopped by to see the progress and found NOTHING painted---------and Rose DRINKING THE PAINT----------he'd say the house wasn't painted because Rose didn't have enough help. Nevermind what ROSE was/ wasn't doing HIMSELF.

    If the Bulls are to become a more serious threat in the postseason, ROSE'S game will have to improve OR be modified to fit the abilities of these 'to be acquired' better supporting players.

    Rose can't CONTINUE taking the lion's share of the shots AND be so bad at making them, no matter who is on his team.

  12. Anon Says:

    To be fair to Rose - and he did stink it up - the rest of his teammates weren't dazzling on offense either. Carlos Boozer is one of the most overrated players in the league.

    Also, Sean, remember your posts about Wilt? If Rose made more of his shots while being a high-usage player, and LBJ, Wade, Bosh made a few more of theirs and the Heat win by 3, what would you say then? Should Rose still then have not "shot te ball as much and passed to his teammates"?

  13. Sean Says:

    @ #6...

    If they were CONSISTENT, they would be compelled to give him another MVP. But MVP votes are consistently inconsistent, it seems.

  14. Sean Says:

    @ #10...

    Yeah, I think I overspoke. It wasn't 'BAD'. It just wasn't that hot, either.

  15. CJ Says:

    Rose's supporting cast is better than LeBron's, but 1) LeBron was (and is) better than Rose, and 2) the Bulls have lots of good role players, but the team is flawed. Deng is the only guy who can consistently contribute on O and D. Everyone else is either the "defense guy," "the rebound guy" the "spot up shooter guy" or the "overpaid PF who's a poor fit on this team guy" That's a recipe for failure against elite teams, because unlike LeBron or Dirk, Rose is too easy to game plan for due to his size and lack of consistent shooting.

    I'm a Bulls homer and I'll say it; Rose played poorly this series. In the regular season he averaged 29 points on 45% shooting against Miami, but they are by far the best defense he faced in the playoffs, and he didn't adjust to score against them efficiently or take advantage of the defensive attention to allow his (limited) teamates to score. So yes, he DOES need more help in order to beat elite teams. I don't understand why this is a knock on him or why it's considered an "excuse." Brewer was huge, but Rose and Deng were the only starters in double figures. Every other starter on the Bulls scored exactly 5 points. It's legitimate to question the contribution from his teamates, without excusing his poor play.

    I also don't know what this has to do with the MVP. It's a regular season award. And while I would give it to LeBron every season until he retires, Rose played a hell of a season. He drastically improved in most major stat categories and led his team to the best record in the league despite missing lots of games from both the guy signed to be his second option, and their defensive anchor/rebounder/energy guy. He was a legitimate candidate. It's a shame he didn't bring that same game the ECF.

  16. Sean Says:

    @ # 12:

    I would say that Rose was losing an Eastern Conference Finals in the Bulls system VS Wilt was on a 31-49 team in the Warriors system.

    I would say that winning 31 games with Wilt Chamberlain in 1963 says there is something wrong with what you are doing.

    I don't know if I'd say that losing an Eastern Conference Finals with Derrick Rose in 2011 screams the same thing to near the same degree.

    And yeah... Boozer was terrible. He got swatted a couple times in the paint and just curled up.

  17. Sean Says:

    @ #15... CJ sez:

    It's legitimate to question the contribution from his teamates, without excusing his poor play.

    I also don't know what this has to do with the MVP. It's a regular season award.

    Couldn't agree more. The entire post was well-stated.

  18. Sean Says:

    Here's a 5/25/11 exchange following Game #4 between the delusional Ric Bucher and Colin Cowherd (who has his own issues):

    Bucher: 'I have more confidence in his (Rose) being the best player in the league off what I saw last night'...

    Cowherd: 'Ridiculous'.

    Bucher: 'I loved everything he did down the stretch'... 'He was playmaking every single thing they got down the stretch'....

    Bucher: 'The statistics can be what they may be.'

    Cowherd: 'Rose is shooting 21% in the 4th Quarter in the series'...

    Bucher: (PAUSE)...'Yeah...............' (PAUSE)

  19. Matt Says:

    @15 Rose brought the exact same game to this series. He was simply eaten alive by a much more talented and experienced player.

  20. Neil Paine Says:

    #15 - Wasn't the makeup of those 60-win Cleveland teams sort of similar, maybe even to a greater degree? Everyone had a very specific role, and they were normally very efficient in those roles, but when the primary scorer was faced with a defense that took away the things he did best, nobody else could compensate.

  21. CJ Says:

    No, he didn't. As I said before, Rose's regular season average against Miami was 29pts on 45% shooting. He only matched those numbers once in the ECF, and it's not a coincidence that it's the only game the Bulls won. No one can completely shut down James and D-Wade, but the Bulls did enough to win if Rose had played up to his regular season standards.


    Yes, they are similar, and the Cavs may have been even worse. But the Cavs' primary scorer was LeBron, who was obviously better than Rose at the same point in their careers. LeBron could drag an inferior cast farther than Rose can.

    This argument seems to boil down to "a lone superstar is overrated if he can't drag his team as far as LeBron did in Cleveland." I think it's nonsensical to think "not as good as LeBron" equals "overrated."

  22. Neil Paine Says:

    #21 - Sorry, that seemed like I was using the "LeBron's situation was worse" argument to rip Rose. I just meant that the two situations were/are similar, and perhaps that's an indictment of a certain style of team-building. The Isiah Thomas Memorial Secret of Basketball™ would seem to dictate a team that is built exactly the way Chicago and late-LeBron-era Cleveland were... but those teams aren't winning. Instead, the teams that are winning are these superstar team-ups in Boston, L.A., and now (maybe) Miami.

  23. Anon Says:

    Sean #12:

    I think my point was that people are into "blaming the star" in this sport and Rose playing better/making more shots doesn't make them think differently if the Heat still win. You seem to be on Rose for taking a bunch of shots without making them and not using his teammates. While I somewhat agree with what you're saying, in my post I said "Well okay, let's say he DID shoot well from the field and was the lone offensive star on his team in Game 5 - and Bron, Wade, Bosh made a couple more of their shots and the Heat still win by 3". What would people say then? It would still be "Rose shoots too much! He isnt using his teammates!" The (irrational) blame would still be put on him.

    It's similar to Wilt, a high-usage player in his prime that played on a bad team, except unlike Rose he WAS making his shots. He was a player that carried the offense on a team that didn't have other consistent offensive players. In the modern day, LBJ played well on a Cavs team that ran into team with mismatch issues and good defenses that tool other player out of their game and depended on LBJ going 1 on 5. See what I'm saying here? We can heap the blame on the star, but while Rose played subpar he still needs a team that can also get it done in the playoffs to win ^No matter how HE plays.

  24. Anon Says:

    Apologies for the typos.

  25. CJ Says:


    Sorry I misunderstood you. I completely agree. That's why Boozer's contract is such a problem. They paid superstar money for a non-superstar, and they're limited in what they can do going forward, unless Rose gives a hometown discount. Their best shot going forward is to 1) get Rose to play D-Will's role with Boozer to make him more effective; 2)trade for someone like DeRozan, Mayo, or Courtney Lee who's still on a rookie contract and hope they can develop into an All-Star level contributor, and 3) hope there's an amnesty clause in the new CBA.

    In my dreams (and on whatifsports) Joe Johnson signs with the Bulls and the starting lineup of Rose/Johnson/Deng/Gibson/Noah ousts Miami in 5 games.

  26. Bill Says:

    This argument seems to boil down to "a lone superstar is overrated if he can't drag his team as far as LeBron did in Cleveland." I think it's nonsensical to think "not as good as LeBron" equals "overrated."

    LeBron never dragged his Cleveland team past a team as good as the 2011 Miami Heat. He acknowledged that he couldn't win 1 on 3 against Boston. A fairly easy comparison is to look at likely HOFers on the roster. LeBron dragged Cleveland past a Detroit team that didn't have any, but he fared less well against Boston (3) and Orlando (1). Why do we expect Derrick Rose to be able to overcome 3 HOFers on Miami on his own?

  27. huevonkiller Says:

    Bill I'm not following your confusing logic. Chicago had 50 win shares as a supporting cast this year, and James had a monster series against Orlando in 2009. So right there that doesn't add up, and Rose was terrible in this series. He didn't break a game score of 20 all series.

  28. wiLQ Says:

    "That had to be one of the worst playoff series [but mostly in terms of shooting?] for a league MVP in a while. Can we get some detail on that?"
    I would be also interested in that topic ;-)

  29. Neil Paine Says:

    This seems appropriate:

  30. ANdrew Says:

    The only problem with criticicing Rose taking too many shots is that often his teammates pass the ball right back to him boomerang style. He may pass it out again only to get it back with 8 or less which of course he then jacks a crappy shot/3.

  31. Bada Says:

    Hakeem vs. Robinson, 1995.

  32. David Says:

    Well, now the Bulls likely regret fubaring the trade for OJ Mayo. A somewhat capable SG is the missing piece. Rose, non-Bogans, Deng, Boozer, and Noah probably do not go down 4-1 here. Rose became a chucker, had to become one really. And, no, he can't do it alone. James can't/couldn't either. Neither could Jordan, nor Bird, nor Magic. That argument is a bit stale. I would add that Miller and Haslem coming back really changed things too. Heat will beat Dallas in 5 games, barring injuries...

  33. CJ Says:


    How did the Bulls fubar the trade? The story I heard was that Memphis' GM doesn't like the Bulls front office and turned down their deal to take a WORSE deal from Indiana. Only they didn't call it into the league on time and so it was disallowed. This is the first I heard that the Bulls did something wrong.

  34. marc Says:

    lol, that didn't take long.Opinion has changed and the writer grasped the idea beforehand, but lord he hasn't grasped the scope!
    Lebron is already the GOAT!People are so cute!

  35. Sean Says:

    Anon @ #23...

    I really sound like I'm taking it to Rose, I know. I'm not blaming Rose for Chicago losing as much as I'm holding Rose responsible for being part of the problem. Tough to tell Rose to stop doing what got the Bulls 62 wins and home court in the ECF, I know-----so you live or die with what you have been all year in late May. Going forward, the Bulls obviously need to move away from Rose taking so many of the shots. He doesn't make enough of them for Chicago to go farther. Who should be taking them? Maybe that guy isn't even on the team. But the plan cannot be for Rose to keep taking them.

    If Rose made shots and the Bulls still lost, I wouldn't 'blame' Rose's offense. If Miami made more shots to counter Rose's made shots------I'd look at what they were doing on defense... but I won't shy away from my philosophy that there are inherent benefits to more people being involved on offense.

    With Wilt, there are similarities, as you've illustrated-------but there are some fundamental differences. First, Chicago was a very good defensive team. The 1963 Warriors allowed the most ppg. With WILT. They should have been better. But they chose to deploy Wilt a certain way. I don't know what the pace was for that team----but the argument could be made that whatever it was (and AYC suggests it was the league's fastest pace), it should have been SLOWER. More should have been done to reap the defensive capabilities of a half court defense anchored by a monster that was Wilt. The Bulls were 62-20. Whatever they were doing was working. At least well enough to get them to the ECF. The 1963 Warriors were 31-49. No playoffs. With WILT! They were doing something wrong. Wilt MADE a good % of his shots. Do I KILL Wilt, then? NOT 'kill' him for his OFFENSE, no. But, again, I won't shy away from my philosophical belief that there are inherent benefits to involving other players on offense. Wilt was supposedly difficult----or I read that at least the coach that year was unable to control him. Perhaps he wanted a slower pace. Maybe he wanted Wilt's role to be altered and the team's philosophy to be different. He would have been CORRECT. Because 31-49 in 1963 with Wilt was an indication that you were doing something WRONG. The 1963 Warrors didn't give a darn about defense. They should have. Perhaps Wilt's need to be so individually offensive contributed to that. I'd actually like to read a book(s) on Wilt's earlier years-------actually his entire career---------but I don't want one written BY Wilt. Maybe one written by him, and another by someone else to compare viewpoints. I think his career is fascinating.

  36. wiLQ Says:

    "That had to be one of the worst playoff series [but mostly in terms of shooting?] for a league MVP in a while. Can we get some detail on that?"
    From Elias: Derrick Rose made only nine of 29 field-goal attempts in the Bulls' loss. It was the first time that an MVP missed 20 or more shots from the field in the game in which his team was eliminated since Bob McAdoo went 16-for-36 as the Buffalo Braves were closed out by the Washington Bullets in 1975.

  37. Sean Says:

    Here's a little insight to the 1963 Warriors:

    In the 1962–63 NBA season Eddie Gottlieb sold the Warriors franchise for an amount of $850,000 to a group of businessmen led by Marty Simmons from San Francisco, and the team relocated to become the San Francisco Warriors under a new coach, Bob Feerick.[47] This also meant, however, that the team broke apart, as Paul Arizin chose to retire rather than moving away from his family and his job at IBM in Philadelphia, and Tom Gola was homesick, requesting a trade to the lowly New York Knicks halfway through the season.[48] With both secondary scorers gone Chamberlain continued his array of statistical feats, scoring 44.8 points and grabbing 24.3 rebounds per game that year.[40] But despite Chamberlain's individual success, the Warriors lost 49 of their 80 games and missed the playoffs.[49]

    In the 1963–64 NBA season Chamberlain got yet another new coach, Alex Hannum, and was joined by a promising rookie center, Nate Thurmond, who eventually would enter the Hall of Fame. Ex-soldier Hannum, who later entered the NBA Hall of Fame as a coach, was a crafty psychologist who emphasized defense and passing. Most importantly, he was not afraid to stand up to the dominant Chamberlain, who was known to "freeze out" (not communicate with) coaches he did not like.[50] Backed up by valuable rookie Thurmond, Chamberlain had another good season with 36.9 ppg and 22.3 rpg,[40] and the San Francisco Warriors went all the way to the NBA Finals. In that series they succumbed to the Boston Celtics team of Bill Russell again, this time losing 1–4.[51] But as Cherry remarked, not only Chamberlain, but in particular Hannum deserved much credit because he had basically had taken the bad 31–49 squad of last year plus Thurmond and made it into a NBA Finalist.[52]

    Looks like you had it all in 1963:
    team moving
    team breaking up
    secondary scorers leaving, 1 before the seaosn, the other halway thru
    Chamberlain being difficult
    head coach not strong enough to deal with Wilt...

    Then they get a new coach who DOES emphasize defense and passing and stands up to Wilt & they add rookie Nate Thurmond (still didn't have Arizin or Gola)-----------and they're in the Finals!

  38. Sean Says:

    secondary scorers leaving, 1 before the seaosn, the other halway thru

    GEEZUS, what am I doing? Typing with my FEET!!??!?