Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, October 23, 2021

positives, negatives
Since when does the mega-popular National Basketball Association mimic its weak sister, the National Hockey League?

When there’s sponsorship money involved, of course. Behold the NBA’s version of hockey’s plus-minus stat — on steroids:

From a fan perspective, the change will be noticeable in the creation of the Lenovo Stat, a new measurement that looks to quantify teamwork—both offensive and defensive—in much the same way as the National Hockey League’s plus/minus statistic. The NHL counts the goals scored when a particular player is on the ice, and subtracts from that number the goals scored against his team while he’s playing.

The NBA’s new statistic will be compiled by crediting all players with their teams’ points scored while they’re on the floor. They are then debited the points scored by the opposition while they’re in the game. In a major feat of number crunching, all 1-, 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-man combinations will be analyzed across the league.

The measurement doesn’t count rebounds or assists—or any other variable—but “this single stat tells you the most effective combination of players,” said Lenovo Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Deepak Advani. It has the distinct feel of “sabermetric” analysis and the computerized “search for objective knowledge about [a sport]” that analyst Bill James wrote about in his 1988 Baseball Abstracts. The approach was made famous in the 2003 book “Moneyball.”

You can see a screenshot of the team-aggregate pluses and minuses here. That should give many a stat maven a nice warm feeling.

The real story here, though, is the creation of a new statisitcal measure solely as a result of corporate sponsorship. Lenovo ponied up the dough, and it got its company name irremovably implanted into the game’s scoresheet — truly prime real estate. It’s way better than grafting a new name onto a pre-existing stat column that has a history; this is the equivalent of the now-standard practice of securing naming rights to a newly-built stadium. (I guess any diehard anti-corporate types can insist on rejecting the name “Lenovo Stat” and subbing in “plus-minus”, but they’ll be a permanent minority.)

I’m not sure there’s been another instance of a brand-new stat being cooked up just in response to business reasons, at least not on the major-pro level. In this sense, the NBA is blazing a new, more invasive trail in sports business marketing.

I’d like to use this development as an opportunity to announce that the naming rights to this blog’s newly-instituted NHL Special Teams Index weekly tally is open to corporate sponsorship. I didn’t exactly invent it, but in the hopes that Lenovo’s actions will inspire other companies to toss dollars at any other novel statistical presentations, I’ll gladly take the credit. I’m thinking “NHL Special K Special Teams Index” has a nice cha-ching ring to it…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/23/2006 11:38 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball, Hockey
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