A blog called “NBA Scores” is one of my favorites because it shows that even if you can’t express yourself in English, you can still make something interesting and funny.
Nasim, who has more than enough English skills to put out a novel, has done just that. Her blog about the latest scores as well as results and highlights is one of the best sports blogs I’ve seen.
How did she do it? She went with the “something is better than nothing” approach. If people are going to read your blog, they will read it. If you have a good idea, and you don’t have anything better to do, then at least make something up.
Nasim’s blog is also a great example of how to use Google Alerts. When Nessa Govenar wrote about Nasim’s blog in his New York Times column, I got an e-mail alert. I checked the link, and within a few minutes I was reading her amazing blog post about the standings in the NBA Western Conference.
The official NBA website has a page for every team. But basketball scores are not a leading subject, as far as I can tell, on any single-team page. If you go to the Lakers’ page, you will find links to articles about Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal and so on. Their scores are listed at the bottom of the article, but they don’t have their own separate section.
If you go to the Celtics’ page, you will find links to articles about Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins and so on. Their scores are listed at the bottom of the article, but they don’t have their own separate section.
If it is important for a newspaper sports page or an NBA team’s page to report all scoring information in one place, does it make sense to spread that out over a whole site? I don’t think so.
The NBA does not publish a list of the highest scoring games in league history. This makes sense: since only a handful of games are played every season, it is practically impossible to compare scoring records. If every game was scored, time would cease to exist and we’d all be crushed under the weight of basketball statistics.
But there’s actually another reason I don’t think they publish such a list: it would be an embarrassment to the NBA. Because the highest scoring game was played in the 1950s (when a team called the Minneapolis Lakers beat Golden State 102-100 in overtime). It wasn’t just an upset. It was an outrage – a crime against basketball, perpetrated by the enemy within their own ranks.
The story goes that on this day each player scored between 35-40 points – or about seven baskets per minute. The Golden Staters were so intimidated by this avalanche of basket-making that many of them actually left the court early, before their opponent had reached half number fifty.
One of the things I love about basketball is that it is extremely close to perfection. There are no out-of-bounds plays, and you can’t throw a pass in the air. The game has to be played in front of a referee, so the rules are all clear — no hand checks, no fighting, and so on.
The result is a game with very few errors. Each team has exactly one chance to make every play. The other team’s chances are zero. And if one person mucks up the play, it doesn’t matter: that mistake doesn’t change the outcome. You have to make all your plays or you lose by default.
I think this makes basketball a good subject for statistical analysis. In nearly any sport, you can use statistics to predict outcomes with amazing precision. And basketball is unique among sports because of its violent action: every play requires a lot of judgment, and there aren’t any out-of-bounds plays or timeouts to take advantage of a lucky break or stupid mistake. It would be great if somebody could write a book about basketball scores that explained how to predict probabilities with perfect accuracy.
A statistician once pointed out to me that in the NBA, a lot of the time, even when the score is tied after three quarters, the teams have never met before. This is true for all sports, but it’s even more pronounced in basketball.
This is because basketball has a point system which gives you points for every basket made, and fouls called against your opponent. In the course of a game, if your team makes baskets but you make no fouls, you are said to have “missed” some points, while your opponent “missed” none. If you make baskets and fouls at roughly equal rates, both teams usually miss around 50 points every quarter. And then it all balances out at the end of the game.
But there are still ways to improve your score. If your team makes more baskets than your opponent does and fouls less often than he does, then on average you will get more points per quarter (and so win).
Basketball scores are like this because each basket is a separate event: either you made it or your opponent did. This can be illustrated by one of those weird little tricks mathematicians sometimes play on us: we know that in any game where neither team has scored yet, the first team
In the NBA, as in most of American sports, scores are reported by zeros and ones. This is obviously not ideal. But it is a long way from being the worst possible choice, and there are only two alternatives.
The first alternative is numbers that are easy to read and hard to misunderstand. One such number would be “1,” or even “10.” The other alternative is a way of transcribing numbers (like Roman numerals) which doesn’t require lots of space on the scoreboard.
If you’re looking for a score in any other sport, like soccer or baseball, you will want to use the same kind of number system as basketball. It’s just too much trouble otherwise: one game has two scores (“2-4” or “7-3”), another has three (“7-3-6”), and another has five (“6-5”). Even more importantly, people can understand what these scores mean without even needing to know what they stand for.
For instance: After soccer games at Wembley Stadium, there was a lot of confusion among the supporters who couldn’t quite make out what they were seeing on the scoreboard if both teams were scoring four goals each, or if one team had scored five and the other three. The solution was simple
When I was a kid, I used to lie in bed at night and practice my basketball shots. I’d imagine that I was playing against the Boston Celtics, and they were blocking me every time I tried to score. My father had been a basketball player in college, and he would ask me what the score was, and then I’d tell him. And then he’d say, “Oh yeah? Did you make it?” And I’d have to say no, even though I knew it was a lie.
Like most kids who played sports as children (I don’t think kids play chess or memorize Shakespeare now), my goal was to win. But the goal didn’t matter; it was the process that mattered. In fact, until someone told me otherwise, people who weren’t playing for fun seemed less serious about their games than people who were. They were likelier to brag about their bracket scores than their scores on the court.
A professional doesn’t brag about his bracket scores either, but he does talk about his team’s winning percentage instead: he talks about winning streaks and losing streaks. Maybe more than other sports fans, professional sports fans are motivated by results rather than by competition itself.