A typical NBA game can yield approximately 2,800 statistical events
in thirty-two different categories. In Numbers Don't Lie Yago Colas
started with a simple question: how did basketball analytics get
from counting one stat, the final score, to counting thousands? He
discovered that what we call "basketball"-name, rules, equipment,
fundamental skills, techniques, tactics, strategies-has changed
dramatically since its invention and today encompasses many
different forms of play, from backyards and rec leagues to the NBA
Finals. Numbers Don't Lie explores the power of data to tell
stories about ourselves and the world around us. As advanced
statistical methods and big data technologies transform sports, we
now have the power to count more things in greater detail than ever
before. These numbers tell us about the past, present, and future
that shape how basketball is played on the floor, decisions are
made in front offices, and the sport is marketed and consumed. But
what is the relationship between counting and what counts, between
quantification and value? In Numbers Don't Lie Colas offers a
three-part history of counting in basketball. First, he recounts
how big-data basketball emerged in the past twenty years, examines
its current practices, and analyzes how it presents itself to the
public. Colas then situates big data within the deeper social,
cultural, and conceptual history of counting in basketball and
beyond and proposes alternative frameworks of value with which we
may take fuller stock of the impact of statistics on the sport.
Ultimately, Colas challenges the putative objectivity of both
quantification and academic writing by interweaving through this
history a series of personal vignettes of life at the intersection
of basketball, counting, and what counts.
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