Thursday, April 2, 2009

LeBron and Arbitrary Statistical Benchmarks

Big fan of Michael Wilbon here, but his piece on LeBron's chances at averaging a triple-double was fail-tastic.

We see all-court brilliance like this every 25 years or so, when a player is extraordinary in basketball's primary skills: scoring, rebounding and passing. Only Oscar Robertson, in 1962, has averaged double digits in those three categories over an entire season.


It has been such an unreachable mark, like hitting .400 for an entire season or scoring 100 points in a single game, that it's now presumed to be unthinkable that a player would average a triple-double over a full NBA season.

[Except that every other NBA columnist is writing "LeBron! Triple-Double!" articles now. Makes it seem at least kind of thinkable, right? Oh, and also, what makes an impossibility (which none of the noted achievements are, by the way) an unreachable mark versus *such* an unreachable mark? Infinity plus one!]

Robertson, who isn't one to throw a lot of phony praise at today's players, said of James: "I am definitely impressed with LeBron. . . . [He's] so gifted in his abilities. He doesn't even know, yet, all of what he can do."

[For example, last week it was reported that LeBron realized that he was fluent in Mandarin. Neat.]

There are those who think LeBron could, if he decided it was a priority.

[Great point. Accumulating as many points, rebounds and assists as possible would be a stupid top priority, especially when LeBron has that cool baby powder entrance to focus on each game. I'm sure that LeBron actively decides to limit the number of points, rebounds and assists he gets each game. It just makes sense. Think about it.]

Even if LeBron wanted to go after the season-long triple-double it might be out of his reach because what Robertson did is the pre-steroid statistical equivalent of hitting .350, with 55 home runs and 160 runs batted in.

[???? This is turning into some kind of sportswriting Madlibs. Oooh! I want to try one:

...what Robertson did is the (arbitrary sports era) pre-forward pass statistical equivalent of (your favorite number) 20 points in a single game.


He knows it's going to be difficult, but Robertson repeated that he believes LeBron has a chance.

[What is he supposed to say? "You know, Mike, actually..., not a huge LeBron fan here. Seems a little flash-in-the-pan-y for me. I bet he levels off big time."]

That such a discussion even exists and that one of the five best all-around players in history has an open mind about LeBron doing it is one of the best arguments for him being MVP this season....

[This statement makes the BBWAA seem like Dr. Gregory House. Let me see if I got it. One of the "best" arguments for LeBron being named the 2008-09 MVP is that *one* retired player mentioned to a reporter that LeBron has a "chance" at having an historic statistical season... at some point in the future?

Sold. Start etching that plaque now!]

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