Mark Cuban-Skip Bayless debate transcript

The complete transcript of the June 22 2012 debate between Mark Cuban and Skip Bayless on journalistic practice in which Cuban gives a quick lesson on analytics can be found here.

My brief statement providing a theoretical background is here.

Quick footnote:

As many have pointed out, Bayless was over-matched. In fact, he wasn’t even able to understand the argument Cuban was making against him. One sign of Bayless’s inability to intepret Cuban’s critique was his interpretation of Cuban’s assertion that “traditional NBA boxscores show nothing” to mean that all boxscores mean nothing. The operable word Cuban used was “traditional” — many even mainstream writers today know about newly designed statistics that together make up a more advanced set of basketball metrics. The point was that there are better numbers, not that numbers always lie. Bayless misunderstands the argument and jumps to the radical unsubstantiated cliche that “numbers always lie!” thinking he has Cuban’s credibility behind him. I doubt he does. Cuban almost certainly uses numbers at some point in his analytical process, or at least relies on researchers who do. The question is where and how in the analytical process numbers are used. Numbers are most helpful when innovative techniques create avenues to understanding context, context, context. For example, the now widely used ‘points per 100 possessions’ statistic — a measure of offensive and defensive efficiency that can lead, if further used right, to better understanding performance in a context. Another publicized example is lineup data: which five are efficient and inefficient when on the floor together. These contextual data are numbers but they don’t lead to proof; they lead to better theories.

The qualitative study of context is not against numbers per se, but is for understanding numbers as bending to contexts that by definition never in their uniqueness equate to the exact generalizable mean. Numbers are best the closer they get to painting a picture of the context of the behavior you want to understand.

In a way, Cuban did to Bayless over a matter of minutes what the website firejoemorgan.com tried to do to Morgan, the former ESPN Sunday night baseball commentator, over a number of years.

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This entry was posted in sociology of sport, Symbolic data, symbolic vs hard data, theoretical drivel. Bookmark the permalink.

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