Kobe Bryant explains why he hates analytics in NBA
Kobe Bryant is not a fan of the statistically-driven movement in the current NBA known as “analytics.”
Bryant joined ESPN’s TV crew from the US Open on Thursday night to talk about tennis, which he began playing after retiring from the NBA. He is putting out a tennis book through his production company called “Legacy and the Queen” that he was promoting.
During his appearance, Bryant was asked by John McEnroe what he thinks of analytics.
“I hate it,” Kobe said. “It’s ridiculous. What numbers don’t tell you is they don’t tell you the emotion. I don’t like analytics.
“You see the numbers, but the numbers don’t tell you how or why they are the way they are. You have to be able to feel that, to sense that. Tendencies.”
Bryant then gave an example to illustrate his point. He said a stat could tell you that a player goes to his left 60 percent of the time, but the stat won’t tell you the player isn’t really comfortable going to his left and would prefer to go to his right. He says that’s the sort of thing you find out by scouting and watching video.
Bryant’s stance on analytics shouldn’t be too surprising. Analytics have shown that an optimal strategy for scoring points (and ultimately winning) is to take 3-point shots because they’re 50 percent more valuable than two-point shots, and to take high-percentage twos, which tend to be close to the basket. Kobe’s game was based very much on long two-point shots, which don’t fit in as well with the analytically-driven strategy.
He’s right in a sense. Analytics can help with strategy, such as showing why going 2-for-1 on possessions late in quarters is beneficial, or in telling players which shots they tend to make more than others. But analytics don’t give you the whole picture, and they should not be taken as an absolute. If people declined to deviate from the advised analytics strategy, you wouldn’t have had CJ McCollum beating the Nuggets in the playoffs by taking mid-range jumpers.
Bryant isn’t alone in this anti-analytics view. A current star gave his explanation for why he doesn’t like them either.