NBA Legend Karl Malone recently gave a pretty eyebrow-raising interview which is currently getting quite a bit of attention. Most of that interest centers on the comments he made about fighting former teammate, Kobe Bryant, but what I want to look at is what he said about the use of analytics in sports.
The Mailman, spoke with SLAM magazine and shared the following:
Malone: Enlighten me on analytics. I’m a country bumpkin. Please tell me what that means, pertaining to my sport. Enlighten me and let me give you my response.
SLAM: It’s just a deeper way of looking at statistics, valuing numbers that aren’t necessarily in box scores. They’re supposed to encourage efficiency and smarter basketball, so like, advanced stats would generally value three-pointers and shots around the basket over long two-pointers.
Malone: Can I tell you something? When you find the guy, whoever invented that word, if he wants to debate me, please let me know. I want to talk to him about the analytics. You cannot tell me—you know what? My memory’s coming back to me a little bit. Someone told, I forget which player it was, that you don’t need a mid-range game. I want to say somebody said that to Kevin Durant. Are you kidding me? I will kill you with a mid-range game. That’s the analytics? That’s what they’re talking about? How many games are they playing? And how many games are they winning? When you find that person [who invented the term “analytics”], please get in touch with me so I can debate him. Just go play and get rid of all that.
Although it’s an old school take on data, it’s interesting. Essentially what Malone’s saying is that analytics can lack practicality.
The analytics I use in my day-to-day are a little different than the ones that Malone talks about, but I think what he is saying does have some merit in my world. As a digital marketer who heavily relies on analytics to optimize campaigns, it’s very easy for me to make everything I do about the stats. Data is great, but it isn’t everything. Why? Because human behavior creates data. Human behavior, though predictable at times, can often be random, irrational, or just plain confounding.
Thus, there’s a balance between relying on data and being practical. What that balance looks like is up to you.
Check out more of Malone’s interview here.