The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


EPISODE # 403

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz — What Determines Who Succeeds in the NBA?

Who Makes the NBA?: Data-Driven Answers to Basketball's Biggest Questions (book cover)

Former Google data scientist and bestselling author of Everybody Lies Seth Stephens-Davidowitz turns his analytic skills to the NBA.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz is a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times, a lecturer at The Wharton School, and a former Google data scientist. He received a BA from Stanford and a PhD from Harvard. He is the author of Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are and Don’t Trust Your Gut: Using Data to Get What You Really Want in Life.

Shermer and Stephens-Davidowitz discuss:

  • how he used AI to help write this book
  • players systematically undervalued in the draft
  • Are clutch shooters born or made?
  • the percent of 7-footers in the NBA
  • why tall NBA players are worse athletes than short NBA players
  • the greatest NBA players adjusted for height
  • names as proxies for success (or not)
  • why some countries produce so many more NBA players than others
  • who would be the best NBA player of all time if every player were the same height
  • What percent genetic is basketball talent? And how does this compare to other sports?
  • What advantages do NBA player fathers pass on to their sons?
  • How much do NBA coaches matter and what do they do?
  • Will any time win 11 NBA titles like Bill Russell’s Celtics did?
  • why no one hits .400 in baseball any more
  • Six sigma in sports and life
  • nature/nurture in sports and life
  • In a population of 8 billion today compared to centuries past, where are all the Mozarts, Beethovens, Da Vincis, Newtons, Darwins, etc.?
  • the Moneyball revolution in sports
  • how to apply the moneyball system in life
  • What makes people happy?
  • How much do good looks matter?
  • How much does height and competent faces influence elections?

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This episode was released on February 6, 2024.

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