Economics and Basketball done right

I’ve been an NBA fan since my childhood following the Bulls dynasty, and started studying Economics at Colgate in 2003. In 2007 I found a way to connect the two, making an independent study on “Determinants of Success in the NBA” my last semester of school. I wrote a short paper, but unfortunately did not finish my research.

Post-graduation I have submitted to two conferences on sports statistics, each of which has turned me down on the fair grounds that its not clear I’ve finished my research. Recently I have been taking notes about my big curiosity, “How to build an NBA dynasty” but have yet to make it into a formal research paper.

These ideas have been on my mind lately, because I am thinking about submitting work for the next Sloan Sports conference in March 2012. The internet gave me a helpful push on how linking basketball and econ can be done well (albeit not academically) via Malcolm Gladwell‘s first piece for Grantland “‘Psychic Benefits’ and the NBA Lockout“. I particularly like how he takes current economic theory and writes in a way that’s accessible to everyone.

In a recent academic paper, the economist Jonathan Lanning has also shown that almost without exception integration in the 1940s and 1950s had an immediate and significant positive impact on a team’s attendance — even in cities where you might not think the fan base would be enthusiastic. Lanning calculates, in fact, that almost no team in baseball had as much to gain financially from bringing in black players as the Red Sox, particularly since they were losing money in the 1940s. Yawkey’s bigotry left millions of dollars on the table.