The Underrated, No-Stats All-Star

I'm fascinated with people I think of as "underrated" — folks whose contribution is larger than their reputation would suggest. I wonder, why don't more people appreciate this person? What do I see that others do not? (The same thought process of anyone who buys a stock they feel is underpriced.)

I've blogged about why it's better to reach out to underrated people if you're trying to build your network. And I've blogged about how to spot these people by de-emphasizing popular filters.

15battier.1-500 Michael Lewis has the cover piece in today's NYT Magazine titled The No-Stats All-Star. Lewis makes the case that Shane Battier of the NBA team Houston Rockets is a seriously underrated player. His contributions are not easily tracked by the conventional statistics, but whenever Battier is on the court the team does better. Why?

It's the philosophy of Moneyball (a book which looked at the Oakland A's use of unusual statistics to size up players) applied to basketball. I recommend reading the whole thing. And then asking yourself, "Who's the Shane Battier on our team?" Every organization has one.

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There's a throwaway sentence in the piece that touches on a class / race issue that is worthy of an entire separate article:

Is it a coincidence that many of the things a player does in white basketball to prove his character — take a charge, scramble for a loose ball — are more pleasantly done on a polished wooden floor than they are on inner-city asphalt?

7 Responses to The Underrated, No-Stats All-Star

  1. Kevin says:

    It’s great to find a better way to measure value than other people do, leading to discovery of “underrated” gems, but it must be difficult for the person who is underrated to make their own case and stand out from the simply weak. E.g. If this article hadn’t been written Battier would have a difficult time in contract negotiations.

  2. Ben Casnocha says:

    Absolutely – third person endorsement is always stronger than someone making
    their own case.

  3. Chris L says:

    I think the real point is figuring what is important and how to measure it.

    The stats that people use to judge basketball players create perverse incentives and doesn’t even accurately reflect how much they add to the team.

    Underrated happens when people use the wrong criteria to judge something. The opportunity occurs when you find a better criteria than everyone else.

  4. I’ve been trying to apply this idea to my reading. I noticed that it’s really easy to jump on Amazon and order off a bunch of best sellers that are making the rounds and that everyone says are “must reads.” It’s a lot harder to go out and proactively find reading that you don’t see blogged about or mentioned on best seller lists. I’ve just been thinking that if all I read is fairly mainstream, then there’s really no edge or outside perspective to be had. Some authors that I think particularly fall into this set of “mainstream” are guys like Gladwell and Michael Lewis.

  5. Ben Casnocha says:

    Yes if you want to offer a new and different perspective you can’t just read
    Gladwell / Friedman / Lewis, etc. Totally agree and I think I’ve blogged
    about this as well….

  6. Alex says:

    I am a diehard North Carolina Tarheels fan, but I secretly own a Shane Battier Duke jersey because of how much I respect him as a player.

    I remember reading about the rookie camps prior to his draft. They did an exercise where they had to stand under the basket and dunk as many times in a row as they could…Most players fizzled out around 20 or 30 some number like that. Shane Battier was at 70 before he finished.

  7. Shane Battier is one of my favorite basketball players of all time. The article was extremely well written, and managed to hit a large number of important issues. Intelligence can be applied to anything, if you figure out what to measure.

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