This weekend, in just a matter of hours, grizzly Center Garren Jackson Jr He was accused and then acquitted of taking advantage of a scoring bias in his hometown that inflated his defensive stats. The viral Reddit post claimed that the Grizzlies’ point guards were likely involved in a plot to record all boundary calls while Jackson steals or blocks shots to improve the Defensive Player of the Year status. It quickly went viral before being debunked by reporters who saw footage from Jackson’s blocks and the league itself. (Reddit has now labeled the post “misleading”.)
The saga highlighted how quickly attractive misinformation can spread and how good Jackson is at defensive reality. But it also showed how little the league’s point-scoring process is understood.
There is not a single scorer for him NBA Matches, Reddit claimed, are rather a four-person team that works in direct contact with league officials throughout the game to produce the statistics and play data that appears in any score box.
To understand more about the process, the athlete He interviewed a former record guard who worked for two different NBA teams in a nine-year period during the 2000s. We granted him anonymity so he could speak candidly about the process, what’s really going on and why there are not-so-nefarious reasons Jackson might have better stats when he’s playing in Memphis instead of on the road.
(This interview has been edited and condensed from a 30-minute conversation for clarity.)
What is your impression of what people think, and how wrong they are?
The picture I had growing up was the old guy in a pullover sitting courtside with one of those huge specialist scorebooks, as is everyone if they were interested in that stuff when they were young, right? But it’s actually a little more complicated than that.
So what does it actually look like?
There is an official recorder of every NBA game. It is only that person’s responsibility to keep the official score and errors. They sit on the court and talk to the referees, and it is they who hold out six fingers if someone makes a mistake. What this person does has nothing to do with the stats that end up on NBA.com.
There is a crew (of) four people in each arena who work part-time or contract with the team. They are really separate from any part of the organization. There is an internal computer. He and the observer keep up with the events of the game as they happen. There is a touchscreen laptop computer, and the observer calls out everything that happens on the field. The computer beats it into the system.
A third person, a secondary computer, is listening and sitting next to the observer. He or she is essentially listening and editing in real time. They are the first pillar of error. The secondary monitor also controls the DVR on a monitor (provided).
So this is used to double check plays that weren’t immediately apparent in real time?
Yes, exactly. It would be like, “Hey, I think so-and-so got a piece of that. Can you pull it up and check it out?” And they’ll look at that. If he’s close, in my experience, the whole team will look and say, “Hey, do we think this is a block? Do we think this is stealing?”
You can go very slowly, like frame by frame, and see who got the finishing touch and what really happened.
right. In Dallas, members of the media sit right behind the scorekeepers, and I see them using this replay screen throughout games.
I’ve done stats for every sport, and basketball is the only sport I’ve liked more as I’ve done stats because it’s the best athletes on a ridiculous level. The elite are from the elite, they move very fast (and) there’s a lot going on. It is a fast paced game. There is a lot that you have to go back and double check because we are only human and we can’t understand what is going on right away.
Well, we have the controller, the internal computer, and the secondary computer. Who is the fourth person to participate in the process of saving results?
In 2017, the NBA started to take a more homogenous view of stat retention, which may have been in sync with (embracing) fantasy, gambling, and other things.
As part of that, a fourth person included in the crew was on a headset with someone at (the league’s office in) Secaucus. They act as an intermediary between Secaucus and the stats crew. Depending on the game, this is a rather boring job. Often, they are assisting the secondary computer or giving their opinion on close calls. But that person is in contact with Secaucus and someone is there watching the match as it goes. They might indicate, “Hey, we think this could be help, we think this could be stealing.” This is something fairly new in the process of saving results.
So when you worked in the process, what role did you work in?
I primarily did as a secondary (when I worked for the Western Conference team), and occasionally as an observer. Our primary computer never missed a game, but I was the backup (when it did). (With the Eastern Conference team), I was basically the main computer. I spotted and did the primary. Then I took on a new role for maybe once as the one to talk to Secaucus.
And you did not wear a vest jacket?
I may have worn a jacket at different times. I don’t think I’ve ever owned a full-blown vest before, which may be why I failed so well to score.
What does this actually look like in terms of employment?
None of them have full time jobs. Most of the time, in my experience, this pool of talent will come from the sports information departments of nearby universities. Whether they started with that and did something else but kept the scorekeeping job as a side business, or if they were still working in the sports information departments. This is how everyone you’ve worked with started because you know how to keep gaming stats, and you’re probably underpaid. The extra cash doesn’t hurt.
What is the hardest play to define?
I think it should be helping.
I’ve always understood it to be applied when a player scores after shooting two or fewer shots after receiving a pass. How accurate is that?
This is something I’ve heard at some point as well, and that’s probably been the case for years. But the help was made clear as part of the NBA simplifying things around the league. The current definition of an assist is that you make a pass and the person who scores it goes directly to the basket or shoots. There is no end point to basketball movement. There’s probably some wiggle room there, but it’s like (an action) that immediately leads to some kind of (was made) without any kind of special basketball move.
I remember watching YouTube clips of (Chris Paul getting 15 assists) in New Orleans and always shaking my head as a scorekeeper. I was always very aware that everything I was doing would be looked at. It was always a source of pride for the crews I worked with that we weren’t a static filler.
So the reason we’re talking about is that (Jarren Jackson Jr.) steals controversy and prevents it. How hard is it to identify those when sometimes it’s just a fingertip grazing the ball?
In my experience, we all want to get it right. I would also say that NBA players don’t shut up when they block shots or get a block. I haven’t gone back and seen videos of Garren Jackson Jr., but I suspect after some of them, he either made a point that he got a piece or said something.
Many of these cases, by default, take a quick second look. If it’s close, we’ll take a look further. Let’s say[one of the players on the Western Conference team whose stats I kept]had a shot, and let’s say it was Dirk (Nowitzki) or someone else. And if the shot doesn’t end up where you thought it would from that player, but you can’t tell if (that player) got a piece, you’ll take a second look just to make sure you haven’t. Never miss a thing. More often than not, it’s a close thing.
In this redo you can see quite easily, especially if you drag it up frame by frame. These DVR feeds usually have multiple angles that you can swipe from, making it very easy to find the right angles.
How often do you have direct contact with the players or people on the team who are putting pressure on the players? Was this common?
So they’re not supposed to talk to us about stats, and they usually kept that. It was definitely the players who would point things out.
(PR people) on both teams would sometimes say, “Hey, can you take a look at this just to be sure.” But this was very rare because teams are not supposed to talk to us. I don’t know if this is an official rule, but it’s definitely something we’ve been told in the process. It happens, but not often in my experience. The two teams I’ve worked for have generally respected this rule.
So why, specifically, can you say that it is now so difficult for the home scorekeeper to keep statistics in a biased manner?
I like, in my experience, to give the benefit of the doubt to the people doing the job because I think generally they want to do a good job and do things right. Secondly, with the introduction of live NBA auditing, it’s very clear that this is an extra line to correct potential opportunities to either pillow the stats or miss something. If you give something they think is inaccurate, they will let you know. In my experience, you should have a good explanation as to why you disagree with what they say.
The last thing, even after all that, is that the NBA goes back and revises things after games. They used to go back and track, I don’t know if they do that anymore with live checking, but we’re told they used to track stats based on post game audits, where (the league employee) would watch the game again at the end with play by ( Register) and browse each game. If you miss something, you get an email saying, “Hey, your team missed this and this has been retroactively changed to this call.” I would say, as a point of pride, this didn’t happen very often on the crew I was on.
Both scorekeepers must sign an undertaking that no, we won’t bet. They do a background check every year. So there are a lot of things that are being done to protect the integrity of these things.
Do you have any theories for why Jaren Jackson, Jr. would have better home numbers? The only thing that comes to mind that could apply to the score keeper in the house, and not in any harmful way, is that he might be more careful to check for any instances where a simple contact might have resulted in a catch or a ban. A steal that would otherwise have been missed.
I think this could definitely be one of the reasons. They might be more eager to go back and check again, while the checker might not, you know, pull every corner and walk slowly around every corner. This could definitely be a reason.
What you’re suggesting is very likely some of these things are very small. It takes going back to the screen and dragging it up and looking at other angles and saying, like, the ball’s spin has changed. They can definitely take the time to take care of that.
(Top photo: Joe Camporeale/USA Today)