A Correlation Between Age, Winning NBA Games?

May 26, 2011
Originally published on June 9, 2011 3:57 pm
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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

NPR's Mike Pesca has been looking into the correlation between being old and winning basketball games.

MIKE PESCA: In the just concluded Western Conference Finals, the oldest team in the NBA played the youngest - once you adjust for minutes played. Exciting basketball for sure, but also an interesting referendum on the age-old old age issue.

NORRIS: There is overall a pretty strong correlation between the age of an NBA team and their success.

PESCA: But Pelton is quick to point out that even though age and success are correlated, the causation might not be what you think. He notes that teams in contention are much more likely to sign an aging star. In other words, being old doesn't make you a good team, but a team that's good is more likely to embrace age. Take for instance, the Mavericks point guard, Jason Kidd.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

U: Kidd lays it in. So crafty.

NORRIS: Kidd knows he's not going to out-jump Russell Westbrook, so he uses the body as a shield and then finishes with a pretty length.

PESCA: Well, yes. But Kevin Pelton says it's savvy born of necessity.

NORRIS: It's kind of like a way to compensate for his aging that he's gained strength and he's gained, you know, some tricks defensively that help him stay with a guy like Durant.

PESCA: And there's Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks' wunderkind, actually wundermensch, he's 32 years old. History shows that tall players tend to age better than shorter ones, and that shooters tend to age better than players who slash to the hoop. Nowitzki is the greatest seven-foot-tall shooter in basketball history, so maybe it's no wonder that he's such a wonder.

NORRIS: What's the first thing that suffers as a player ages?

NORRIS: Recovery time. You can't recover as quickly. Like, if you get tired or have a great game, it probably takes you a couple days to get your energy level back. And it only gets worse.

PESCA: Mike Pesca, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.