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SprawlBall: A Visual Tour of the New Era of the NBA

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From the leading expert in the exploding field of basketball analytics, astunning infographic decoding of the modern NBA: who shoots where, and how. The field of basketball analytics has leaped to overdrive thanks to Kirk Goldsberry, whose visual maps of players, teams, and positions have helped teams understand who really is the most valuable player at any position. From the leading expert in the exploding field of basketball analytics, a stunning infographic decoding of the modern NBA: who shoots where, and how. The field of basketball analytics has leaped to overdrive thanks to Kirk Goldsberry, whose visual maps of players, teams, and positions have helped teams understand who really is the most valuable player at any position. SprawlBall combines stunning visuals, in-depth analysis, fun, behind-the-scenes stories and gee-whiz facts to chart a modern revolution. From the introduction of the 3-point line to today, the game has changed drastically . . . Now, players like Steph Curry and Draymond Green are leading the charge. In chapters like “The Geography of the NBA,” “The Interior Minister (Lebron James),” “The Evolution of Steph Curry,” and “The Investor (James Harden),” Goldsberry explains why today’s on-court product—with its emphasis on shooting, passing, and spacing—has never been prettier or more democratic. And it’s never been more popular. For fans of Bill Simmons and FreeDarko,SprawlBall is a bold new vision of the game, presenting an innovative, cutting-edge look at the sport based on the latest research, as well as a visual and infographic feast for fans.


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From the leading expert in the exploding field of basketball analytics, astunning infographic decoding of the modern NBA: who shoots where, and how. The field of basketball analytics has leaped to overdrive thanks to Kirk Goldsberry, whose visual maps of players, teams, and positions have helped teams understand who really is the most valuable player at any position. From the leading expert in the exploding field of basketball analytics, a stunning infographic decoding of the modern NBA: who shoots where, and how. The field of basketball analytics has leaped to overdrive thanks to Kirk Goldsberry, whose visual maps of players, teams, and positions have helped teams understand who really is the most valuable player at any position. SprawlBall combines stunning visuals, in-depth analysis, fun, behind-the-scenes stories and gee-whiz facts to chart a modern revolution. From the introduction of the 3-point line to today, the game has changed drastically . . . Now, players like Steph Curry and Draymond Green are leading the charge. In chapters like “The Geography of the NBA,” “The Interior Minister (Lebron James),” “The Evolution of Steph Curry,” and “The Investor (James Harden),” Goldsberry explains why today’s on-court product—with its emphasis on shooting, passing, and spacing—has never been prettier or more democratic. And it’s never been more popular. For fans of Bill Simmons and FreeDarko,SprawlBall is a bold new vision of the game, presenting an innovative, cutting-edge look at the sport based on the latest research, as well as a visual and infographic feast for fans.

30 review for SprawlBall: A Visual Tour of the New Era of the NBA

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Routh

    I am a longtime reader of Goldsberry from his Grantland days. Anything I find of his online is generally worth reading and I will be happy to continue to click on his name in the future. But I don't feel like Goldsberry put enough into this book; it was OK, but I felt somewhat disappointed. The overriding problem with this book is that Goldsberry simply doesn't have enough material to fill an entire book, so he resorts to a number of ploys. First is the weird two-column format (so that there is I am a longtime reader of Goldsberry from his Grantland days. Anything I find of his online is generally worth reading and I will be happy to continue to click on his name in the future. But I don't feel like Goldsberry put enough into this book; it was OK, but I felt somewhat disappointed. The overriding problem with this book is that Goldsberry simply doesn't have enough material to fill an entire book, so he resorts to a number of ploys. First is the weird two-column format (so that there is more blank space on each page). Second are the loads of illustrations: not his charts, which are great, but cartoon pictures of various basketball players that I simply couldn't have cared less about. While I simply ignored the illustrations for the most part, I began to recognize that some near-full page illustrations show up in the book in more than one place. It was an insulting scheme to pad the page count. I felt like a sucker to have paid for the hardcover. Another major problem with the book is the lack of editing for repetition. The book reads like several longform magazine articles strung together, with no attempt made to edit out points that are made in more than one chapter. Often Goldsberry makes a near-identical point in multiple chapters in a row, often referencing many of the exact same players (Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr, etc) in each instance. It really is not fair to the reader to have identical points made again and again in the same way. On top of this is a weird writing style that crops up from time to time - comparing basketball to buildings in Madrid that 98% of his readers would have no idea about (like me), referring to players as "NBA bros", etc. There were many poor writing decisions like this that made the whole thing feel clunky and undercooked. If you like Goldsberry's charts, there is a fair amount of good stuff in here - maybe a touch less than I expected, but still a lot of material to savor. Most are in the format that he is known for, but there is a decent variety to review. And I appreciated that Goldsberry takes a stand against the sprawlball trend and makes a number of fun/interesting rule change proposals in the final chapter to try to rejuvenate basketball and make 2-pointers worth shooting again. But I would have preferred if Goldsberry had developed another idea or two and created a proper book instead of getting together 100 decent pages and padding it out to 225.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Nguyen

    In February of 2018, Reddit user u/BreezyBlue had just finished a 4-year prison sentence and incredulously asked, "Wow the Warriors are really good now. Is Stephen Curry really the best player in the NBA?" According to the NBA's previous year's MVP award, the answer was a unanimous yes. To answer our time-traveler's follow-up questions of Why? and How? I would direct him Kirk Goldsberry's Sprawlball. Kirk Goldsberry was mostly known to me as the guy who made awesome shot charts, but he also spent In February of 2018, Reddit user u/BreezyBlue had just finished a 4-year prison sentence and incredulously asked, "Wow the Warriors are really good now. Is Stephen Curry really the best player in the NBA?" According to the NBA's previous year's MVP award, the answer was a unanimous yes. To answer our time-traveler's follow-up questions of Why? and How? I would direct him Kirk Goldsberry's Sprawlball. Kirk Goldsberry was mostly known to me as the guy who made awesome shot charts, but he also spent time as the VP of Analytics for the San Antonio Spurs. Sprawlball tells a familiar tale: the rules of a game are set, and "Jeopardy James" abuses the economics of the Daily Double and algorithmic traders gobble-up tiny arbitrage opportunities. The NBA has, likewise, been in the process of squeezing out every statistical advantage from the three-point line and rules protecting shooters. Goldsberry doesn't really need to spend much time making a case here, but rather spends time pulling back the curtains on what you already know to be true. As a huge NBA fan, this is one of the few NBA books that I really feel increased my knowledge, not just of league history but also basketball strategy. Sprawlball is not a perfect book by any means. There is a lot of repetition of knowledge that could have been edited out. Some of the pivotal charts maddeningly span from dark purple (good) to white (average) to dark green (bad). And also, the chapter recounting the Warrior's 15-16 championship run was a bit meandering. But overall, holy crap I ate through this book and loved it. The next time one of your friends gets out of a long prison stay and is confused about the state of the NBA, boy do I have a book for them.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nick Klagge

    Great fun to read during the NBA playoffs. I don't agree with everything in the book, but it's definitely increased my enjoyment of watching games to think about KG's assertions. To give an overly simplified summary, the book characterizes the ways data and analytics are changing NBA basketball, much as they changed MLB baseball a decade or so ago. In particular, the book focuses on analyzing the spatial distribution of shot efficiency. (This is certainly not news to NBA teams, but rather Great fun to read during the NBA playoffs. I don't agree with everything in the book, but it's definitely increased my enjoyment of watching games to think about KG's assertions. To give an overly simplified summary, the book characterizes the ways data and analytics are changing NBA basketball, much as they changed MLB baseball a decade or so ago. In particular, the book focuses on analyzing the spatial distribution of shot efficiency. (This is certainly not news to NBA teams, but rather presenting the analysis to a broader lay audience.) Briefly speaking, the most efficient shots are dunks and layups, followed by 3-pointers. In general, two-point jumpshots are inefficient. An understanding of this spatial distribution, which the NBA started recording in the early 2000s, drives much of NBA strategy today. The Golden State Warriors were the first team to effectively exploit this analysis starting around 2015, when Steve Kerr became their head coach. GS plays a "small-ball" style of basketball, focusing on 3-point shooting and spreading the defense, while eschewing a traditional center (their "center" for many seasons was Draymond Green, who is "only" 6' 7"). Mike Dantoni's Houston Rockets, led by James Harden, are the team that has taken this philosophy the farthest, becoming a formidable if not dominant force in the Western Conference. (As I write this, the Rockets just lost their playoff series to the Warriors.) KG's book strikes me as about equal parts insightful analysis and cranky get-off-my-lawnism. He is openly nostalgic for the NBA of the '90s, where big post-up centers and power forwards like Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Karl Malone were forces to be reckoned with, and guards like Michael Jordan shot more fadeaways. He frequently says (and the book is full of repetition) that watching catch-and-shoot 3's is boring and that basketball is becoming a monoculture. But I have to say that it's tough to agree with KG's skepticism while watching the 2019 playoffs, which have been filled with incredibly good and exciting basketball. Yes, teams shoot a lot of 3-pointers. But who have been some of the most impactful players? Off the top of my head, I'd include the Bucks's Giannis Antetokounmpo (6' 11", 242, probably this year's MVP); the Sixers' Joel Embiid (7' 0", 250); the Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (7' 0", 250). Doesn't exactly sound like the death of the big man to me. The thing about those three guys is that they bring a lot more than just size and post-up ability to the game. They all have great playmaking and passing ability (following in the footsteps of LeBron James), and yes, they can hit 3-pointers too. I would much rather watch any of those three guys than Shaq any day. I also wish that KG had taken the analysis a step further to look at how a "sprawlball" offense impacts the aesthetics of possessions as a whole. Yes, it is fairly easy to say that "a catch-and-shoot three" isn't that exciting. But the possession as a whole becomes more exciting when the team is working together to get their shooters open looks--there is a much higher premium on inspired passing in a sprawlball offense; it doesn't take much teamwork to give the big man the rock and let him post up. Sure, a mediocre sprawlball offense will feature a bunch of guys just standing around the 3-point line waiting to get the ball, but at least in the 2019 playoffs, that hasn't been enough to win series. In addition, my casual empiricist observation is that a higher frequency of 3-point shooting leads to larger swings in leads over the course of the game (natural because a 3-point shot has a higher variance than a 2 in terms of points outcome), which can make the game more exciting. There are more misses, but I don't think the gap is big enough to be that noticeable (players make like 35% of 3's and 50% of 2's). Finally, rebounding becomes all the more important, and I think it has made the difference in several playoff games this year. KG says that if you like basketball today, you should also be an advocate of reform, because the game has not finished changing. He sees the future as a whole league that looks like today's Houston Rockets, only more so. I'm skeptical that this is the case. To me, the Rockets are more of an object lesson in the limits of a "pure" sprawlball style. They have taken it farther than anyone in the league, but while it's made them a good team, it hasn't made them dominant, despite having the league MVP to boot. All that said, I do think some of KG's suggestions for reforms make sense. He's gotten a lot of attention online for his suggestion that different teams should be allowed to draw 3-point lines in different places, much like MLB parks have different "home run lines." But I actually think some of the subtler proposals would be better ideas. One would simply be a change in officiating to allow hand-checking, which was banned in the early 2000s. KG traces the current dominance of small guards like Steph Curry to this officiating change. I think just reverting this might add more balance to the game without totally upending it. A similarly limited idea that I liked would be to create a "paint" zone in the corner-3 area, with a 3-second violation just like the lane. KG complains a lot about what he calls "rooks," i.e. players that are just automatically sent to loiter in those corners because they are the most efficient outside shots. Watching the playoffs, I agree that there is a lot of this going on, resulting in quite a bit of 3-on-3 play. The motivation for this "paint" would be the same as in the lane, that you shouldn't be able to just camp out in a place where points can be scored most easily. (As an aside, another benefit for me of reading this book was learning a little more about the ways NBA rules have been changed over the years in response to developments in the sport.) Finally, I think KG's analysis has something to offer even in the context of my own non-sports profession, financial regulation. He opines that while teams have used analytics to build their own strategy, the league is just as well positioned to use analytics to alter the rules to keep the game fair, balanced, and entertaining. I think much the same can be said for financial regulation and probably other kinds as well. Bank stress testing, where I work, does a decent job of using data and analytics to set effective rules and improve them in an iterative way. KG's perspective shows the importance of retaining flexibility, awareness, and responsiveness in keeping rules up to date.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    A super thoughtful gift from Dr. Matt Andrews. Every hoop nerd should read this book to understand the offensive revolution that hoop is going through. Tbh, social scientists and historians in general might get a lot out of this book in terms of understanding sudden trends, causation, and homogenization of cultures. That might seem like a lot to put on a book about 3 pointers, but I think Goldsberry develops a lot of themes that go well beyond hoops. His base argument is that while the frequency A super thoughtful gift from Dr. Matt Andrews. Every hoop nerd should read this book to understand the offensive revolution that hoop is going through. Tbh, social scientists and historians in general might get a lot out of this book in terms of understanding sudden trends, causation, and homogenization of cultures. That might seem like a lot to put on a book about 3 pointers, but I think Goldsberry develops a lot of themes that go well beyond hoops. His base argument is that while the frequency of 3 point shots has increased at a steady if modest clip since the institution of the shot in 1979, the last 8 years or so have witnessed a sudden spike pioneered by teams like the Dubs and the Rockets. Goldsberry explains this shift in a few ways. Some of it is the long term trend away from the dominant big man; something like 25 of the first 30 or so MVPs were big men, but since the 80s they have steadily been on the decline. Rule changes like the widening of the paint and the allowance of more contact in the post than the 3 area have contributed to this shift. Some of it is more cultural: the steady quantification of more and more of our society, the money-ball style search for efficiency. Some of it is more eclectic and random: the rise of phenomenally talented players like Curry and Harden who developed unique and unprecedented skills to take full advantage of the game (Curry's developing of the 3 point shot off the shimmy-shake dribble and Harden's all-time-great step back). The NBA's decision to crack down on hand checking made driving easier, which makes the drive and kick 3 one of the core plays of the NBA today. And yes, this is sort of an annales-school explanation of 3-point shooting. Goldsberry charts this story through the careers of Curry, Harden, and Kevin Love. He shows how Love has completely shifted to a bang-em-up post guy to a leaner catch and shoot guy. He has awesome charts that show the homogenization of shots and the greater efficiency (in points per shot) of shot very close to the hoop and very far away. He shows how Lebron has maintained a status as the best player in the league mainly by being ultra-efficient around the hoop (dunks and other vicious rim assaults) and by increasingly driving and kicking to spot up threes. He tracks the extinction of certain types of players like Al Jefferson and Roy Hibbert. The former is a tricky power forward type who takes a lot of mid-rangers and has a set of clever post moves. The latter was a dominant rim defender and classic big doofus who just muscled guys at the rim. Both of them, and dozens of people like them, are out of a job. Their offensive efficiency levels are low, and they can't guard quick 3 point shooting guards off the catch. Curry or Harden going against Hibbert at the top of the key will be a bucket 90% of the time. So increasingly NBA guys are getting smaller, quicker, and more homogeneous. Just look at the Rockets and Warriors and Celtics rosters. Who is the point guard? Who is the center? This book doesn't just point these things out, but explains who the 3 revolution has changed what NBA players look like and how they behave. The last bit of the book features some really interesting ideas about how (or whether) to change the rules to move away from rising 3 point dominance. Some of them were silly: I hated the idea of letting gyms rate their own lines, which would make comparative stats all but meaningless. The real thing to do would be to allow more contact on the perimeter, cut down on Harden-esque nonsense foul drawing, and then narrow the lane to allow more post play. Goldsberry makes a great case that the NBA has always adjusted the rules to ensure better competitive balance and aesthetics for the game, and there's no reason no to do so now. Why might the 3 point revolution be bad for the game, you might ask. Goldsberry argues is that it destroys variety in the game. Everyone is increasingly doing the same thing; stick guys in the corner, run a pick and roll to get a favorable switch, then either attack the hoop, shoot a 3, or kick to the wing for a 3. I couldn't help but notice in recent Rockets-Warriors games that they were doing this over and over again. Part of what makes basketball the greatest game every (which it objectively is) is the "choose your weapon" element. Some teams ride dominant big men, others choose fleet-footed wings to outrun opponents, others are 3-heavy, and others go with slashers and mid range guys like Kobe and KD. The fun is in the variety, the match-up of different styles. Of course, what we are now seeing is that some of these styles aren't as efficient as taking 40-50% of your shots from 3, like the Rockets do. If the best teams are doing that kind of stuff, odds are other teams will try to copy them, homogenizing the league further. Goldsberry's conclusion is, in the end, quite humanistic: it's the league's prerogative, and maybe even its responsibility, to counter the tyranny of math and incentivize a more diverse game. I, for one, love watching amazing 3 point shooters like Steph, but I hate watching guys with varied and interesting games homogenize to the trend and start jacking up threes, especially when they aren't very good at it. I want to see Stephs and Harden, but I also want to see slashing De'Aaron Foxes, bruisers like Embiid, mid-range assassins like Kawhi and KD, and smooth-footed fat bastards like Jokic. I'm with Goldsberry; let a thousand flowers bloom. Anything to not have to watch Brook Lopez clang another 3.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    Five-stars for the first half, 2.5 to 3 stars for the second half, averaged and rounded up to 4 stars. And that's as much data as I can manage. I picked up this book at my brother-in-law's house and started flipping through it. I was immediately taken by this image: The caption at the bottom reads, "No wonder the midrange is dying. it's basic economics." Paired up with other infographics throughout, early on the book helped me see basketball - particularly the NBA - in a new light. This book Five-stars for the first half, 2.5 to 3 stars for the second half, averaged and rounded up to 4 stars. And that's as much data as I can manage. I picked up this book at my brother-in-law's house and started flipping through it. I was immediately taken by this image: The caption at the bottom reads, "No wonder the midrange is dying. it's basic economics." Paired up with other infographics throughout, early on the book helped me see basketball - particularly the NBA - in a new light. This book helped me enjoy the game more than I have since when I played it myself back in the 9th grade. I taught economics for the first time this year. As often as I could, I wanted to hammer in just what economics actually is: scarcity and choice. (I actually teach 3 definitions - basically, the making, selling, and buying of stuff; and the study of how we decide (choice) to make/do with our scarce resources...) That infographic afforded me the opportunity to hammer that point home yet again with something many, many students love: basketball. (And I know the dangers of teachers - especially male teachers - using, and overusing sports analogies... I tend to avoid them.) But we could watch 30 seconds of Kareem's sky hook, 30 seconds of Kobe's midrange fade-away, and 30 seconds of a Curry 3-point clinic. And then we could talk about how the chart shows scarcity and choice, and the predictions the book would be making: the game is changing. I mean, this is obvious, right? I haven't followed basketball for years, but I know that Steph Curry changed the game, and I know how. But maybe the game was on a trajectory to change whether he was the catalyst or not. The book was great. It must have been a monumental task to track that many shots, let alone where they were shot from. To plot them out. To get some meaningful datamaps out of the whole ordeal. (It's not enough just to gather data of course: the challenge is finding ways to use it correctly, and creatively.) The problem with the book was that it got repetitive after a while. The three point line changed the game. I got that after chapter one. Now I know how my students feel when I'm hammering home a point they already know. It picked back up at the very end, though, where Goldsberry was giving suggestions for how to keep the game interesting. Custom-lines? Brilliant. I would totally watch the NBA again if each court got to determine their own lines. What if... WHAT IF each team got to make their custom court (key, three, half-court/no half court) but they had to keep it for 5 years? What if Adam Silver decided the lines each week? There's got to be a way to computerize them onto the court, right? Brilliant. Allow defensive goal-tending again? Love it. Spike that shit like a volleyball. Beautiful. #NotInMyHouse. It was a good book that reminded me of a game I once loved, and brought me back on board. I watched more NBA this year than I have in the past 20, and it was mostly because of this book. I'll add that you can also see the influence of Shea Serrano here, of whom I'm also a fan. Also because of my brother-in-law, who is up with all the current greats. So, if you see that guy, give him a thumbs up.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Adam Zerner

    As a serious basketball fan, some of the stuff in this book was old news to me. For example, the idea that threes are more efficient shots than twos. But the book did give me a better understanding of a lot of these ideas. I didn't realize that shooting percentages don't really get that much different as you move farther out. I never thought too much about how efficient it is to draw fouls. Or how important it is to be able to have a quick release on your threes. Or how quickly the extinction of As a serious basketball fan, some of the stuff in this book was old news to me. For example, the idea that threes are more efficient shots than twos. But the book did give me a better understanding of a lot of these ideas. I didn't realize that shooting percentages don't really get that much different as you move farther out. I never thought too much about how efficient it is to draw fouls. Or how important it is to be able to have a quick release on your threes. Or how quickly the extinction of traditional big is going extinct. Eg. Kevin Love's post game basically disappearing and him shooting more threes than Reggie Miller used to. I also really liked how Goldsberry provided a lot of historical context, about rules have changed over the years. The thing that I didn't like is that I found the book to be very repetitive. The same ideas were harped on and brought up over and over and over again. Another thing I didn't like is that at times it felt like there was a lot of just recapping certain events. For example, there was a chapter on LeBron, and the chapter spent a long time just going over his career, sort of giving a lot of play-by-play recaps at times, as opposed to talking about some unique or insightful idea.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    This book is physically beautiful and contains some revolutionary ideas about NBA basketball, but it should have been half the length at most. Goldsberry repeats the same points over and over and over again, leaving me feeling frustrated instead of intrigued by his new ideas. Some of Goldsberry's observations center around the decline of centers amidst the rising supremacy of the three-pointer. Using a slew of spectacular graphs and charts, Goldsberry shows with stunning clarity how the NBA game This book is physically beautiful and contains some revolutionary ideas about NBA basketball, but it should have been half the length at most. Goldsberry repeats the same points over and over and over again, leaving me feeling frustrated instead of intrigued by his new ideas. Some of Goldsberry's observations center around the decline of centers amidst the rising supremacy of the three-pointer. Using a slew of spectacular graphs and charts, Goldsberry shows with stunning clarity how the NBA game has moved out onto the perimeter. Goldsberry has some fascinating ideas about how to counter this trend (move the three-point line two feet further out, make the lane half as wide to allow for more post play, call contact under the basket as fouls just like contact around the perimeter). He saves those ideas for the very end, so I was glad that I made it through his repetitive prose.

  8. 4 out of 5

    P

    I have enjoyed much of Kirk Goldsberry's work online for a while now, so getting this book was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, it suffered from a number of maladies: 1. Not a ton of new content if you follow Goldsberry online, or if you are generally knowledgeable about basic basketball analytics. 2. It was extremely redundant, with a handful of themes hammered home over and over and over and over again. This book could have easily been a 5 part series on Grantland, for example. 3. I thought a lot of I have enjoyed much of Kirk Goldsberry's work online for a while now, so getting this book was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, it suffered from a number of maladies: 1. Not a ton of new content if you follow Goldsberry online, or if you are generally knowledgeable about basic basketball analytics. 2. It was extremely redundant, with a handful of themes hammered home over and over and over and over again. This book could have easily been a 5 part series on Grantland, for example. 3. I thought a lot of the analysis of various players was uneven and sometimes even hypocritical. He seems to take special aim at Steph Curry (no mention of his injury during 2016 Finals was surprising and certainly not consistent with the style of the rest of the book, where caveats often abound) and Draymond Green (basically saying he cheats on every play on defense, which is ridiculous to single him out for in today's NBA). On the good sign, the graphics are nice, and I think this would be a GREAT book for someone who isn't a big-time basketball fan and would appreciate being spoonfed some modern analytics with particular respect to the three point line. Finally, some of the suggestions for fixing this "problem" with the modern NBA were fascinating. Overall, I was disappointed. 4.5/10.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kapil Kashyap

    A really interesting and insightful look into how big men and interior scoring have been marginalized through a few key rule changes, resulting in the emphasis on 3pt shooting that we're witnessing in today's NBA

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sándor Sóvágó

    The stories, analytics, and visuals are awesome. The recommendations about the aesthetics of the game (ch 7) are somewhat silly. Overall, I highly recommend it to any NBA/stats nerd!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Vishal Katariya

    Fun read. Lots learnt.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Very provocative. Great graphics of course. Interesting ideas to fix the problems caused by the league becoming obsessed with threes. And absolutely wonderful (and funny) artwork.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bowman Dickson

    Beautiful book and really intersting. Needed a better editor - it’s super repetitive, could be half the size. Awesome graphics.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marty Monforte

    The NBA has changed much over the years. In the past, the point guard would bring the basketball down the court and pass the ball to the center or the power forward, who was often positioned close to the basket. Many coaches and players considered that to be a high percentage shot. If the center or power forward was covered well, then the point guard would look to pass to someone else. Or if the center or power forward received the pass close to the basket and was double teamed, he would pass The NBA has changed much over the years. In the past, the point guard would bring the basketball down the court and pass the ball to the center or the power forward, who was often positioned close to the basket. Many coaches and players considered that to be a high percentage shot. If the center or power forward was covered well, then the point guard would look to pass to someone else. Or if the center or power forward received the pass close to the basket and was double teamed, he would pass the basketball out back to the guards. Teams would routinely look to draft or sign big men. They would consistently look to acquire a dominant center or power forward. This appeared to be the way to win games and have successful seasons. George Mikan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Wes Unseld, Bob Lanier, Kareem Abdul Jabaar and others were considered to be impact players. Later on, Hakeem Alajuwon, Shaquielle Oneal, Tim Duncan would lead teams to championships. However, the game is different now. It is common now for teams to focus on the perimeter game. Often, all five players will station themselves in back of the three point line. All five players on the court are often capable of making three point shots. Players are spaced out in back of the three point line. The three point shot has often become the first option in today's NBA. Kirk Goldsberry, in his book "Sprawlball: A Visual Tour of the New Era of the NBA" discusses this change and other changes in the NBA. Goldsberry does a good job of chronicling some of the changes that the league has experienced. He does a good job of contrasting the modern day NBA with the NBA of the past. The change from emphasizing interior offense to perimeter offense is discussed by Goldsberry. He points out that the change has been gradual from year to year. The changes slowly began in 1979 when the three point shot was introduced. Goldsberry also points out that the focus on the three point shot influences how teams build rosters. The league simply values the perimeter game more than the interior game. Goldsberry refers to Steph Curry as a good example of how the NBA has changed. Curry, Goldberry points out, became the NBA's all time best three point shooter by creating his own shot. Before Curry and other modern players, three point shooters often made shots after they caught passes in back of the three point line. This is known as "catch and shoot." However, Curry is able to create his own shot in isolation. Goldsberry points out that Curry would not have become the best three point shooter in league history without being able to dribble well and work in isolation. Additionally, Goldsberry points out that during the 2015 playoffs, Curry was also able to score closer to the basket along the the interior. This made Curry a more effective three point shooter as well because teams had to guard against Curry scoring from the interior and the perimeter. In fact, many NBA players today can score from the interior and the perimeter. Point guards and shooting guards will dribble in back of the three point line and score from beyond the arc or dribble into the lane and try and score. The player may score, get fouled or miss the shot. However, many times a skilled offensive player will score. The rules favor the offense. Since defensive players are no longer allowed to hand check the offensive player, the ball handler can go to the basket unimpeded. This is true for Curry, but is also true for players like James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and many other strong offensive players. Goldsberry points out that Curry had made 402 three point shots between 2014-2016. Those two seasons established Curry as the game's best offensive player. It also helped further solidify the NBA has a three point shooting league. The league had been slowly moving in that direction since 1979, the year the three point shot became part of the NBA. However, by the end of 2016, the transition was complete. The shooting guards in the NBA take many shots from the three point line. Goldsberry points out that "By 2018, NBA shooting guards were taking over 40 percent of their shots from three-point range." The guards concentrate on making three point shots. The three point shot had become the "bread and butter" shot for point guards and shooting guards. Goldsberry emphasizes that as the number of three point shots have increased, the offensive attempts in the interior have decreased. Accuracy in three point shooting is obviously very important. However, quickness is also imperative. Goldsberry says "When we talk about shooting effectiveness, we're quick to talk about accuracy, but we also need to consider speed. As threes become more and more important in our sport, the ability of guys to catch and shoot quickly will become increasingly prominent in our conversations about shooting ability." Players will need to continue to shoot quickly so that their shots are not contested or blocked. Accuracy and quickness are hallmarks of good perimeter shooters. When discussing the changes in the game, Goldsberry makes some interesting points: He says the league has had the three point shot more years than it did not have the three point shot. Goldsberry points out that the league, since it's founding in 1947, has been willing to change it's rulebook to keep the league exciting and unique. Goldsberry also discusses the way that the 24 second shot clock altered the NBA game. Goldsberry points out the extent to which George Mikan's dominance influenced certain rule changes in the NBA. Ironically, Mikan was the ABA commissioner when the league adopted the three point shot. Of course, the ABA's influence was instrumental in the NBA's decision to implement the three point shot. Goldsberry makes a good point in the final chapter of the book: He says "In the 2018 NBA playoffs were any indication, the current aesthetic is dominated by three interrelated trends: positional versatility, perimeter shooting, and isolation plays." This is a good point. The current NBA is all about versatile, multi- talented players who can shoot from the outside and create their own shot. This is not only the trend of the current NBA, it is the reality of the modern day NBA. It is where the league is at. It is the present day approach of most teams. Proponents of the modern day approach say that the game is more fluid and exciting. Critics of the modern day game say that the NBA lacks balance. Both the proponents and the critics like and support the NBA. Proponents and critics simply have different view points. The offensive game of the NBA is at an all time high. Teams score a lot of points and have excellent shooting range with the basketball. However, the emphasis on offense has taken away from the defense. Defense appears to be played with less pride and urgency. Shots are contested, but most defensive attempts to contest shots are ineffective and too slow. Additionally, players who are in back of the perimeter can always dribble by the defender if they decide not to shoot a three point shot. The emphasis on the perimeter game also takes away from offensive rebounding because all five players are often in back of the three point line so they are out of position for an offensive rebound. Nevertheless, this is where the NBA is today. Fans and observers can still enjoy the game. The games are played by good athletes with distinctive skill sets. The NBA has been through many changes since 1947. The game is still worth watching and supporting. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history of the NBA. The book does a good job of showing how the league has changed through the years.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Dinges

    This is a fantastic read. In SprawlBall, Kirk Goldsberry lays out the how and why that the NBA's current 3 point loving landscape was made possible. He uses analytics and wonderful graphics to explain why teams like the Houston Rockets have decided to play the way they do, and why similar teams have joined them in their quest for efficiency on the basketball court. Then Goldsberry analyzes both what rule changes (mostly just the addition of the 3 point line) have led us to this point and all the This is a fantastic read. In SprawlBall, Kirk Goldsberry lays out the how and why that the NBA's current 3 point loving landscape was made possible. He uses analytics and wonderful graphics to explain why teams like the Houston Rockets have decided to play the way they do, and why similar teams have joined them in their quest for efficiency on the basketball court. Then Goldsberry analyzes both what rule changes (mostly just the addition of the 3 point line) have led us to this point and all the unintended consequences that have arisen as a result. I have to say I was expecting this to be more of an analytics love story. That it's not is of no small credit to Goldsberry. Rather than simply fawn over where teams can take advantage of the best point per possession on the court, he then asks, "Why is it this way?" and most importantly, "Is the most efficient way of playing basketball the most interesting kind of basketball to watch?" Goldsberry's answer to that question probably lines up well with many NBA fans. It is a hard line to walk to have content in this book that should appeal to analytics obsessives, old school hardheads, and those in-between, and yet I think Goldsberry has done that here. He does not invalidate or attack any way of looking at the modern game, just explains how it came to be and asks if there are ways to change it that make it less homogeneous and more visually appealing. It felt well balanced and raises a ton of valid points. The writing is strong, apart from a few pet peeves. You can only read people described as "fella" so many times before it starts to grate. But obviously that's splitting hairs. This book was better than I was expecting and was smart. It is a succinct explanation for how the NBA game has evolved and attempts to provide some answers on steps that can be taken to assure that it remains diverse and entertaining. I'd call this must reading for any fan of the NBA and I hope Goldsberry applies his unique visual storytelling to more NBA material in the future.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ian Kloester

    It gets a little repetitive at times but this book is a fantastic breakdown of how nba basketball has become the game it is today. I spent some time doing video breakdowns and analytics at a semi-pro level over the last 10 years and I can confirm that the math behind the change in the game is as simple as it is undeniable. Yet - as outlined so clearly in Michael Lewis’ book on baseball analytics, Moneyball - the old school brigade resisted the data and clung to what they knew or how they were It gets a little repetitive at times but this book is a fantastic breakdown of how nba basketball has become the game it is today. I spent some time doing video breakdowns and analytics at a semi-pro level over the last 10 years and I can confirm that the math behind the change in the game is as simple as it is undeniable. Yet - as outlined so clearly in Michael Lewis’ book on baseball analytics, Moneyball - the old school brigade resisted the data and clung to what they knew or how they were coached before analytics made plain the path the game’s now on. This book shows how those who embraced the data have changed the nba game and succeeded while those who haven’t have gone the way of the dodo. Put simply, if you want to win, spot-up threes and layups or dunks are what you play for and all the rest are the path to losing. The author laments the loss of post-up play and the mid-range shots and the role of the big man. He even shows quite clearly, with some regret it must be said, how even Michael Jordan’s way of playing back in the day isn’t as efficient as how today’s winners are going about it. As a 6’3” center myself, I never fail to be impressed by those pesky guards who can shoot the lights out from beyond the arc and so I am still entranced by the magic of Steph Curry’s long range game. But the author argues the time is coming - if it hasn’t already arrived - when fans will be as tired of this style of play as he is. And so he argues some novel rule and/or court marking changes to bring back a role for the slower bigger players that used to dominate the play. His knowledge is cutting edge. The illustrations really help tell the story. His love of the game is plain to see. If you’re a basketball aficionado it doesn’t come hotter off the presses than this one. One for the library, especially if you’re one of those coaches who screams at your players for shooting too many threes or hates letting your players run fast breaks to score uncontested layups.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pete

    Sprawlball : A Visual Tour of the New Era of the NBA (2019) by Kirk Goldsberry is a fascinating read about the way the NBA has changed in response to rule changes and because of better basketball analytics. The sprawl of the title comes from the way players now assemble around the three point line and take many more three pointers than they used to, as the book puts it: "Consider this crazy stat: during a single season, 2017-2018, NBA shooters made 25,807 three-point shots. That's more than they Sprawlball : A Visual Tour of the New Era of the NBA (2019) by Kirk Goldsberry is a fascinating read about the way the NBA has changed in response to rule changes and because of better basketball analytics. The sprawl of the title comes from the way players now assemble around the three point line and take many more three pointers than they used to, as the book puts it: "Consider this crazy stat: during a single season, 2017-2018, NBA shooters made 25,807 three-point shots. That's more than they made in the entire 1980s. Between 1979 and the conclusion of the 1989-90 season, NBA shooters converted 23,871 three-pointers" The book details why this happens and puts it down to two things. The first being better data on the NBA showing the percentages of each shot from around the court and how the percentage likelihood drops dramatically from very close the the ring and only gradually goes down to outside the three point line so that the average value of a shot from mid-range jumpers is considerably lower than the average value of a shot from the three point line. The other thing being the rule changes to disallow hand checking except in post positions. While this is, in essence, a fairly simple argument the book goes through various great NBA series and looks in detail at a number of great NBA players. The non-fiction narrative of the book is very well done. The thesis is very strong. The only quibble would be with how much difference did the hand check rule change make, each season more and more the pointers are being taken and it's only until 10 years after the big change to the hand check rule that three pointers really take off. Perhaps that was more because of analytics than the change to the rule. For any NBA fan the book is definitely recommended. It's a very good sports book. The use of statistics with a non-fiction narrative is really well done.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Matt Bowyer

    A very good breakdown of the modern shift of the NBA to three pointers and layups. Things I liked: * The Steph Curry and LeBron James chapters, especially showcasing how hard they worked and how many changes they made to their own games to evolve and become more efficient * The charts. I cannot say enough nice things about the beautiful charts. * Many quality turns of phrase. * Absolutely stellar artwork. Aaron Dana's art is outstanding. Things I didn't like: * There's a lot of repetition. It felt A very good breakdown of the modern shift of the NBA to three pointers and layups. Things I liked: * The Steph Curry and LeBron James chapters, especially showcasing how hard they worked and how many changes they made to their own games to evolve and become more efficient * The charts. I cannot say enough nice things about the beautiful charts. * Many quality turns of phrase. * Absolutely stellar artwork. Aaron Dana's art is outstanding. Things I didn't like: * There's a lot of repetition. It felt like six essays put into a book instead of a six-chapter book, because the essays constantly restated things as if they'd never been said before, like how many shots Reggie Miller took in comparison to DeMarcus Cousins. * Some turns of phrase that sat poorly with me. * A lot of stretched out points, even aside from the repetition mentioned above. There are too many one-sentence haymaker paragraphs that don't land. Things I didn't agree with: * I don't particularly want to pour one out for Al Jefferson's six seconds of backing into a slightly larger Al Jefferson because I don't find post work all that scintillating. * I think in focusing so heavily on the Rockets and Daryl Morey's brand of basketball, Goldsberry is downplaying to outright ignoring the rest of the NBA. While Milwaukee also has a three-centric offense, how they use Antetekounmpo is wildly different from how Houston uses Harden. While Milwaukee's rise really established itself this year, Golden State's heavy off-ball movement offense was already well established, and Joel Embiid was already a game changing big. * While I agree that the removal of hand-checking changed basketball for good, I think I feel more positively about it than Goldsberry. Basketball! It's good. This was a very good read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    This is a really interested book that in some ways reminds me of Chris Ballard's The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan's Tour of the NBA based on content and the FreeDarko Presents: The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History and FreeDarko Presents: The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac: Styles, Stats, and Stars in Today's Game based on the cool visuals and artwork. This is a deep, statistics-driven drive on how the NBA has changed after the implementation of the 3-point line in This is a really interested book that in some ways reminds me of Chris Ballard's The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan's Tour of the NBA based on content and the FreeDarko Presents: The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History and FreeDarko Presents: The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac: Styles, Stats, and Stars in Today's Game based on the cool visuals and artwork. This is a deep, statistics-driven drive on how the NBA has changed after the implementation of the 3-point line in 1979. It shows how positions have been revolutionized by this while focusing at some of the top players in the league. It's very interesting, and I enjoyed how Goldsberry looked at the ramifications for fans, and what to do to alter NBA rules to make the game more watchable, rather than just a game of 3-pointers and free throws. There are some parts where Goldsberry seems to repeat himself a bit, and one graphic on page 108 left me confused enough that I needed to check a game's box score. Even with those minor complaints, this was a fun and speedy read for any NBA fan.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Strouse

    If you are someone who religiously follows the nba, obsessively listens to nba related podcasts and waits on pins and needles for your favorite nba authors to write about salary cap issues or players efficiencies than this book is not for you. This book outlines everything that has beeen talked about for the past 5 years if you pay attention to basketball. Threes are good, mid range bad, free throws good and layups good. It outlines player transformations to adjust to the current currency in the If you are someone who religiously follows the nba, obsessively listens to nba related podcasts and waits on pins and needles for your favorite nba authors to write about salary cap issues or players efficiencies than this book is not for you. This book outlines everything that has beeen talked about for the past 5 years if you pay attention to basketball. Threes are good, mid range bad, free throws good and layups good. It outlines player transformations to adjust to the current currency in the nba which is points per shot. Now, for someone who interested in how the league has changed and for why. They should read this. The book has great visuals and explanations for everything bout the current state of the game. The last chapter was my favorite because it talked about ways the nba can change to bring back diversity in how the nba is played. One last comment, this book said the same thing pretty much every chapter which is extremely annoying. How many times can you say the 3 is good and 2 is bad. Just state the facts and story instead of repeating the same sentence over and over again with different imagery. I get it. You could probably skip the entire first chapter because that’s all it said.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ankit

    I'm an NBA nerd so it was fairly inevitable that I would enjoy this book. The book starts by highlighting specific players and how the new era of Sprawlball (i.e., small-ball) has affected their games. All of this makes sense and it was great to see the data that backed this up. But these facts are largely known. However, what I found most interesting were the later chapters of the book where we learn how the NBA has basically legislated this type of play into existence. Goldsberry highlights the I'm an NBA nerd so it was fairly inevitable that I would enjoy this book. The book starts by highlighting specific players and how the new era of Sprawlball (i.e., small-ball) has affected their games. All of this makes sense and it was great to see the data that backed this up. But these facts are largely known. However, what I found most interesting were the later chapters of the book where we learn how the NBA has basically legislated this type of play into existence. Goldsberry highlights the large number of rules changes affecting interior play (e.g., 3-second rule, widening of the key, illegal defense) but virtually no rules affecting play near the 3 point line. Another fact I didn't know about was that it was probably one of the greatest big men of all time that made the traditional big man virtually obsolete in today's game. George Mikan was the person credited with bringing the 3-point line into the NBA! Sprawlball is a great read if you're of the NBA-nerd variety. The chapters are long, but the story is cohesive. It will also challenge, prove or disprove some of what you take for granted in your love of this game. How is it possible that a Shaq dunk attempt is not the most efficient offensive shot attempt? This book will break it down for you!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jake D

    The book Sprawlball by Kirk Goldsberry is an amazing book. Goldsberry has a passion for the game of basketball and you can see it in this book. He explained every detail very well and gave very in-depth explanations of all the diagrams and charts. This book is about how the NBA has changed from a game were tall men battle for points inside the paint into a game where all the players are expected to shoot threes and they are shooting them at an all-time high. The title Sprawlball comes from the The book Sprawlball by Kirk Goldsberry is an amazing book. Goldsberry has a passion for the game of basketball and you can see it in this book. He explained every detail very well and gave very in-depth explanations of all the diagrams and charts. This book is about how the NBA has changed from a game were tall men battle for points inside the paint into a game where all the players are expected to shoot threes and they are shooting them at an all-time high. The title Sprawlball comes from the idea that all of the five players on offense are "sprawling" out to the three point line. My favorite section in this book was the section about Stephen Curry and how he changed the game by taking and making more threes then any other player in NBA history and revolutionizing the game of basketball. I really enjoyed this part because Steph Curry is my favorite player in the NBA and it was very impressive to see how he a totally changed the game of basketball. I would highly recommend this book to all basketball fans who are very knowledgeable of the sport. If you aren't extremely interested in the topic than this book isn't for you.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Travis Timmons

    I love Goldsberry's writing usually, and especially his shot charts. However, this book deserved a better editor. As is, Goldsberry probably had a "longread" worth of materials about the NBA's 3-ball (r)evolution, rather than this book. Some of the reviews below are accurate about the book being over-written, containing superfluous graphics/repeated images, etc. The writing was somewhat labored paragraph-to-paragraph as well. By way of improvements, I would like to see Goldsberry develop his I love Goldsberry's writing usually, and especially his shot charts. However, this book deserved a better editor. As is, Goldsberry probably had a "longread" worth of materials about the NBA's 3-ball (r)evolution, rather than this book. Some of the reviews below are accurate about the book being over-written, containing superfluous graphics/repeated images, etc. The writing was somewhat labored paragraph-to-paragraph as well. By way of improvements, I would like to see Goldsberry develop his proposed solutions to the NBA's three-pointer problem in more depth (e.g. interviewing basketball insiders about these eyes), as well as fill out a more complete account of aesthetics in basketball (he needs to read Yago Colas's Ball Don't Lie!). Yes, the actual content -- when boiled down -- is worth the read. And Goldsberry's actual analysis is convincing. It's just that this book, in general, comes off as a missed opportunity.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Phil Simon

    By way of background, I have watched the league change radically from the 80s. Capturing these changes through the lens of transformational players, Kirk Goldsberry details this evolution in a way that only he can. His heatmaps and Aaron Dana's wonderful illustrations provide compelling visuals to a fascinating story: the metamorphosis of the league. As Goldsberry points out, though, this story isn't necessarily a positive one. I for one have decried the state of the league since the Warriors' By way of background, I have watched the league change radically from the 80s. Capturing these changes through the lens of transformational players, Kirk Goldsberry details this evolution in a way that only he can. His heatmaps and Aaron Dana's wonderful illustrations provide compelling visuals to a fascinating story: the metamorphosis of the league. As Goldsberry points out, though, this story isn't necessarily a positive one. I for one have decried the state of the league since the Warriors' 73-win season. Everyone is trying to mimic Golden State and Houston but few teams possess the personnel. Beyond that, the new NBA is often painful to watch. This is the best book that I've read on the NBA since The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball by John Feinstein.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joe Hutchinson

    I loved this book for about the first 100 pages. Thoughtful, insightful, and fun. I was so hyped to read Sprawlball, and it was paying off. I was excited about basketball analytics, and I still am. I’m about to go read some MIT Sloan papers. I’m also excited to know what the shooting trends are this season, and whether our MVPs will look more like Giannis in the future even with mad men like Harden and Curry cooking from behind the arc. It seems that there was a lack of attention to detail I loved this book for about the first 100 pages. Thoughtful, insightful, and fun. I was so hyped to read Sprawlball, and it was paying off. I was excited about basketball analytics, and I still am. I’m about to go read some MIT Sloan papers. I’m also excited to know what the shooting trends are this season, and whether our MVPs will look more like Giannis in the future even with mad men like Harden and Curry cooking from behind the arc. It seems that there was a lack of attention to detail through the LeBron chapter to the end. Even during the thought-provoking discussion of potential fixes to the league’s 3-point market efficiency problems, the writing was a little bit off. Overall, I enjoyed it and would still recommend any NBA fan read the first 4 chapters.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Hinze

    If you're new to Goldsberry, this book is a distillation of a lot of his writing/talking points over the past 5+ years. The shot charts are illuminating, and the core chapters on Curry, Harden, LeBron, and Kevin Love do a great job illustrating the changing aesthetic of the game and how positions are continuing to evolve in an increasingly 3-pointer-first league. That being said, the writing is really repetitive. Certain ideas and evidence get restated to redundancy, and in many ways this felt If you're new to Goldsberry, this book is a distillation of a lot of his writing/talking points over the past 5+ years. The shot charts are illuminating, and the core chapters on Curry, Harden, LeBron, and Kevin Love do a great job illustrating the changing aesthetic of the game and how positions are continuing to evolve in an increasingly 3-pointer-first league. That being said, the writing is really repetitive. Certain ideas and evidence get restated to redundancy, and in many ways this felt more suited towards a series of articles rather than enough material to fill a book. Bottom line: if you want to read some good analysis and understand some aspects of the modern NBA you might not have considered, it's a good quick read, but the editing could have been better.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    I've started reading a basketball book during the NBA playoffs, this was a great one for that. In addition to being a great read for sports nerds, number nerds, and sports & numbers nerds, this is a really great text for making rhetorical arguments. It essentially boils down to using practical data to create a principle argument. My favorite part was the chapter of suggestions on how to change the NBA rules to once again raise the value of Bigs in basketball. That and when he broke down how I've started reading a basketball book during the NBA playoffs, this was a great one for that. In addition to being a great read for sports nerds, number nerds, and sports & numbers nerds, this is a really great text for making rhetorical arguments. It essentially boils down to using practical data to create a principle argument. My favorite part was the chapter of suggestions on how to change the NBA rules to once again raise the value of Bigs in basketball. That and when he broke down how Golden State blew a 3-1 lead. They did that. The Dubs blew a 3-1 lead to the Cavs; just in case you forgot. My only complaint is that the writing got a bit repetitive at times. Nothing big, but enough for me to get antsy every once in a while.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Excellent book. Goldsberry's shot charts revolutionized the understanding of space in the NBA, and even if you're familiar with it, it's still educational in this book. It's also written with humor. What took me by minor surprise is that the thesis of the book is that analytics optimizing the current NBA rules (with a huge emphasis on the statistically preferable 3-pointer) has led to an aesthetically worse game. I actually agree with his argument. The only negative of the book is that the Excellent book. Goldsberry's shot charts revolutionized the understanding of space in the NBA, and even if you're familiar with it, it's still educational in this book. It's also written with humor. What took me by minor surprise is that the thesis of the book is that analytics optimizing the current NBA rules (with a huge emphasis on the statistically preferable 3-pointer) has led to an aesthetically worse game. I actually agree with his argument. The only negative of the book is that the argument tends to be a bit repetitive after a while. We get it - the 3-pt line as currently constructed leads to a bad game.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jason Zimmerman

    basketball is a spatial game. who better than a cartographer to elucidate the parameters of the hypermodern nba? i’ve been a fan of goldsberry for years, and this book is a wonderful long treatment of his writing and graphical work on grantland and more recently as a freelancer. the stunning, insightful graphics are as good as you’d expect, and when married to the textual explanation, this book is darn near perfect. if you’re a basketball obsessive like me, or just want to understand what game basketball is a spatial game. who better than a cartographer to elucidate the parameters of the hypermodern nba? i’ve been a fan of goldsberry for years, and this book is a wonderful long treatment of his writing and graphical work on grantland and more recently as a freelancer. the stunning, insightful graphics are as good as you’d expect, and when married to the textual explanation, this book is darn near perfect. if you’re a basketball obsessive like me, or just want to understand what game you’re watching in the face of rapid and wholesale change, you should plunk down a few bucks on this book. it’s money well-spent.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ed Hsu

    Excellent points with lots of great visualization diagrams and supporting data. However the lengthy examination is hammered home so much that it almost ends up being a one-note complaint about how the three-point shot has ruined classic basketball. While the changes in the game and the roles of the players can't really be refuted, it elides the fact that no team really has found long-term success in it except for the Golden State Warriors, who have the best shooter of all-time, backed with Excellent points with lots of great visualization diagrams and supporting data. However the lengthy examination is hammered home so much that it almost ends up being a one-note complaint about how the three-point shot has ruined classic basketball. While the changes in the game and the roles of the players can't really be refuted, it elides the fact that no team really has found long-term success in it except for the Golden State Warriors, who have the best shooter of all-time, backed with another historically great shooter. It remains to be proven whether more teams can reliably and repeatedly succeed without Steph and Klay.

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