“Chasing Perfection” by Andy Glockner
c.2016, Da Capo Press $25.99 / $33.99 Canada 274 pages
by Terri Schlichenmeyer, OW contributorAll air.
Is there anything better in basketball? It’s sheer poetry, absolute magic, and your team
can’t do it enough – especially when it happens from the three-point line. In the new
book “Chasing Perfection” by Andy Glockner, you’ll see how science is trying to
ensure that it does, as much as possible.
Ask any baseball fan about their favorite player or team, and you’ll likely hear stats.
Baseball is known for that but baseball, says Glockner, is a relatively easy game to
analyze. Basketball, on the other hand, is different. Players in basketball have no set
pattern for play.
Analytics for basketball, therefore, is a big business.
It all started, perhaps not surprisingly, with baseball when Bill James began his Baseball
Abstract in the late 1970s. Shortly after that publication appeared, a computer database
for basketball was created to “crudely… determine a value for adding a new player to an
existing team” but, amazingly, few people were interested in the information and work on
the system ended. Nearly twenty years later, “a handful” of analysts started working on
sophisticated, deeply-detailed basketball metrics, and an industry was born.
While it’s true that analytics may be of interest to fans, the information absolutely
benefits owners, coaches, managers, and agents. Through basketball analytics, coaches
can maximize each individual players’ time on the court. Analytics can show what
happens when a certain play is used, and where. The information even “comes into play
in actual roster construction…” says Glockner.
But numbers-crunching isn’t the only thing that is revolutionizing the game.
Glockner says that “cutting-edge professional sports diagnostics” can determine which
exercises and motions can enhance physical performance without causing injury. He says
that “sophisticated scales” now measure “force and explosiveness.” Team doctors use
technology to promote muscle balance and flexibility and they can predict specifically
where on the body an injury might take place.
And yet – it still all boils down to the human factor: coaches and general managers are
needed to sort through the information and determine what’s important. And even if they
do pick the right information, players are still fallibly human.
Okay, if you’re a casual basketball fan, you can stop reading now. You’ve probably
already figured out that this just isn’t a book for you.
Nope, “Chasing Perfection” is a fierce fan’s book, filled with metrics and possibilities
featuring names you won’t recognize, and some you will. That might include the name of
Andy Glockner, whose basketball-writing background gave him access to corporations
that are working to create perfection on the court. Glockner’s fascinating behind-the-
scenes research shows how computers are altering not only the human body but the game
itself and how, as technology becomes more refined, fans can expect even greater feats of
athleticism and deepened strategy.
Again, this is not a book for casual fans. It’s filled with head-scrambling information that
won’t make much sense to you if you don’t know the game well. But if the thought of the
upcoming off-season scares you and you need more b-ball, in “Chasing Perfection,” it’s