The Force of Biases in Professional Basketball

We all have cognitive biases, it’s practically human nature for us to meet someone and have preconceived notions yet quite often we don’t realize we have these biases. The reason why these biases are so important is that while they can work in our favor, this is not always the case. There are more times in which we have to work to disprove a bias than we have to maintain one. Not only does this apply to one’s personal brand, but also to a business one may start or work for.

In the world of sports, biases are huge. There is constant coverage of players from their college days to draft day to the leagues, the media is always talking. That makes it extremely easy for us to have a bias even on a player we’ve never seen play before. 

It’s like when you ask someone who has never watched basketball, “Who’s your NBA favorite player?”. You know they’ll have one of two answers either Michael Jordan or LeBron James. However, if you would’ve asked in 2020 it would most likely be Kobe Bryant. This is because of how popular they are in the media that we hear about them constantly, it’s easy to create a bias. 

Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant (Left to Right)

A bias we see time and time again you’d think more people would be aware of is recency bias. It happens every year during the NBA playoffs. It’s the rise of someone new, and how couldn’t we also see how amazing this individual was? In the 2023 NBA playoffs, we are seeing this with Austin Reaves. 

Austin Reaves is an undrafted shooting guard who currently plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. In the first game of the Lakers Vs Grizzlies series he did amazingly, this got people talking and launched the recency bias. Now people are comparing him to last year’s recency bias Golden State Warriors point/shooting guard Jordan Poole, who people are now bashing due to his recent plays. Last year people raved about Poole’s performance the same way they are now raving about Reaves, however, it always ends the same yet even with the comparisons the bias doesn’t seem to click in people’s heads. 

Austin Reaves, Jordan Poole, and Duncan Robinson (Left to Right)

We can even take this to a couple of years back when the Miami Heats shooting guard Duncan Robinson, and how we went from loved to hated due to this bias. When the recency bias starts taking place and it reaches who it needs to reach in these organizations, it tends to come with a huge pay increase for these players. Then the next season it sometimes goes downhill, some to a greater extent than others. The reality is that good days come and go. Maybe a performance coach is needed, but you can’t really compare players that have vastly different playing styles. 

However, individuals focus so much on the most recent events they tend to overlook their regular season. When it’s normal to expect these players to over-perform in playoffs when games are more do or die. This leaves players feeling that they need to prove themselves.

Biases are huge and can make or break you if you let them. It’s important to be aware of the bias people might have towards you or your brand and plan for it. Always keep in mind that these thoughts and the talk will always exist but it’s up to you to embrace them, if positive. Or find your way to fight against it if it’s something negative.

Written by Adialis Garcia | LinkedIn

Related: The NBA & Golden State Warriors: Keeping Brands in Mind

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *