TIME NBA

Reggie Miller: ‘No Question’ Michael Jordan Tougher to Guard Than Kobe

"Michael Jordan on his worst day is ten times better than Kobe Bryant on his best day"

Kobe Bryant has surpassed Michael Jordan on the NBA’s career scoring list, but retired NBA guard Reggie Miller believes strongly that Jordan is the better player.

Miller was asked by Dan Patrick Tuesday whether Jordan or Bryant was tougher to guard. Miller said there is “no question” the answer is Jordan.

“Michael Jordan on his worst day is ten times better than Kobe Bryant on his best day,” Miller continued, “and that is not short-changing Kobe Bryant.”

Bryant surpassed Jordan’s career point total of 32,292 during Sunday’s game against the Timberwolves to move into third place on the NBA’s scoring list.

Bryant’s total currently sits at 32,331, but he has played 1,270 games, compared to Jordan’s 1,072. Jordan averaged 30.1 points per game over 15 seasons, while Bryant has averaged 25.5 points per game during his 18-year career.

Miller, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, faced Bryant 15 times in the regular season and Jordan 49 times. During those games, Jordan averaged 29.5 points and Bryant averaged 22.2 points.

This article originally appeared on Si.com

TIME Sports

What NBA Referees Can Teach Us About Overcoming Prejudices

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers
NBA referee Mark Lindsay #29 officiates the NBA game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center on Dec. 8, 2014 in Los Angeles. Victor Decolongon—Getty Images

David Berri is a professor of economics at Southern Utah University.

Evidence indicates that awareness of implicit biases can help eliminate them

Nicholas Kristof recently wrote an article as part of a series for The New York Times about race relations in the United States. Part of this article referenced a paper by Joseph Price and Justin Wolfers (published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 2010). This paper provided evidence that NBA referees suffered from implicit bias, which is defined as a “positive or negative mental attitude towards a person, thing, or group that a person holds at an unconscious level.”

Price and Wolfers’ study offered evidence that referees exhibited a negative bias against those of a different race. Specifically, their research indicated that white referees tended to call more fouls on black players, and black referees tended to call more fouls on white players. As the authors noted, this was not because of explicit racism. Rather, it was due to an implicit bias, which Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink (a book that inspired the study) indicated most people tend to have.

In response to Kristof’s column, Mike Bass, an executive vice-president of communications for the NBA, posted the following in the comments to he New York Times article:

While Nicholas Kristof calls his readers’ attention to a very significant societal issue, the study by Justin Wolfers and Joseph Price cited to support his assertion that “white N.B.A. referees disproportionally call fouls on black players, while black refs call more fouls on white players” relies on flawed methodology. It is therefore not a valid assessment of N.B.A. officiating.

The researchers considered calls made by three-man referee crews as a single entity, with majority rules determining whether a crew counted as “white” or “black.” A subsequent study commissioned by the N.B.A. and conducted by the Segal Company, a leading actuarial and consulting firm, analyzed calls made by individual referees, making these findings much more significant. Segal ultimately found that the race of officials and players does not affect foul calls in the N.B.A.

So it appears we have two studies. The study by Price and Wolfers says we can see evidence of implicit bias in the data. But the NBA has a different study that fails to find any bias. Who should we believe?

The answer to this question begins back in 2007. In May of 2007, The New York Times published a front-page story that detailed what Price and Wolfers had uncovered. As part of this story, Lawrence Katz, Ian Ayers, and I were asked to review both the study by Price and Wolfers and the NBA’s response. As is noted in the article, the three of us — who all have extensive experience publishing and reviewing academic studies — were not impressed by the NBA’s effort.

But the story didn’t end there. Price and Wolfers were given access to the data the NBA used to supposedly refute their results. In an article published in Contemporary Economic Policy, these authors provide evidence that the NBA’s data actually confirmed the original Price and Wolfers result. In sum, what the consultants provided the NBA didn’t stand up to academic scrutiny (and therefore, we should not believe Mike Bass!).

And the research didn’t stop there. Price, Wolfers, and fellow behavioral scientist Devin Pope recently investigated whether referees have subsequently changed their behavior. And the results of this research is actually good news for the NBA. The original research looked at data from 1990-91 to 2001-02. This latest study considered two additional time periods. First the authors examined data from 2002-03 to 2005-06. As with the original study, evidence of implicit bias was again found in the more recent data.

The authors, though, didn’t stop there. As noted, the publicity for this research occurred in 2007. So at that point, referees were likely made aware of this issue. Did that make any difference? Looking at data from 2006-07 to 2009-10, it appeared it did. Specifically, in the latter time period, the authors “find that racial bias completely disappeared.”

But was it the media coverage? The authors looked at other explanations (changes in the referees, the NBA addressing the issue) but did not find evidence supporting these stories. Specifically, the following was noted in the article: “While it is difficult to completely rule out the possibility that the NBA somehow influenced the referees in our study, the evidence presented in this study suggests that the most likely mechanism through which the change in bias occurred is that the media reporting increased the awareness among referees about their own implicit racial bias and that this awareness led to a reduction in such bias.”

So at this point, the NBA could be celebrating some good news. Yes, there was an issue with implicit bias in the past. And yes, this is understandable since implicit bias is fairly common. But after the issue was publicized, it appears the bias vanished. And that is good news for everyone since it suggests that implicit bias – which, as noted, is an unconscious bias – can be overcome if a person is aware that they have this bias.

The NBA, though, is not celebrating this news. Bass continues to echo the original NBA response and maintains that the original research from Price and Wolfers is not “valid.”

Such a response is disappointing. Again, it would be ideal if the NBA embraced this research. And it certainly would be better if the NBA wouldn’t try and trumpet work of paid consultants that has been refuted by peer reviewed published research.

Despite the NBA’s response, the rest of us should be happy to see this academic research. The idea that NBA referees – who work in an integrated workplace and are also heavily scrutinized – could exhibit implicit bias suggest this problem is indeed widespread. But what we have also seen is that this can be overcome. So in the end, that is good news for everyone–even if the NBA won’t admit it.

David Berri is a professor of economics at Southern Utah University. He is the lead author of The Wages of Wins and Stumbling on Wins and continues to serve on the editorial board of bothJournal of Sports Economics and the International Journal of Sport Finance.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Kobe Bryant Surpasses Michael Jordan in Scoring

Bryant is now the league's third highest career scorer

Kobe Bryant surpassed Michael Jordan’s record for points on Sunday night, putting him at third place on the NBA’s top scorers list, behind first place Karl Malone and second place Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Bryant scored his 32,293rd point in a game between his Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves — crossing over the record mark when shooting a free throw. Bryant said the achievement was a “huge honor,” and Michael Jordan congratulated Bryant, saying, “I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next.”

Watch today’s Know Right Now to find out more.

TIME NBA

Magic Johnson: ‘I Hope Lakers Lose Every Game’

"You either have to be great or you have to be bad"

NBA Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson seems to be in favor of his former team tanking, saying he hopes they can continue their losing ways this season.

Johnson was in New York City on Tuesday speaking at a promotional event. He later received the Sportsman Legacy Award from Sports Illustrated.

“I hope the Lakers lose every game,” Johnson said, according to Newsday. “Because if you’re going to lose, lose. I’m serious.”

Johnson believes that the Lakers are in a good space, because they will have significant cap room to sign or trade for a top player next summer.

“If you’re going to lose, you have to lose, because you can’t be in the middle of the pack,” he said. “You either have to be great or you have to be bad, to get a good [draft] pick.”

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant says he doesn’t believe that teams around the league are tanking.

“Maybe there are certain teams in the league — and this is not one of them — where ownership sits up there in their office and they’re crossing their fingers quietly and hoping,” Bryant said. “But the players themselves? Never.”

The Lakers’ losing stopped at least for one night, after they beat the Sacramento Kings 98-95 on Tuesday. Their 6-16 record is the second-worst in the Western Conference.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME NBA

NBA Won’t Fine Players for Wearing ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirts

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James warms up before an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center on Dec. 8, 2014, in New York.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James warms up before an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center on Dec. 8, 2014, in New York. Jason Szenes—EPA

League rules require that players wear attire of Adidas, who provides the NBA's apparel, during pre-game activities

The NBA will not fine players for wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts in honor of a Staten Island man who died after police placed him a chokehold in July, reports ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap.

Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose wore an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt on Saturday during warm-ups before Chicago’s game against the Golden State Warriors to honor Eric Garner. Thousands across the country have protested after a grand jury decided last Wednesday not to indict the officer who put the chokehold on Garner.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, guard Kyrie Irving and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett and guards Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack and Alan Anderson all wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts before Monday’s night contest at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Outside of the Barclays Center before the game, about 200 protesters chanted “I Can’t Breathe!” and “No justice! No peace! No racist police!”

“I respect Derrick Rose and all of our players for voicing their personal views on important issues but my preference would be for players to abide by our on-court attire rules,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.

League rules require that players wear attire of Adidas, who provides the NBA’s apparel, during pre-game activities.

“You hear the slogan ‘NBA cares’ and it’s more evident than now to show some support,” Garnett said. “Obviously we’re not on the front line of this movement, but I think it’s important being from these communities and supporting these communities.”

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Basketball

LeBron James Wears ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Shirt During Warm-Ups

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James warms up before an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center on Dec. 8, 2014, in New York.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James warms up before an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center on Dec. 8, 2014, in New York. Kathy Willens—AP

As did several other NBA players on Monday

A group of NBA players on Monday night became the latest to wear “I Can’t Breathe” shirts in solidarity with protesters rallying nationwide in the wake of last week’s Eric Garner grand jury announcement.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers sported the shirts during warm-ups, as did Jarrett Jack and Kevin Garnett of the Brooklyn Nets, CBS Sports reports. Demonstrators gathered to chant the phrase outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn — where royal couple Prince William and Kate were attending the same game — marking the city’s sixth night of protest after a grand jury announced the officer involved in Garner’s death would not be indicted.

“I can’t breathe” were Garner’s final words in July after an NYPD officer placed him in a chokehold during an altercation on Staten Island. The phrase has since become a rallying cry for protesters upset about police brutality, especially involving white officers and unarmed black men, and particularly after the Ferguson, Mo., protests following the August police shooting of Michael Brown. A grand jury recently decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the teen’s shooting, igniting a night of violence in the St. Louis suburb.

“This is more of a motion to the family more than anything,” James said, the New York Daily News reports. “As a society, we have to do better. We have to be better for one another, no matter what race you are. But it’s more of a shoutout to the family more than anything. They’re the ones that should be getting all the energy and effort.”

After Chicago Bulls player Derrick Rose wore a similar shirt earlier this week, James said he “loved it” and was looking for one of his own.

[CBS Sports]

TIME

NBA Suspends Hornets Forward Jeffery Taylor 24 Games

Charlotte Hornets forward Jeffery Taylor appears in a photo after his arrest on Sept. 25, 2014, in East Lansing, Mich., on domestic assault charges.
Charlotte Hornets forward Jeffery Taylor appears in a photo after his arrest on Sept. 25, 2014, in East Lansing, Mich., on domestic assault charges. AP

Taylor pled guilty to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in October

The NBA announced Wednesday that it has suspended Charlotte Hornets forward Jeffery Taylor 24 games for his domestic violence incident.

Taylor was arrested Sept. 25 and charged with assault, misdemeanor domestic assault and misdemeanor malicious destruction of property, later pleading guilty to the latter two charges on Oct. 29. The assault charge was dropped as a part of his plea deal.

Taylor said in court that he pushed his then-girlfriend, damaging a wall in an East Lansing, Mich., hotel.

In his opinion, NBA commissioner Adam Silver highlighted his commitment to stopping domestic violence, saying the issue has the league’s full attention.

I have the responsibility to safeguard the best interests of the league and all of its constituents. In addition to its profound impact on victims, domestic violence committed by any member of the NBA family causes damage to the league and undermines the public’s confidence in it.

The Hornets suspended Taylor indefinitely the day after his arrest and said they would decide on his possible reinstatement after the NBA concluded its own investigation.

Because Taylor has already missed the first 11 games of the season, he must sit out 13 games to satisfy the terms of the NBA’s suspension. Taylor will be eligible to return for the Hornets’ Dec. 17 game against the Phoenix Suns.

Taylor’s arrest was the NBA’s first domestic violence incident after the issue became a national topic in the wake of the Ray Rice controversy in the NFL. In the NHL, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov was suspended indefinitely by the league after his October domestic violence arrest.

Taylor was sentenced to 18 months’ probation after his guilty plea. The domestic assault misdemeanor carries up to 93 days in jail, but the prosecutor in the case said at the time Taylor entered his plea that it wouldn’t object to the judge ordering Taylor to be placed in a probation diversion program.

A second-round pick of Charlotte in the 2012 NBA draft, Taylor has averaged 6.6 points in 103 career games.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Basketball

Jason Collins Announces NBA Retirement

Brooklyn Nets v Denver Nuggets
Jason Collins #98 of the Brooklyn Nets speaks with the media prior to a game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on Feb. 27, 2014 in Denver. Justin Edmonds—Getty Images

Nine months after signing with the Nets

It has been 18 exhilarating months since I came out in Sports Illustrated as the first openly gay man in one of the four major professional team sports. And it has been nine months since I signed with the Nets and became the first openly gay male athlete to appear in a game in one of those leagues. It feels wonderful to have been part of these milestones for sports and for gay rights, and to have been embraced by the public, the coaches, the players, the league and history.

On Wednesday at the Barclays Center, I plan to announce my retirement as an NBA player. The day will be especially meaningful for me because the Nets will be playing the Bucks, who are coached by Jason Kidd, my former teammate and my coach in Brooklyn. It was Jason who cheered my decision to come out by posting on Twitter: “Jason’s sexuality doesn’t change the fact that he is a great friend and was a great teammate.”

Considering all the speculation about problems I might face within the locker room, Jason’s support was significant. It had been argued that no team would want to take on a player who was likely to attract a media circus from the outset and whose sexuality would be a distraction. I’m happy to have helped put those canards to rest. The much-ballyhooed media blitz to cover me unscrambled so quickly that a flack jokingly nicknamed me Mr. Irrelevant.

Among the memories I will cherish most are the warm applause I received in Los Angeles when I took the court in my Nets debut, and the standing ovation I got at my first home game in Brooklyn. It shows how far we’ve come. The most poignant moment came at my third game, in Denver, where I met the family of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student beaten to death in a 1998 hate crime on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyo. For the past two years I have worn number 98 on my jersey to honor his memory. I was humbled to learn that number 98 jerseys became the top seller at NBAStore.com. Proceeds from sales, and from auctioned jerseys I wore in games, were donated to two gay-rights charities.

There are still no publicly gay players in the NFL, NHL or major league baseball. Believe me: They exist. Every pro sport has them. I know some of them personally. When we get to the point where a gay pro athlete is no longer forced to live in fear that he’ll be shunned by teammates or outed by tabloids, when we get to the point where he plays while his significant other waits in the family room, when we get to the point where he’s not compelled to hide his true self and is able to live an authentic life, then coming out won’t be such a big deal. But we’re not there yet.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME NBA

Police Confirm Dwight Howard Child Abuse Investigation

Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets shoots from the free throw line during the Los Angeles Lakers first regular season NBA game against the Rockets on Oct. 28, 2014 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets shoots from the free throw line during the Los Angeles Lakers first regular season NBA game against the Rockets on Oct. 28, 2014 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images

"Dwight Howard will continue to act in the best interest of his children and do whatever is necessary to protect their welfare and best interests"

Police in Cobb County, Ga., confirmed to SI.com on Tuesday that there is an active child abuse investigation involving Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard.

TMZ first reported the allegations against Howard, and NBC News reported earlier Tuesday that Cobb County Police were re-opening an investigation of Howard.

A Cobb County Police sergeant told NBC News that the investigation stems from an incident from this summer. Originally, police said they did not have enough evidence to proceed past an initial investigation, but new information came to light to trigger renewed interest from authorities in the case, according to NBC.

In response to earlier reports about child abuse allegations against Howard in Florida, the eight-time All-Star released a statement to The Orlando Sentinel through his attorney rejecting accusations of abuse.

“It is troubling to see a mother use her son as a pawn against his father, which is what is happening in this case,” the statement reads. “Dwight Howard will continue to act in the best interest of his children and do whatever is necessary to protect their welfare and best interests.”

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Basketball

Derrick Gordon Opens Up About Troubled Family History

Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon playing against Ohio in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Athens, Ohio on Dec. 18, 2013.
Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon playing against Ohio in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Athens, Ohio on Dec. 18, 2013. Ty Wright—AP

The first openly gay Division I men's basketball player describes coming out to his family and his twin brother Darryl's jail time

University of Massachusetts basketball player Derrick Gordon, the first openly gay man to play Division I basketball, opened up about coming out to his family and his twin brother Darryl’s jail time in an Sports Illustrated profile.

Darryl was recently released from prison after a five-year sentence for shooting a man several times after an altercation, SI reports. “There was nothing that anyone could have said. My parents tried everything they could think of to help me. But I wasn’t listening to anyone,” Darryl told the magazine. “No one other than me could have stopped what happened.”

Derrick came out to his family while his brother was in prison — and eventually came out publicly, becoming the first college basketball star to do so.

You can read the full profile at SI.com.

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