Shane Battier: They're Not Nerd Stats, They're a Competitive Advantage

One of the brightest minds in basketball walks through the theory and implementation of advanced analytics.

Two years ago, the now-retired Shane Battier was named by The Sporting News as the 7th smartest athlete in American pro sports. In his blurb, Battier cites "sabermetrics" as one of his off-court interests. You can imagine Battier spending his free time poring over spreadsheets while his teammates play video games or lift weights. It doesn't get much brainier than that.

Advanced analytics are called by many different names: sabermetrics, big data, nerd stats, fancy stats, etc. They're all labels for the same basic idea. It's an idea that was famously profiled in books like Moneyball and The Extra 2%, both of which focus on baseball — the veritable primordial soup of advanced metrics. Bill James, who is among the pioneers of modern sports analytics, first coined the term "sabermetrics" and defined it as "the search for objective knowledge about baseball." 

As with any innovation that begets a considerable competitive advantage, the underlying idea of sabermetrics — the replacement of biased speculation with impenetrable knowledge — has been translated across sports. The National Basketball Association, for instance, rather recently entered what Battier calls in today's featured Big Think interview "a golden age of analytics.":

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