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Thursday, April 01, 2021

What Happened to Dave Berri?

Dave Berri is a name that I have not thought about in quite some time. More than a decade ago, I wrote a few articles debunking his flawed and tendentious NBA analysis; he declared, among other things, that Allen Iverson was a barely above average NBA player, that Dennis Rodman was more productive on a per minute basis than Michael Jordan, and that Andrew Bynum was more valuable to the Lakers than Kobe Bryant.

Later, during the 2011 NBA lockout, Berri--who is an economist by training--incorrectly asserted that the NBA's owners behave like socialists and he displayed a lack of understanding of how a sports league functions; in contrast, I correctly predicted that the lockout would be long, and I correctly anticipated the broad parameters of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement: the second longest work stoppage in league history did not end until, as I put it, "the players finally accepted the reality that the NBA's broken business model had to be fundamentally changed." Up to that point, the players had been receiving nearly 60% of the league's revenues even though many teams were losing money; once the players realized that such an arrangement is not feasible in the long run, the owners and players agreed to terms.

After Henry Abbott disappeared from ESPN--thus depriving Berri of one of his main media promoters--Berri's name came up much less often. Berri stopped posting at his main blog in 2011, he then started a new blog, and he stopped posting at the new blog in late 2015. Apparently, he got a gig as a writer for Forbes, but that proved to be short-lived, and I somehow missed the news of how his tenure there ended in disgrace in 2018: Forbes cuts ties with sports business columnist, deletes piece about WNBA player salaries.

Forbes' editors explained the decision to fire Berri by stating that the final article Berri submitted to Forbes was "misleading," "sloppy," "polemic," and "just bad reporting." Forbes also released this statement: "The article was removed because it failed to meet Forbes' strict editorial standards for accuracy and fairness. Specifically, the contributor intentionally omitted facts and context from an authoritative source that would have undermined his thesis. As a result, David Berri was removed as a Forbes contributor."

This does not surprise me, because I have firsthand experience with Berri engaging in similar behavior. 

In Why Would LeBron James Become Captain of the Gotham Titanic?  I wrote:

Last year, many Knicks' fans--and even some national commentators--were thrilled at the prospect that D'Antoni and his fabled "seven seconds or less" offensive system would improve the Knicks so much that LeBron James could be the final piece that would make the Knicks a championship contender. However, by the latter portion of the season, I pointed out that D'Antoni's Knicks were clearly heading in the wrong direction; they were lousy defensively and on the boards and--most ominously--both of those trends steadily worsened throughout the season. Despite all of the buzz about D'Antoni, his Knicks finished 32-50 in 2008-09, one game worse than the Knicks finished in Thomas' first season as their coach (2006-07).

After I told the truth about the Knicks' plight, diehard Knicks fan Mike Kurylo wrote a barely comprehensible screed in response, misspelling my name and betraying complete ignorance not only about NBA basketball but also about basic journalistic methods (he suggested that I spelled out "fourth" instead of writing "4th" because of some diabolical psychological plot to "visually" mislead readers when the reality is that it is standard practice to spell out ordinal numbers less than 10th). I refuted Kurylo's nonsense, concluding "Mike K. declares that I 'cherry picked' numbers in a 'dishonest' attempt to tell a biased story but the reality is that I simply cited the relevant numbers regarding the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Knicks, indicated that the D'Antoni Knicks have yet to surpass the level that the Thomas Knicks reached in 2007 and suggested that the Knicks need to make personnel and philosophical changes in order to become a good team."

"Stat guru" Dave Berri also jumped into the mix, incorrectly suggesting that my article compared the 2009 Knicks to the 2005 Knicks--a lie that distorts the meaning of what I wrote and that Berri refuses to retract--and offering up his usual numbers-based rhetoric to suggest that the Knicks are in fact moving in the right direction.

I posted a comment on Berri's now-discontinued website asking him to correct his mischaracterization of what I wrote, but he never issued a correction or retraction.

Here is the conclusion of my analysis of the 2009 Knicks: "How will the Knicks be able to justify to their fans the suffering of the 2009 and 2010 seasons if the Knicks do not sign an elite player in the summer of 2010? Moreover, even if the Knicks bring in an elite player they still would struggle to win more than 45 games without doing a major restructuring of the rest of their roster and a complete overhaul of their all-offense, no-defense/rebounding philosophy."

After I asserted that the Knicks were not improving and would not be able to sign a top tier free agent, the Knicks went 29-53 in 2009-10. The Knicks failed in their attempt to lure LeBron James to come to New York and instead signed injury-prone free agent Amare Stoudemire, who was only healthy and productive in the first of his five seasons with the Knicks. The Knicks went 42-40 in 2010-11 before losing in the first round of the playoffs. D'Antoni resigned after the Knicks started 18-24 in 2011-12. 

Bottom line: 

(1) I was correct that the Knicks were not headed in the right direction under D'Antoni, and I was right that the Knicks were foolish if they thought that LeBron James was going to become captain of the Gotham Titanic. 

(2) Media assertions/hopes that D'Antoni would turn the Knicks around were wrong; Berri misrepresented what I wrote, and then he agreed with incorrect analysis about the team's prospects while rejecting the analysis that I provided that proved to be correct.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:47 AM



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