Monday, July 25, 2011

Heat Check: Is Dave Chappelle the Dwyane Wade of Comedians after Zo's Summer Groove?

Dave Chappelle is still one of the greatest comedians of all-time despite a rough night at Zo's Summer Groove.

According to the Palm Beach Post's Ethan J. Skolnick, Dave Chappelle had a rough night at the Zo's Summer Groove Comedy Jam, a charity event that raises money for Alonzo Mourning's foundation. Skolnick reported that Chappelle's show went off the rails after he got into it with hecklers and someone with a video recorder. According to Skolnick, "It became a comedy sit-in, with Chappelle vowing to outlast the audience and repeating 'Tick Tock, Tick Tock.'"

Twitter reacted immediately to the news and I ended up in a debate with Alfredo Arteaga from and the HEATcasts posted on this blog. Alfredo called Chappelle the Jason Richardson of standup comedians and I disagreed (like any intelligent fan of Chappelle would). The back-and-forth devolved into a comparison of Alfredo's list of the best four shooting guards in NBA history and the best black stand-up comics. Here's what he said (in 140 characters or less):

Alfredo's Best Comedians and NBA Shooting Guards
  1. Richard Pryor & Michael Jordan
  2. Eddie Murphy & Kobe Bryant
  3. Redd Foxx & Jerry West
  4. Chris Rock & Dwyane Wade

While I think it's silly to compare comics and shooting guards, I love a good debate as much as the next person. Let's get into it.

It's easier to rank NBA shooting guards because I can be objective since the statistics of their performance are recorded and easily accessible. My ranking will use Wins Produced, a statistical model created by sports economist David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's box score statistics contributed to his team's efficiency differential and wins. The stats used in this article are powered by NerdNumbers. More information on Wins Produced can be found at the following links:

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say
Calculating Wins Produced
Frequently Asked Questions

All of the statistics required to calculate Wins Produced were not available until 1978. This spreadsheet lists the top 25 shooting guards from the NBA's modern era.

Dwyane Wade currently ranks eighth with 110.2 wins produced in the modern era. If he stays relatively healthy, he will pass Tracy McGrady (7th with 118.4 wins produced)) in 2012 and Jeff Hornacek (6th) in 2013. That leaves him just outside the top five.

The next three players on the list, Kobe Bryant (3rd with 168.3 wins produced), Reggie Miller (4th with 161.3 wins produced) and Ray Allen (5th with 140.2 wins produced) played almost twice as many minutes as Wade has so far, but Wade only needs to produce 60 wins to pass them. Wade produced 18 15 wins last season, according to the Wages of Wins Journal.

Wade should be in the top five of wins produced by shooting guards in the modern era at the end of the 2013 season. If he can play 40,000 minutes or more in his career, then he can vault into the top three. He's played 20,539 minutes to-date and 2,824 minutes last season. It would take Wade at least another seven seasons to reach that plateau if he stayed as healthy as he was in 2011.

So my top five NBA shooting guards in the modern era (as of today) would be:
  1. Michael Jordan
  2. Clyde Drexler
  3. Kobe Bryant
  4. Ray Allen (he should pass Miller if he plays another three seasons)
  5. Dwyane Wade

Let's talk comedians.

Lists of Best Comedians:
The Grio's Best Black Comics
Crooks & Liars Top 100 Comedians (includes video of each comic)

Unlike NBA shooting guards, there are few statistics available to evaluate comedians so any argument will be very subjective. My comment to Alfredo was that Dick Gregory or Bill Cosby should be ranked ahead of Redd Foxx and the Crooks & Liars and Comedy Central lists agree that Cosby should be higher. The visitors to Ebony Magazine's online poll, however, did not. 

As for Chappelle, Ebony Magazine didn't even include him in the poll (that's egregious)! Crooks & Liars ranked him outside the top five behind Martin Lawrence, Redd Foxx and Jamie Foxx (that's ludicrous, he can't be behind Jamie)! Comedy Central also ranked him outside the top five behind Martin Lawrence and Flip Wilson (that's defensible).

My rankings will be based on who I think held the crown as the best black comic in each era. Unlike the NBA, eras in comedy change quickly. Here's my list:
That's my list of the top 10 comics (Williams doesn't deserve more than honorable mention status, if that). Now, let's pair them with shooting guards. 

Since my list of NBA shooting guards was limited to the modern era, I eliminated Foxx and Gregory from consideration. Cosby can thank Bill Cosby: Himself  (released in 1983) for making the cut. Harris and Hart were eliminated because they did not, or have not, put in enough time at the top. Harris's reign was unexpectedly cut short when he died of sleep apnea and Hart just got to the top in the last few years.

That leaves me with six comics to choose from — Cosby, Pryor, Murphy, Lawrence, Rock and Chappelle. I'm going to leave Cosby out because most of his best stand-up really came before the modern era.

Without further ado, here's my list of the top five NBA shooting guards and comedians in the modern era:
  1. Michael Jordan & Richard Pryor
  2. Clyde Drexler & Eddie Murphy
  3. Kobe Bryant & Martin Lawrence
  4. Ray Allen & Chris Rock
  5. Dwyane Wade & Dave Chappelle
So yeah, on my list, Dave Chappelle is the Dwyane Wade of comedians. Of course, Wade will probably finish with more wins produced than Ray Allen and I'll justify moving Chappelle up the list based on his TV work (his show was indisputably better than Rock's).

I'd like to take a few moments to cite some points my wife made:
  • She prefers Chappelle over Rock and she wishes a heckler WOULD ruin her chance to see him perform live (you have to roll your neck as you read this bullet)
  • She prefers Kevin Hart over both of them
I also think my list makes no sense, personality-wise. The comedians and shooting guards have nothing in common. If I had to pair shooting guards with comedians based on the best personality/lifestyle match, here's what it would look like:
  • Richard Pryor & David Thompson. Connection? Drugs
  • Eddie Murphy & Kobe Bryant. Connection? Allegedly deviant sexual behavior (although I never believed that stuff about Eddie)
  • Martin Lawrence & Allen Iverson. Connection? People's champs
  • Chris Rock & Reggie Miller. Connection? Skinny trash-talkers (I obviously struggled with this one)
  • Dave Chappelle & World B. Free. Connection? I don't know, but it feels right
Which player would you compare your favorite comedian to?

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