Sunday, September 23, 2012

LeBron James & The Myth of Olajuwon's Impact on His 1st Title

LeBron James' post game didn't need training from Hakeem Olajuwon to be good enough for a title, according to the numbers.

Mike Berardino tried to explain in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel how Hakeem helped LeBron become a champion: How did LeBron James become an NBA champion? With some "Dream Shake" help from Hakeem Olajuwon during the 2011 offseason, that's how.

The only problem with Berardino's explanation is that it's big on marketing hype for Olajuwon's line of athletic gear and luggage but short on facts.

Berardino asks plenty of questions about how much Olajuwon's training helped LeBron in the HEAT's 2012 title run, but he doesn't provide any concrete answers to the questions. Thanks to, however, some of Berardino's questions can be answered pretty easily.

How many times during the Heat’s 2012 championship run did LeBron turn his back to the basket and spin past a helpless opponent for an easy score?

Synergy Sports reported that 14.4% of LeBron's plays on offense were post-ups in the shortened 2012 season (that's 325 post-up plays). Only 8.1% of LeBron's plays on offense were post-ups in the full 2011 season (205 post-ups).

Olajuwon fans could argue that LeBron went to post-up more in 2012 because he was more confident after 9 hours of training with Hakeem, but it's more likely that he used more post-ups in 2012 than 2011 because he played more power forward. The tables below list LeBron's minutes by position in his first two seasons with the HEAT. He spent 27% of his minutes at PF in 2012 compared to just 7% in 2011. Stats calculated using data from the HEAT Produced Page.

L James 6 SF 2244.9
L James 6 PF 879.7
L James 6 C 67.8
L James 6 SG 69.9
L James 6 PG 46.4


L James 6 SF 3384.8
L James 6 PF 283.6
L James 6 PG 175.3
L James 6 SG 120.4
L James 6 C 19.7


How many times during his third league MVP season did LeBron exchange the easy and the familiar of the perimeter for the rugged and the raw of the low post?

According to Synergy Sports, LeBron attempted to score with ISOs, handling the ball in pick-and-rolls, spot-up jumpers, coming off-screens and hand offs 3.5 times more often than he used post-ups. The final tally for 2012 was 1,134 plays on the perimeter (50% of all his plays on offense) and 325 plays on post-ups (14.4% of all his plays on offense).

And how many times in those final three matchups, against the Pacers and the Celtics and the Thunder, did LeBron help the Heat climb back from daunting series deficits with moves right out of the Olajuwon repertoire?

LeBron's shooting percentage in the post actually decreased last season from 54.4% in 2011 to 49.2% in 2012. In fact, he only shot 9-for-24 on post-ups against the Thunder in the Finals. One more interesting fact: LeBron shot more jumpers in 5 games against OKC in the 2012 Finals than 6 games against the Mavs in the 2011 Finals. See the article No Jumper Needed For Finals MVP for more information.

Once the myth of Olajuwon is removed, fans are left with two facts:
  1. LeBron was less efficient in the post after training with Olajuwon 
  2. LeBron played in the post more after training with Olajuwon because Chris Bosh was injured (he missed 18 games in 2012 compared to just 5 games in 2011)

Oops, I forgot 2 other facts: 
  1. Olajuwon's got some shit he wants to sell you 
  2. Dwight Howard's shooting percentage on post-ups also declined after training with the Dream

Good luck with that Knicks & Nuggets fans!

1 comment:

  1. olajuwon got stuff you can't buy and certainly not learn in one summer , as they say either you have it when you wake up in the morning or you don't