Academic journal article The Sport Journal

Relationship of Selected Pre-NBA Career Variables to NBA Players' Career Longevity

Academic journal article The Sport Journal

Relationship of Selected Pre-NBA Career Variables to NBA Players' Career Longevity

Article excerpt


The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a multimillion-dollar professional sport business. The value of team franchises has grown dramatically since David Stern became NBA commissioner in 1984. That season, the average team value was around $15 million (Smith, 2003). The figure had risen to around $300 million by 2003 (Smith, 2003). The increased revenues in the game have led to higher player salaries, which mean more pressure on individual players to perform. The business nature of basketball has put a premium on the selection of players and on the process--an imprecise science--that goes into selection. Owners and general managers are desiring to operate their teams according to corporate models, by controlling escalating player salaries (Sandoval, 2003). Front-office executives want to reduce the risk of bad draft picks and overpaid free agents (Sandoval, 2003).

Given the financial structure and business nature of the game, how do general managers and owners measure and evaluate a player's potential for success? Additionally, how do they make personnel decisions in a league in which the stakes are so high that one bad decision can make for disaster in the form of millions of dollars lost? One important aspect of building a championship NBA team is how the general manager constructs the team roster. It is expected that the general manager will attempt to acquire the most talented players when building a team (Staw & Hoang, 1995). How to accomplish this is the problem that owners and general managers continually face. Berri (1999) stated that, "[W]ithout an answer, one is unable to ascertain who should play, what free agents should be pursued, or what trades should be consummated" (p. 411).

In the current era of professional basketball, with the average player salary reaching over $5 million, owners want to operate their businesses more efficiently by controlling costs and risks (Sandoval, 2003). The goal is to reduce the number of bad draft picks and avoid signing the least productive players (Sandoval, 2003).

The evaluation of potential playing talent is a difficult task (Berri & Brook, 1999). In professional basketball, using selected statistical variables to measure a player's prospective success is considered an important part of the player evaluation process (Berri & Brook, 1999). Assembling players who produce at statistically high levels may ultimately improve a team. Berri (1999) identified a link between player statistics and team wins. The NBA draft is one of the primary methods by which teams acquire talent. Staw & Hoang (1995) found that the order in which players were drafted correlated with their playing time and the length of their careers.

The NBA draft's importance becomes even clearer when one considers how the draft inevitably represents a set of lost opportunities (Staw & Hoang, 1995). In selecting any one particular player, a team may be passing over the next all-star or superstar player (Staw & Hoang, 1995). The NBA draft is thus very risky (Amico, 2001). History has shown that the projection of player development is not a precise science, and that teams may be in need of effective evaluative methods when scouting talent (Amico, 2001). The risks of the draft were made widely known by the Portland Trail Blazers when, in 1984, that team anticipated greater benefits from signing Sam Bowie than from signing Michael Jordan. And in the same draft, Dallas selected Sam Perkins and Terrance Stansbury instead of Auburn University's Charles Barkley and Gonzaga University's John Stockton (Staw & Hoang, 1995). Selection of the right players through the NBA draft is important (Staw & Hoang, 1995).

The NBA draft used to require relatively little work or resources (Shouler, Ryan, Koppett, & Bellotti, 2004). Teams had small scouting staffs to evaluate college players, yet by the time the draft came around, every team knew who the best players were and which ones they wanted to draft (Shouler et al. …

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