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Evolution of basketball uniform

In the 1960s, the basketball uniform was about small, tight shorts and form-fitting tank top. It's grown longer since then. Andrew Bergmann sifted through the archives and illustrated the changes over the decades.

The arm-length "shooter sleeves" that Lebron, Carmelo and Pierce sport on a regular basis are one of the most interesting of recent accoutrements. These covers can directly be traced back to former 76ers point guard Allen Iverson, who by legend wore one to conceal a controversial tattoo, but in actuality had bursitis in his right elbow. Somehow the sleeves caught on and are now believed to improve your shot. I guess I should get one.

I can't wait until players are out there in full tights, and then as fashion always turns around on itself, speedos and thigh-high socks.

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This is a topological similarity network of 452 NBA players during the 2010-2011 season. Players (in circles) are connected to other players by edges (lines) based on how similar they are with regard to points, rebounds, assists, steals, rebounds, blocks, turnovers and fouls, all normalized to per-minute values in the 2010-2011 season. Further, the network is colored by a player's points-per-minute average, with blue being low and red being high.

For as long as basketball has been played, it’s been played with five positions. Today they are point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center. A California data geek sees 13 more hidden among them, with the power to help even the Charlotte Bobcats improve their lineup and win more games.

Muthu Alagappan is a Stanford University senior, a basketball fan and an intern at Ayasdi, a data visualization company. Ayasdi takes huge amounts of info like tumor samples and displays it in interactive shapes that highlight patterns like genetic markers that indicate a likelihood of ovarian cancer. It’s called topological data analysis, and it can be applied to sports, too.

That is exactly what Alagappan did.

Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki (41) is not a forward and Jason Terry (31) is not a guard, but rather a scoring rebounder and an offensive ball handler under an analytics model that reveals 13 new positions. Photo: David J. Phillip/Associated Press

He used the company’s software to crunch a data set of last season’s stats for 452 NBA players. He discovered new ways to group players (.pdf) based on performance after noting, for example, that Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics had more in common with Miami Heat forward Shane Battier than with fellow point guard Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs.

After reading his map, Alagappan came up with 13 new positions based on the three typical roles of guard, forward and center:

  1. Offensive Ball-Handler. This guy handles the ball and specializes in points, free throws and shots attempted, but is below average in steals and blocks. Examples include Jason Terry and Tony Parker.
  2. Defensive Ball-Handler. This is a defense-minded player who handles the ball and specializes in assists and steals, but is only so-so when it comes to points, free throws and shots. See also: Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry.
  3. Combo Ball-Handler. These players are adept at both offense and defense but don’t stand out in either category. Examples include Jameer Nelson and John Wall.
  4. Shooting Ball-Handler. Someone with a knack for scoring, characterized by above-average field goal attempts and points. Stephen Curry and Manu Ginobili are examples.
  5. Role-Playing Ball-Handler. These guys play fewer minutes and don’t have as big a statistical impact on the game. Hello, Arron Afflalo and Rudy Fernandez.
  6. 3-Point Rebounder. Such a player is a ball-handler and big man above average in rebounds and three-pointers, both attempted and made, compared to ball-handlers. Luol Deng and Chase Budinger fit the bill.
  7. Scoring Rebounder. He grabs the ball frequently and demands attention when on offense. Dirk Nowitzki and LaMarcus Aldridge play this position.
  8. Paint Protector. A big man like Marcus Camby and Tyson Chandler known for blocking shots and getting rebounds, but also for racking up more fouls than points.
  9. Scoring Paint Protector. These players stand out on offense and defense, scoring, rebounding and blocking shots at a very high rate. Examples include Kevin Love and Blake Griffin.
  10. NBA 1st-Team. This is a select group of players so far above average in every statistical category that the software simply groups them together regardless of their height or weight. Kevin Durant and LeBron James fall in this category.
  11. NBA 2nd-Team. Not quite as good, but still really, really good. Rudy Gay and Caron Butler are examples.
  12. Role Player. Slightly less skilled than the 2nd-team guys, and they don’t play many minutes. Guys like Shane Battier and Ronnie Brewer fall under this position.
  13. One-of-a-Kind. These guys are so good they are off the charts — literally. The software could not connect them to any other player. Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard are examples, but you already knew that.

The 13 positions are based on how players compare to the league average in seven statistical categories: Points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocked shots, turnovers and fouls. The stats were normalized on a per-minute basis to adjust for playing time, so starters got the same consideration as backups.

That said, the names of some of these new positions could use a bit of work. For example, Rondo, the Celtics’ floor leader, is classified as a “role player,” which is commonly used in basketball to describe a so-so player with a specific, if unremarkable, set of skills.

This is the same topological network of players, with red regions indicating the Dallas Mavericks. This representation shows the diversity of playing styles of Mavericks’ players.

Even if no one is going to refer to Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks as one the league’s best “scoring rebounders” any time soon, Alagappan’s prize-winning analysis could change how coaches and general managers think about the roles their players fill. Alagappan proved the title-winning Mavs had a solid diversity of “ball handlers” and “paint protectors,” giving them the ability to put a balanced lineup on the floor with few weak spots. The Western Conference cellar dwellers the Minnesota Timberwolves, on the other hand, had too many players with similar styles and a dearth of “scoring rebounders” and “paint protectors,” leaving them vulnerable along the front line.

This is the same topological network of players, with red regions indicating the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Alagappan’s findings won the award for best Evolution of Sport this spring at the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

Whenever sports and numbers meet, the Moneyball question inevitably arises: Is it possible to use big data sets to find undervalued players? Alagappan believes it is.

He isolated the 40 players in the “scoring rebounder” section who best epitomized that group. At the top were the stars you might expect: Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire of the New York Knicks, along with Nowitzki and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Paul Gasol. But lesser-known players like Marreese Speights of the Memphis Grizzlies and the Lakers’ Devin Ebanks produced statistically similar per-minute results. Even better, where Anthony’s salary averages around $18.5 million per year, the Lakers are paying Ebanks about $740,000.

Another inevitable question: Could Ayasdi’s software have predicted the success of Knicks rookie Jeremy Lin? Alagappan concedes Lin’s college stats wouldn’t have suggested or predicted Linsanity, but he did create a similarity network to identify those players most similar to Lin in college. Three names emerged from the 3,400 analyzed: DeMarcus Cousins, who the Sacramento Kings picked fifth overall in the 2010 NBA draft; Alec Burks, picked 12th in 2011 by the Utah Jazz; and Nik Raivio, a University of Portland guard currently playing ball in Kaposvar, Hungary.

The lesson? For teams who buy into this new classification of players, the next Jeremy Lin might be in Hungary, awaiting your call.

Photo: Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki (41) and Jason Terry (31) defend Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade during the second half of Game 2 of the 2011 NBA Finals. Photo: David J. Phillip/Associated Press

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TEDxPurdueU - Matt Barnes - Dynamic Innovation

The theme of TEDxPurdueU 2012 was "...innovation." The speakers selected were Purdue students, alumni, and faculty whose stories shed unique light on various aspects of the creative process from idea conception to reality. Matthew Barnes is a professional freerunning/parkour athlete and owner/instructor of Momenta Freerunning & Parkour Classes. He also works for the World Freerunning Parkour Federation as a graphic designer and branding consultant. As an affiliate athlete for the WFPF, He performed in an NBA halftime show and for Red Bull Art of Motion. At Purdue, Matthew is currently pursuing a Master's of Structural Engineering, but spends his spare time cooking with his wife (mostly tasting), painting, and practicing foreign languages.
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2011 was a year of global tumult, marked by widespread social and political uprisings, economic crises, and a great deal more. We saw the fall of multiple dictators, welcomed a new country (South Sudan), witnessed our planet's population grow to 7 billion, and watched in horror as Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear disaster. From the Arab Spring to Los Indignados to Occupy Wall Street, citizens around the world took to the streets in massive numbers, protesting against governments and financial institutions, risking arrest, injury, and in some cases their lives. Collected here is Part 3 of a three-part photo summary of the last year, covering 2011's last months. Be sure to also see Part 1, and Part 2, totaling 120 images in all. [40 photos]

Occupy Wall Street protesters march and hold signs in New York City on September 17, 2011. Frustrated protesters had been speaking out against corporate greed and social inequality on and near Wall Street for the previous two weeks, further sparking a protest movement that spread across the world. Original here. (CC BY SA Carwil Bjork-James)

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A bullet hole was visible in a window of Fest’s Barber Shop on Marcus Garvey Boulevard in Brooklyn on Thursday. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


The sky darkened over Soho on Thursday, just before a storm broke over Manhattan. (Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal)


Jose Luis changed from street clothes into a Mickey Mouse costume on the corner of 48th and Broadway on Sept. 21. He earns money by posing with tourists outside of the M&M store in New York. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


Mitsu Tsuchiya of Nylon Magazine looked at Bonobos pants on board the Black Knight during an early-evening sail on the Hudson River on Monday. Men's clothing company Bonobos held an event on the boat to announce its new line. (Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal)


Café China is a new restaurant opened by Xian Zhang and Yiming Wang, with a 1930s Shanghai feel and authentic Chinese cuisine. (Lauren Lancaster for The Wall Street Journal)


St. Francis College ecology students practiced seining, an old-fashioned net-fishing technique, in order to study wildlife species in the East River on Monday. During the lesson, the students found striped bass, flounder, invasive northern asian shore crabs, and northern kingfish. (Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal)


A Parks employee cleaned up after a ceremony at Theodore Roosevelt Park in Manhattan. The names of American 2010 Nobel Laureates — Peter A. Diamond, Dale T. Mortensen, and Richard F. Heck — were inscribed on the monument and unveiled Tuesday. (Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal )


The Stool Pigeon cocktail at The Tippler, a new cocktail bar in the basement of Chelsea Market. (Lauren Lancaster for The Wall Street Journal)


Melvin Miller danced during a service marking Rosh Hashana at the All Souls Sanctuary on the Upper East side on Thursday. The service, held by the East Side Synagogue, was conducted in English and Hebrew and featured instrumental and vocal music. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


Rapper Jay-Z, a minority owner of the New Jersey Nets, announced that the team will be known as the Brooklyn Nets when they move into the Barclays Center arena before the start of the 2012 NBA season. (Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal)

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Major League Gaming‘s snazzy pro-gaming events in North America continue apace, and the multitudinous happenings of last weekend have been catalogue in exhaustive detail, for your browsing pleasure. This video probably sums it up in the least time, while I’ve embedded the footage of the Starcraft final below. Those dudes sure can click stuff good.

For a lot more video from the event check out this page. The next is the weekend of the 14th of October in Orlando, details here.
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Make no mistake; stories can be presented entirely through gameplay. In this article, we'll take a closer look not at "narrative/story games" but the story of gameplay and consider why we separated the two in the first place.

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