Kevin Hassett on whether NBA refs are crooked

by on June 24, 2008 at 6:53 am in Sports | Permalink

In case you don’t know, Kevin is an economist at AEI.  Here is where things stand:

Hassett found no smoking gun.

But he did find some weird stuff in elimination games, when calls seemed to favor extending the series more than in other games.

He also found that home court advantage was much more important in the playoffs than in the regular season, which is a bit odd.

findings are consistent with what you’d find if you wanted to have as
many money-making playoff games as possible. Basically, if every series
ended in a sweep, there’d by very little opportunity to make money.
However, if every series gets to Game 7 — which happens when home
teams win every game — the teams and the League have not only three
more chances to make money, but the three most exciting games of the

Here is further explanation.  Here is the Hassett piece.  Note that fouls called on a team are often a measure of how tired that team is or how sloppy it is on defense.  So if teams play better with their back to the wall, at home, or if stamina matters more toward the end of the year, these correlations could potentially arise through natural means.

1 VC June 24, 2008 at 8:37 am

On home field advantage. I remember reading that one part of homefield advantage came from away teams being harassed. Playoff games would have more attendance and more at stake, so more harassment.

2 Barry June 24, 2008 at 9:59 am
3 Bernard Yomtov June 24, 2008 at 11:11 am

Brian’s explanation of home court advantage makes a lot of sense to me.

I’ve always had the general impression that playoff games in all sports tend to be decided by a single outstanding play more often than regular season games. If true, that would be another example of the phenomenon he describes.

4 Cameron June 24, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Yet another explanation could be that the so called “circadian advantage” from not having to change timezones is more in phase with the home court during the playoffs. In MLB the circadian advantage was aparrently larger than the home field advantage according to one study

5 j June 24, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Home crowds are going to be larger, and much more vigorous and involved in playoff games. To the extent home court advantage is derived from the crowd, then we should expect home court advantages to be larger in the playoffs.

Its also possible that refs as well as players are influenced by crowd behavior, furthering the effect of home court advantage, and could partially explain foul disparities.

6 thorstein veblen June 25, 2008 at 12:43 am

j has it completely correct. home-court advantage in sports comes mostly from the crowd. regular season NBA games generally have very lame crowds, so the advantage is limited to the home team being familiar w/ the gym. In the playoffs, attendance is much higher, and the noise and energy level in the gym is generally an order of magnitude higher than the regular season… there’s nothing odd about this finding at all… And it is why home-court advantage is so much bigger in college than pro…

7 jim May 15, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Is it realistic?

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