Monday, May 04, 2009

David vs. Goliath

The New Yorker

Great article by Malcolm Gladwell from the New Yorker: What do the biblical David, a girls basketball team, and terrorists have in common?

It brings up an excellent point, as far as the sport of basketball goes. Why don't all teams use the full court press? Why let your opponent get all the way to your end of the court before playing defense?

I've also never understood why hockey teams don't take advantage of line changes in hockey more. It seems that the moment your opponent's players are headed for the sidelines, that would be an excellent time to suddenly make a break for their goal. Yet teams seem to just wait until everybody's set again.

Can you imagine if football was played like this? Not playing defense until the 50 yard line?

Do any other sports have "loopholes" or overlooked strategies that would give underdog Davids an edge against Goliaths?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The full-court press is certainly nothing new overall in basketball: the time boys are in 7th and 8th grade competition, the press is a staple of almost any good team (unless it's in a league that bans it; my weak, small Catholic-school league had no such ban, unless you got ahead by 20 points).

With 7th and 8th grade girls, it looks, from the article, to be a different story. My guess is that the full-court press is often banned in gradeschool altogether for girls (most 7th/8th grade girls teams are just plain awful at ballhandling), so the opposing teams were totally unprepared for it.

Tons of high school and college teams use the full-court press as well. As it turns out, the press typically works better if you have better players and more depth than your opponent (Pitino's UK teams and some of his recent Lousville teams had plenty of both).

Don't get me wrong, I like the David vs. Goliath topic, and his real point about the girls basketball team is that they won by
thinking outside the box. But the picture he paints of the press as a general concept is distorted and misleading.

Also, Gladwell paints UK's 1996 team as a bunch of scrappy overachievers with little NBA talent, when it was the absolute opposite: The 1996 UK team discussed in the article had 9 players who went on to play in the NBA. It qualifies as one of the most talented teams in the history of college basketball.

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