Steve Sailer has what may be his most devastating deconstruction of a Malcolm Gladwell article yet. The subject is sports and underdogs, and in particular the full-court press in basketball.
Gladwell's hypothesis--that weaker teams should press stronger teams to even the odds--is so divorced from basketball reality that I wonder if he's ever played organized ball at any level. Just one season of 8th grade ball would have taught him that the press (like the fast-break) is a way stronger teams (and by strong I mean "more athletic and better skilled and coached") maximize their advantage over weaker teams.
My middle-school team was pretty insane in 7th and 8th grades. We had probably 10 guys who could dunk and we went undefeated over those two seasons. (My family moved and I wound up at a different high school, but my teammates would go on to win states in our senior season.) We started every game out in a press, either a 2-2-1 or a 1-2-2, depending on whether or not they showed an ability to pass over the top. Typically, we'd call it before half-time since we'd be up by 20. On the rare occasions other teams tried to press us, they'd give up after a couple possessions.
On an semi-related note, we would mostly alternate between running man and a 1-3-1 zone in the half-court on defense. (Our coach was pretty nuts about throwing different defensive looks at people, which had the effect of doing a great job teaching us about the spacial-relations of the game.) The 1-3-1 has the practical effect of acting like a half-court press, with the ball getting trapped every time it goes near a corner. And it has the same overdrive advantage of a true full-court press--it maximizes the better teams advantage.
Also, it was amazingly fun to play. The reason it's not taught more often, however, is because it's only effective when used by very good teams.
1 day ago