NBA Foul Calls and Bayesian Item Response Theory

There are few people who care less about the NBA than me. Even so, this analysis blew me away with its depth and clarity. A note on the dataset:

Since 2015, the NBA has released a report reviewing every call and non-call in the final two minutes of every NBA game where the teams were separated by five points or less with two minutes remaining.

There are four major takeaways from the analysis, all of which are questions that NBA fans have long speculated about. Here's my favorite:

There is a positive relationship between player salary and the probability that a foul is called when they are disadvantaged and not called when they are committing. With a bit of a leap, we can say that the probability a foul is called is at least loosely related to the “star power” of the players involved.

I can't wait to hear announcers attempting to cite this.


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