The world of sports geekdom has always been about the numbers. Increasingly, though, it may be about the maps.
Many basketball statistics focus on discrete events — whether a player made a shot, or blocked one. But doesn’t it matter where those events happen?
Kirk Goldsberry, a visiting scholar on geography at Harvard, is one of the people at M.I.T.’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference dabbling into sports after developing skills in another field. He has worked as a professor, and creating maps that give insight into public health issues.
He set out to answer who was the best shooter in the N.B.A., a quality that traditional metrics like shooting percentage do not fully address. (Tyson Chandler currently leads the league in field-goal percentage, for instance, largely because he specializes in the kind of jump shots that end with both of his hands touching the rim.