Statistical verdict: 44% MORE Game 7s than expected!
Las Vegas, Nevada (6/11/08) Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy has accused the NBA of manipulation of game results in order to boost ticket sales and television ratings. Commissioner David Stern has called the allegations baseless. But statistical analysis by RJ Bell of Pregame.com supports the claim that an abnormal percentage of NBA playoff Series are extended to seven games.
Mathematics estimate (formula below) that a NBA Playoff series will go the full seven games approximately 18% of the time. Since 2000, a surprisingly large 26% of non-first round NBA Series have extended to the maximum seven games. Thats 44% more often than expected. Thats 16 of 62 Series when only 11 would have been expected. RJ Bell of Pregame.com said: The odds of this increase happening randomly are less than 1%, approximately 180 to 1.
Why consider non-first round Series only? Two reasons: A) First round Series were only five games before 2003. B) If the league did attempt to extend a Series for financial gain, the gain, and thus the temptation, would have been much less in the first round.
Math behind 18%? Assume the average favorite has a 60% chance to win the Series (sometimes the favorite will have a better chance than that, sometimes worse; 60% is a solid average estimate). The odds of a series extending to 7 games is: P(favorite winning at least 4 of 7 games) + P(underdog winning at least 4 of 7 games) P(favorite sweeping 4 ) P(underdog sweeping 4) P(favorite winning exactly 4 of 5) - P(underdog winning exactly 4 of 5) - P(favorite winning exactly 4 of 6) - P(underdog winning exactly 4 of 6).
44% more Game 7s than expected clearly supports Tim Donaghys claim that the NBA Playoffs are officiated with the agenda of extending Series as long as possible.
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About RJ Bell of Pregame.com
RJ Bell, president of http://Pregame.com, has been featured on CBS News with Katie Couric, ABC News with Charles Gibson, Nightline, Sportscenter, Outside the Lines (ESPN), First Take (ESPN2), ESPN.com, ESPN National Radio, Yahoo, AOL.com, CNN.com and in Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, LA Times, Newsweek.com, Maxim, and Forbes.
Read updated math that looks at this matter from a different perspective.