Sun | Nov 18, 2018

It just doesn't make sense

Published:Friday | August 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Orville Higgins, Columnist

A few weeks ago, ace ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith said Carmelo Anthony is a "better scorer" than LeBron James. The statement didn't attract too much criticism, either in NBA circles or in local sports discussion programmes. My producer pointed out on radio not long after that the statement is not true. He was dead right.

Over their careers, LeBron averages more points per game, and has a better shooting percentage than 'Melo'. Logically, if I score more points per game than you with a higher shooting percentage than you, it simply doesn't make sense to say you are a better scorer.

Sports people, however, are not always rational.

Despite this obviously 'bramble' statement from Stephen A., several people came to his defence on my radio programme, claiming that the term 'scorer' is nothing more than jargon. What's the supposed meaning? A scorer is one who is adept at scoring from different points on the court, which is really another way of saying they are good at shooting from distance.

The rationale for this argument, then, is because Melo is a better outside shooter than LeBron, whose game is built on being closer to the rim, that, in itself, makes him a better scorer. That, of course, is nonsense. Scoring is simply the accumulation of points. It doesn't matter HOW I do it, if I constantly put up better numbers than you, I'm a better scorer. The argument doesn't hold water, and I've been at pains to point out to anyone who will listen that this doesn't make sense.

Taking jargons as gospel

What I'm beginning to accept is that too many of us who talk sports are a little bit too keen on using tired sports jargon and taking them as gospel. "Bowlers win matches" is a popular one. It's silly because cricket is usually won by the side that makes the most runs. "We played better, but we lost." Wow! How can that be? Surely, the team that wins played better on the day, barring officiating errors. "Player A may achieve more than Player B, but Player B had the better technique." That's rather silly. Technique is not an end in itself. It's merely a means to an end. The success of a technique is determined by nothing else, but how productive it allows one to be.

I could go on forever. There are some people I know who can rattle off Bible verses at will. For virtually every occasion they can find a Bible quote to match, and if you are not careful, you will think these people are theological scholars. Quite often, they are no such thing. In sports, you have them, too - people who rattle off clichés and jargon and give the impression that they understand the intricacies of sports.

One of the reasons I don't go with jargon is because respected people in the same sport at times differ on what jargon means. Take basketball. Reggie Miller is considered by many so-called basketball experts to be a better 'shooter' than Shaquille O'Neal because he is better at jump-shooting than Shaq, who is lethal around the rim. Shaq averages more points per game than Reggie, with a far higher shooting percentage. Since you get points only by shooting, every time Shaq puts the ball in, he was shooting.

Since it is true that Shaq's record of shooting is vastly superior to Reggie's, Reggie Miller can never be considered a more successful shooter than Shaq, and if you are not more successful, it's hardly likely that you could be considered better at anything.

We must accept sports clichés. Embrace them even, but we must also understand that half the time they make no sense.

Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk-show host. Email feedback to