Why the NBA Isn't Becoming the English Premier League

By Noah Davis 

With all this talk of All-Stars on the move (Melo! D WIll!), it’s fitting that The Wall Street Journal examines the recent trend of the NBA’s biggest stars moving to the league’s biggest markets.

Kevin Clark worries that basketball is becoming like the English Premier League, which has seen only four teams finish in one of the top three spots over the past seven seasons. And he’s correct to some extent.

Last season, the NBA’s standard deviation of wins was 13.4, up from 10.8 in 2006-07. That suggests the best NBA teams were about 24 percent better than the worst ones. In the EPL, the standard deviation was 18.1 points last season, up from 15.9 in 2006-07. That’s a 13.8 percent increase over the same period of time. If that keeps up, the NBA will soon look like two leagues, one that consists of teams that play for titles and one for teams that merely play.


But the comparison falls flat.Unlike the EPL, NBA players aren’t doing it for the money. LeBron James took less cash to play with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. Other superstars have signed for less to play where they want with whom they want.

In the EPL, footballers follow the money. (Manchester City, the only non-Big Four club with a chance to finish in the top 3 this season, is doing so only because its sheikh owner is spending more lavishly than anyone else.) In the NBA, on the other hand, money can’t be the deciding factor.

The NBA might have a competition problem but it won’t be for the same reasons the EPL does.

(The image is from the WSJ story. We stole it because it’s awesome.)