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The Logical Fallacy of Charles Barkley

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Charles Barkley, NBA analyst extraordinaire, likes the Thunder. Perhaps I should clarify; he likes the Thunder players, but likes even more to make cracks about (in Chuck's opinion) their flawed team construct. Last season Barkley went on and on about how the Thunder were ill-equipped to advance through the playoffs because their entire offensive strategy was based on shooting jump shots. He started banging this drum early in the year when the Thunder were at the top of the standings, arguing that their perimeter-based attack would fall apart when it mattered most.

Fast forward to the playoffs. Somehow, the Thunder managed to defeat Dirk Nowitzki's post-up game, the Lakers' twin towers duo of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and then the all-time great power forward Tim Duncan in consecutive rounds, running up a record of 12-3 in the process.

The next thing we know, the Lakers are adding Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, and instead of recognizing the Thunder's gamesmanship and readiness for the next and final step, Barkley goes back to beating the same drum. Barkley joined Dan Patrick's radio show, and Patrick asked Barkley who he liked this year coming out of the West (via Sports Radio Interviews):

"The Lakers. (Host: Over Oklahoma City?) Yeah. I’m not a big Oklahoma City fan because I don’t think they get any easy baskets. Like last year I didn’t think they could win and the reason I picked Miami to win the championship, the only way you’re going to beat Miami is beat them up inside. That’s what their weakness is. You’re not going to beat them on the perimeter shooting jumpers with Westbrook and Durant. The only way to beat them is the way the Mavericks beat them, with Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler down low. Unless Oklahoma City gets some low post scoring, they’re going to win a lot of games because they have two terrific players and (James) Harden is terrific also, but you’re not going to win the championship just shooting jumpers."

Barkley's argument is simply a bad argument. If you want stats, there are plenty of stats. If you want an enumerated breakdown, Royce Young at Daily Thunder is your man.

And yet Barkley still makes comments like this and still finds that people like to listen to him. Why?

I believe it has something to do with the logical fallacy known as Post hoc ergo propter hoc. This phrase translates to, "after this, therefore because of this."

In Barkley parlance, this translates to, "I believe the Thunder cannot beat the Heat because OKC is a jump shooting team. The Thunder lost to the Heat. Therefore, OKC must have lost because they are a jump shooting team."

We like Chuck and there is a presumption that he is a good and most importantly an honest analyst. He doesn't like to kowtow to anybody, and for that we put a lot of stock in his opinions. However, he falls into the same trap as guys like Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Jackson do when he says stuff like this. Even though it seems like it has an element of truth in it; (i.e. OKC likes to take jump shots, they lost in the Finals, ergo it must have been all those jump shots), it is based on a hidden assumption. That hidden assumption is this - we are trusting that Barkley was paying attention to what happened.

Young states it thus:

In fact, there’s this: In the five-game series, the Thunder attempted 131 shots at the rim compared to Miami’s 133. For the series, OKC scored 194 points from nine feet or less. Miami scored 216 inside that range. Not some massive distinction. In what I’d call a jumper (10 feet and out), the Thunder attempted 218 in the series with Miami taking 200. That’s 43.6 per game for OKC and 40 for Miami. Again, not significantly different.

There are a plethora of reasons why the Thunder lost in the Finals, but the fact that OKC likes to take a lot of jump shots probably doesn't even crack the top 10.

(You want a top 10? Here you go: 1) LeBron found his muse; 2) Durant missed a bunny shot at the end of Game 2; 3) OKC shot an abysmal 62.5% from the FT stripe in Game 3; 4) James Harden disappeared; 5) Serge Ibaka disappeared; 6) Shane Battier shot 60% from the floor in the series; 7) a clearly injured Mike Miller hit 7-8 from 3-point range in Game 5; 8) Westbrook played out of his mind and then lost his mind in Game 4; 9) Perkins was injured; 10) Nick Collison, the best OKC big in the Finals, barely played).

Anyway, that's not really even the point. The point is that the Finals happened, story lines played out, and those story lines had nothing to do with Barkley's assessment as to why OKC can't win against the Heat (or even win against the new Lakers build). In other words, if you paid attention to what happened, you too would set Barkley's analysis aside, just like we do with Skip and Stephen A. Those guys can't help themselves though, and for better or worse, neither can we when whe critique their critiques. Maybe that's why the dance of the critics Tango's on.

In the end however, we still will give Sir Charles' comments and analysis more weight and tolerate his flawed reasoning while we will continue to castigate the likes of Skip and Stephen A.


Because we like Chuck.