One of the biggest questions produced from “The Decision” is just how will new Miami Heat teammates LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all be able to satisfy their insatiable desire to be the focal point of a team’s offense.
All three All-Stars are accustomed to having the ball in their hands and being the primary scoring threat. That worked just fine when James was king of Cleveland, Wade ruled South Beach, and Bosh dominated in relative obscurity in Toronto. But now that the three will be sharing the same basketball, many are wondering whether they’ll all be able to quench their thirst to thrive individually.
The competitiveness of James, Wade, and Kobe Bryant is examined in the new issue of the International Journal of Sport Finance (Volume 5, Issue 3, August 2010, pp. 208-221). Dr. Andrew Nutting of the University of Idaho applied tournament theory to individuals in a team sport by examining how Bryant, James, and Wade responded to the others’ individual performances during the 2008-09 NBA season as all three vied for NBA MVP honors.
What Nutting found through an examination of the statistics was that James (the eventual MVP) increased his scoring in response to both Bryant and Wade having a high-scoring performance in their most recent games. James also led Cleveland to a victory more often immediately following a high-scoring game by Wade. Bryant also significantly increased his scoring output immediately following a high-scoring game by Wade.
“In all cases, increases in point totals were determined in part by significantly more free throw attempts, suggesting that the MVP competitors exhibited significantly more aggressive offense after other MVP competitors had better games.” (p. 218)
Tying this research back to the upcoming NBA season, it would be interesting to examine how James and Wade respond in the next contest after the other has a high-scoring game as teammates now, rather than rivals. Will James continue to increase his scoring production immediately after Wade has a high-scoring game, or will that competitiveness to “one up” the other subside? After all, they will now be teammates, but just as in Nutting’s study, they’ll still be competing individually to be named the NBA’s MVP.