Visualization of the Week: A whole new way to look at the NBA Finals

A series of basketball visualizations reveal team and player tendencies.

Sports and data go together like defense and championships and hot dogs and baseball and cliches and sports references. Yet, many of the visualizations of all that great data tend to be on the dry side — boxy strike zones and field goal ranges and the like.

But then there’s this: The New York Times teamed up with professor Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) to visualize the shot selection and success rates of the NBA’s Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder. They also visualized shot data for each team’s stars.

For example, here’s how LeBron James and Kevin Durant measure up:

LeBron James and Kevin Durant shot selection visualizations
Shot selection and completion visualizations for LeBron James and Kevin Durant. See the full interactive version.

The real kicker — and this is something I wish more visualization creators would do — can be found in the brief analysis accompanying each visualization. It’s one thing to see a visualization about LeBron James’ shot patterns, but it’s infinitely more interesting to see that visualization, read about what it’s showing you, and then understand that visualization.

Be sure to check out the full series and read the associated article.

(H/T to DJ Patil and Zach Will.)

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This post is part of an ongoing series exploring visualizations. We’re always looking for leads, so please drop a line if there’s a visualization you think we should know about.

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