Headlined by A-List actors Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, Ishtar (1987) failed to deliver at the box office. Even though the movie opened at #1 with over $4 million in domestic ticket sales, it faded quickly and finished with only $14 million. Due to production problems caused by an inexperienced director filming in the middle of the Sahara Desert, the movie suffered tremendous cost overruns and lost Columbia Pictures over $40 million. With an inflation-adjusted loss exceeding $90 million, the movie is often regarded as one of the biggest flops in history. At the same time, it had so much potential given the critical and commercial success of its stars and production team. Arguably, its failure even led to Coca-Cola Company’s decision to get out of the entertainment business by selling Columbia four months after the movie’s release.
On February 26, 1978, the Portland Trail Blazers escaped Chicago Stadium with a 100-99 win. Making the game even more exciting, Portland guard Lionel Hollins banked a 30-footer at the buzzer for the victory. Led by MVP-candidate Bill Walton, the “Blazers” were the prohibitive favorites to repeat as NBA Champions. However, the team’s fortunes changed that night due to a series of fateful events after the game. The story may sound far-fetched, but it really happened. At least, I heard it did.
Like it or not, the nerds have changed how we look at sports. Thanks to sabermetricians, statistics like OPS and WAR are as recognizable as HR and RBI. Similar to WAR (wins above replacement) for baseball, WiSh (win shares) is an all-encompassing statistic for basketball. Ranked by WiSh, the Top 5 players in NBA history are: 1) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; 2) Wilt Chamberlain; 3) Karl Malone; 4) Michael Jordan; and 5) John Stockton. Without a doubt, each one of those players is a legend of the game. As an all-time NBA ranking, however, it’s just doesn’t work.
Alternatively, the Top 5 players ranked by total MVPs are: 1) Michael Jordan; 2) Bill Russell; 3) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; 4) LeBron James; and 5) Wilt Chamberlain. Aaahhh, much better. Arguably, MVP awards provide a better proxy for all-time greatness than win shares. Regardless, WiSh still can be useful to establish a threshold above which a superstar can be defined. Similarly, it can determine a threshold below which a bust can be defined.