Allow me to take a break from the regularly scheduled programming to tell you why Jonah Lehrer is a moron. Lehrer, if you didn’t know, is a charlatan who sells neuropseudosciencebabble to the unsuspecting public.
Recently, Lehrer wrote an article about Kobe Bryant for Grantland:
By nearly every metric, Kobe Bryant is having his best season in years. Not only is he leading the league in scoring, but he’s also performing above his career average in points per game and rebounds. (As always, Kobe is shooting too much: plus ça change.) Even his minutes are up: Kobe is playing nearly five minutes more per game than last season.
Lehrer is right, if “nearly” means almost none or if “every metric” means every metric that doesn’t matter.
As anyone can see on Basketball Reference under advanced statistics, Kobe’s Win Share / 48 minutes is his worst since 1998-1999 and a far fall from his career average. His PER, TS%, etc. are all worse than his career average and down from previous seasons too. The only difference is that Kobe’s playing more this year, but I don’t think I’d count trading Lamar Odom as a breakthrough in medical science.
Lehrer goes on:
It’s the usual tragedy of time, only accelerated by the intensity of professional basketball. By the age of 30, their glory days are probably long gone.
Yes, and the advanced statistics show clearly that this tragedy has happened to Kobe too.
And yet, the aging Kobe — he will turn 34 this summer — seems to have resisted this dismal downward arc.
Only if we ignore the facts. But whatever.
Kobe concurs: “I feel a lot stronger and a lot quicker.”
Kobe is obviously delusional.
As a result, the case reports of athletes represent an interesting test of the medicine. Their performance on the field is a kind of clinical trial.
… which shows that even the most advanced medicine cannot stop the natural trajectory?
Given the paucity of evidence, it’s entirely possible that these biologic treatments will one day be consigned to the trash bin of experimental medicine, a set of therapies that are little more than an expensive placebo. Perhaps Kobe’s knee isn’t really healed — he just thinks it is.
Excellent ending to the article. Oh wait, there are 2943u92921 more paragraphs? Fuck this. I’m skipping to the end.
The inverted U curve of performance haunts the career of every veteran; the nightmare of the gifted is the loss of their gift. If biologic medicine does nothing else, at least it assuages this anxiety, giving aging stars a newfound sense of confidence. As Kobe’s season appears to demonstrate, the curve can be reversed.
Except that it doesn’t.
Or maybe the injection of spun blood is just an elaborate placebo, a high-tech gimmick that tricks the brain into disbelieving the laments of the body.
Looking at Kobe’s season, the answer is clearly not “maybe”, but a resounding “yes”.
Update: As a reader notes, the injection of spun blood did not even have a placebo effect, except to make Jonah Lehrer ignore all relevant evidence.