Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kobe and the Self-Serving Bias

In the post-game interview tonight following the third game of the NBA finals, Kobe Bryant expressed his frustration over messing up in one of the crucial last plays. Loosely, he said, "I'm used to coming through in these situations... my team trusts me to come through in these situations." So there is little doubt that he thinks that he's good in late game situations.

However, the data does not confirm his intuition. recently posted an analysis of game winning shots (HT: Simmons) over the past six years and Kobe's 25% field goal percentage is tied for 71st out of the 76 players analyzed. That means that, relatively speaking, he's pretty bad in the late game. The simplest explanation for the discrepancy between his perception and reality is the faithful self-serving bias.

Nevertheless, he is clearly a pretty good player overall, rated via player efficiency ratings as the sixth best in the league this year. Now, is his overall greatness the reason that he is unable to see the facts as they are? Or, conversely, is his self-serving bias a prominent cause of his overall greatness? Or, is it neither, and he just so happens to be an arrogant asshole? These are the questions I stay up late at night pondering.