How does it feel to have the NBA pull your article from Forbes? Well, author, professor, and sports economist David Berri details it to Sarah Spain. Plus, they discuss the NBA data, WNBA growth challenges and pay equity, his best-seller Wages of Wins and so much more.
How did you get into sports economics?
"I went to graduate school in economics, and I don't want to ruin this for other economists, but economics is not often very interesting. So I was looking for something to actually write a master’s paper on and I came across a footnote in a textbook about measuring the economic worth of a baseball player. I was like I didn't know you could do sports research with this type of stuff, that's kinda cool! Not many people want to go into this field, so there are so many stories you can tell with all of this unpublished data. I wrote some articles and eventually I was approached and was asked if I would want to write a book on these things. So my career kind of happened completely accidentally."
Did you always have a bend towards the numbers and analytically understanding sports?
"I did start off looking at numbers and thinking about numbers [through baseball cards] but I didn't actually understand logistics and analysis. It was not the case that I understood the numbers when I first started––that came later."
Why did you write your book the Wage of Wins?
"I had never written a book before and this book came about because I was presenting a paper at a conference. Economists tend to believe that people are completely rational and know what they are doing… So I was in a room with a bunch of economists and I’m arguing that people in the NBA are making systematic errors and the audience hates this. When the session is over a women approaches me and she says to me would you want to write a book on this? I agreed to write this book, with no idea who or if anybody is going to read this. This book was just turning research from the past ten years into something that somebody could read."
Dr. Berri has spent the last two decades researching sports and economics, while publishing works on a variety of topics including the evaluation of players and coaches, competitive balance, the drafting of players, labor disputes, the NBA, gender wage gap in sports, and distribution of wealth and power.
He is familiar with the media and available for an interview. Simply visit his profile.
David Berri Professor of Economics
Specializing in evaluations of players and coaches in sports, gender issues in sports, and competitive balance in sports