Competitive Imbalances in the National Basketball Association

Competitive Imbalances in the National Basketball Association


There has been a profound knowledge about the economics of the sports teams. Economically, reducing competition increases profits. However, this economic idea does not apply to sports. Competition in sports is the primary source of revenue. A team can hardly make any money if it does not compete with any other teams. The article “The Short Supply of Tall People: Competitive Imbalance and the National Basketball Association” (Berri, Brook, Frick, Fenn, Vicente & Capitol, (2010) seeks to explore the imbalances that exist in professional sports and identify the levels and causes of such imbalances.

In sports, competitive imbalances do exist which hinders the economic success of a sports team. Imbalances reduce the uncertainty of a play’s outcome. When one team is dominant over other teams, it compromises the uncertainty of the outcome when it is playing thereby reducing the output of the industry.  The paper noted that when a home team has a higher probability of success, the fans attendance is low due to low uncertainty. The fans already know that the team will win thus lacking the urge to watch the game. As stipulated in the paper “fan attendance in Major League Baseball is maximized when the probability of the home team winning is approximately 0.6″(Berri, Brook, Frick, Fenn, Vicente & Capitol, (2010). Therefore, there is the need to control the level of competitive imbalances in any sports industry.

In answering the raised questions, the paper measures the level of competitive imbalances that exist across various professional sports team. The paper applies the regression model by estimating the existing relationships between different variables. The paper sought to measure the competitive imbalances existing in the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Football League (Berri, Brook, Frick, Fenn, Vicente & Capitol, (2010).

A significant variable measured in this case is the dispersion of wins, which is measured by comparing the actual performance with the ideal performance. The perfect performance is the performance under the maximum degree of competitive balance. The less the deviation between the two performances, the greater is the degree of competitive balance. The measure of competitive balance is measured by dividing the winning percentages standard deviation with the idealized standard deviation.

(Berri, Brook, Frick, Fenn, Vicente & Capitol, (2010)

Where CB is the competitive balance

WP is the winning percentage

Is the standard deviation

The idealized standard deviation is calculated by employing the winning percentages and the total number of regular games played in a season. In answering the question of the causes of the competitive imbalances, the paper explores the evolutional biology. It compares the height of basketball players factoring in their capability and talent. It measures the productivity of tall and smaller men to determine the standard deviation of points scored.

The paper established that the average competitive balance in soccer is between 1.281 and 1.581. The American football has a tighter range of 1.484 to 1.578. The hockey leagues offer a competitive balance close to 1.9 (Berri, Brook, Frick, Fenn, Vicente & Capitol, (2010). Basketball and baseball on average offer a winning standard deviation that is twice the idealized level. This analysis suggests that competitive balance is a function of the sport being played. Every sport has its imbalances. The imbalances are caused by the differing productivity of the players. By taking a keen interest in the basketball, the paper analyzed the effects of having short and tall men in the team. Height was a consideration since no kind of training can increase the human height as compared to other traits.

In the NBA, there is a height restriction, which drastically reduces the players available. From the analysis, if the population is restricted, the level of competitive imbalances will not be improved. For tall men, the standard deviation of points scored is 0.110 to 0.129, which is higher than the standard deviation of short men, which is 0.079 to 0.100. For the productivity index, tall men have a standard deviation of 0.058 to 0.068 as compared to short men with 0.032 to 0.045 (Berri, Brook, Frick, Fenn, Vicente & Capitol, (2010). These results show that the supply of tall quality players is very low. The limited supply of tall men makes the team employ less athletic players to play. When such players play against the better centres and forwards, the results are predictable. This is the sole cause of imbalances in the NBA.

Changes in the talented population dictate the level of competition in any league. In simpler terms, institutions cannot outdo the power of nature. When talented and well-suited players are competing with lesser players, there is less uncertainty in the game. The results are predictable. The explanations the paper gives are very qualified. There is tremendous analysis to prove the given explanations.

This paper is significant in that it can help the sports industry realize the levels of competitive imbalances existing.  Institutions will be able to handle the imbalances once they know that they exist. The paper is also very informative in that I have learnt that competitive imbalances in sport are harmful. I used to argue that a team’s dominance will enable it earn more revenue but the paper has taught me that this would be harmful not only to the team but to the industry.



Berri, D. J., Brook, S. L., Frick, B., Fenn, A. J., Vicente-Mayoral, R., & Capitol, O. N.(2010) The Short Supply of Tall People: Competitive Imbalance and the National Basketball Association Accepted for publication by The Journal of Economic Issues.


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