Michael Lewis, the writer, has a new book out, “The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds” about the “ways in which the human mind erred, systematically, when forced to make judgments about uncertain situations.”
As part of his research he interviewed Daryl Morey, the Rockets GM, about the 2010 NBA Draft, about an “uncertain situation,” the availability of a Harvard-educated Asian-American point guard, Jeremy Lin. It’s an example that proved Lewis’ thesis. Morey admits he erred.
Here’s the excerpt, courtesy of ND poster LorenzoMax…
“He lit up our model,” said Morey. “Our model said take him with, like, the 15th pick in the draft.” The objective measurement of Jeremy Lin didn’t square with what the experts saw when they watched him play; a not terribly athletic Asian kid. Morey hadn’t completely trusted his model – and so had chickened out and not drafted Lin. A year after the Houston Rockets failed to draft Jeremy Lin, they began to measure the speed of a player’s first two steps: Jeremy Lin had the quickest first move of any player measured. He was explosive and was able to change direction far more quickly than most NBA players. “He’s incredibly athletic,” said Morey. “But the reality is that every **** person, including me, thought he was unathletic. And I can’t think of any reason for it other than he was Asian.”
Lin went undrafted, and after a couple of stops, exploded on the NBA —and world— stages with Linsanity, his success driven by that quick first step and athleticism. Of course, Morey tried to correct his mistake by signing Lin, which ultimately didn’t work out.
The admission by Morey re-confirms what a lot of people, including Lin, had long thought about the Draft. Despite a great career at Harvard, including breakout games vs. UConn and Boston College, among others, it was racial bias that ruined his first chance at the NBA.