Over at the Village Voice website, writer Christopher Weingarten recently started a most excellent article series mixing rock trivia with near-sabermetric-level data analysis. It’s called “Are You Smarter Than a Rock Critic?,” and it polls a cross-section of music critics every week, asking them to attempt (without cheating) to name all the items in a certain music-related set. (Prior examples have included members of the Wu-Tang Clan and albums released by Bob Dylan in the 60s.) The results are then posted anonymously, with all the relevant statistics (included those anomalous, and occasionally downright absurd) included. And then the readers flock en masse to the comments section to express their disbelief that anyone could not know the name of the drummer for The Doors.
Well, I thought it looked like fun, so I assembled my own crack team of 16 NBA bloggers to see how they could handle a handful of tests in a similar style — except, naturally, on the subject of professional basketball. The crew squared off admirably against a half-dozen questions with a total of 56 possible answers. All fared respectably, though none perfectly. Observe their performance on the mini-quizzes below. As with the Voice series, the names have been left out to protect the innocent. No self-respecting NBA writer can would dare risk the shame of their fanbase witnessing them mixing up two of the Barry brothers or something.
Question #1: Can You Name the 12 Members of the 1992 Dream Team?
Recently inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a single entity, the 1992 U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball squad — a.k.a. the Dream Team — represented the best and brightest that American basketball had to offer at the time. 11 All-Star pros and a soon-to-graduate college hoops legend, the team laid the rest of the world to waste on their way to winning gold, representing an iconic moment in US sports history and setting the standard for all national teams that followed. But how many of the dozen could our own Dream Team name?
The Correct Answer: Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, John Stockton
Number of Writers Who Got All 12 Members: 8
Number of Writers Who Got All But One: 5
Members of Team Correctly Guessed By All: Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, David Robinson, Karl Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Michael Jordan
Least-Guessed Correct Member: Clyde Drexler (11 out of 16)
Number of Writers Who Possibly Figured Something Called the “Dream Team” Had to Include Hakeem Olajuwon: 2
Number of Writers Who Forgot Christian Laettner’s Name But Recalled That There Was a “Dukie” Involved: 1
Players Guessed Incorrectly Who Did Make it to Dream Team II: Reggie Miller, Shaquille O’Neal, Joe Dumars
Other Incorrect (But Plausible) Guesses: Isiah Thomas, Gary Payton, Larry Johnson
The panel’s performance on this question was easily the best of the six — a fitting tribute to perhaps the best 12-man squad ever assembled to play competitive basketball. The next one, however, was all over the map.
2. Can You Name All 13 Players Involved in the Recent Three-Way Deal Between the Knicks, Nuggets and Timberwolves?
Seems like it should be an easy one, since the blockbuster trade between these three teams went down just a week ago, and was reported about so very extensively. However, as our group of experts quickly discovered, when you sit down to name all 13 players — including all of the scrubs thrown into the mix to fill out roster slots and make salaries match — it ain’t all that simple.
The Correct Answer: Carmelo Anthony, Renaldo Balkman, Chauncey Billups, Corey Brewer, Anthony Carter, Wilson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos, Timofey Mozgov, Anthony Randolph, Shelden Williams
Number of Writers Who Got All 13 Trade Participants: 0
Participants Correctly Guessed By All Writers: Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Wilson Chandler
Least-Guessed Correct Participant: Kosta Koufos (3 out of 16)
Number of Writers Who Wrote Me After the Fact to Protest That Kosta Koufos Was Actually Included in a Separate Deal and Should Not Have Counted: 1 (NBA.com says it was separate, Basketball-Reference.com lumps them together — dunno.)
Number of Writers Who Would Have Scored Perfectly if Koufos Didn’t Count: 5
Number of Those Writers Who Shrewdly Listed “Draft Picks” As Their 13th Guess: 2
Number of Writers Who Spelled “Timofey” Wrong: 2 (Timofy, Timothy)
Number of Writers Who Avoided the Problem Entirely By Just Writing “Mozgov”: 4
Guess there might be an asterisk next to some of the performances on that one. My bad for not noticing the disputability ahead of time, guys.
3. Can You Name the Six Franchises the Lakers Have Defeated in the Western Conference Finals During the Kobe Bryant Era?
On their way to seven finals appearances in the previous 11 seasons, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers have deferred the dreams of a number of Western Conference finals hopefuls. In fact, they’ve met up with a half dozen franchises in the West finals over that time period — one of them twice — and emerged victorious each time. But can our panel remember each of those almost-weres that fell to Kobe and company?
The Correct Answer: Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trailblazers
Number of Writers Who Got All Six Teams: 2
Most-Guessed Correct Team: Phoenix Suns (15 out of 16)
Least-Guessed Correct Team: Minnesota Timberwolves (9 out of 16)
Number of Writers Who Incorrectly Guessed the Utah Jazz: 7
Number of Writers Who Incorrectly Guessed the Dallas Mavericks: 3
Number of Writers Who Misunderstood the Question and Incorrectly Guessed a Bunch of Eastern Conference Teams: 1
Number of Writers Who Thought They Could Get Away With Listing the Spurs Twice: 1 (WRONG)
Number of Writers Who Just Assumed the Lakers “Had to Get Through the Spurs” Every Year, Possibly Because They Write About the Spurs A Lot: 1
No surprise that the Jazz were such a popular wrong answer, since they’ve defeated the Jazz in the conference semis or quarters each of the last three seasons, and even lost to the Jazz in the ’98 West finals. But somehow, the cosmos never aligned in such a way that the Lakers ended up beating the Jazz in the conference finals. Weird, I know.
4. Can You Name the Eight Future All-Stars Selected in the Legendary 2003 NBA Draft?
Producing without a doubt the most famous rookie class of the 21st century, the 2003 NBA Draft has already begun to go down with ’96 and ’84 as one of the all-time great dispersals of new talent into the league. In the eight years since, eight players taken in the first or second round have gone on to be selected to at least one All-Star team. The first few might be on the obvious side, but how deep can our writers go beyond that?
The Correct Answer: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Josh Howard, LeBron James, Chris Kaman, Dwyane Wade, David West, Mo Williams
Number of Writers Who Got All Eight All-Stars: 0
Number of Writers Who Got All But Either Josh Howard or Mo Williams: 5
All-Stars Correctly Guessed By All Writers: Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade
Least-Guessed Correct All-Star: Mo Williams (5 out of 16)
Most-Guessed Incorrect All Star: Carlos Boozer (2 times)
Players Guessed Who Were Neither All-Stars Nor Drafted in 2003: Andre Iguodala, Leandro Barbosa (Though to be fair, both guesses were followed by the qualification “I know this is wrong”)
Number of Writers Who Specifically Guessed “Not Hinrich”: 1
Number of Writers Who Guessed Chris Paul, But Not Chris Bosh or Chris Kaman: 1
Number of Writers Who Expressed Regret That Parenthood Had Sapped Him of His ’03 Draft Expertise: 1
Frankly, I’m impressed that five of our writers were able to remember not only that Mo Williams was taken with the 48th pick in the second round of the ’03 draft, but that six years later, he rode fellow Class of ’03er LeBron James’ coattails to an All-Star bid. Hope you enjoyed it while you could, Moseph.
5. Can You Name the Nine Players Suspended as a Result of their Involvement in the 2004 Pacers-Pistons Brawl?
One of the biggest stories from the previous decade of professional sports, the Malice at the Palace between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers had a fallout that was both dramatic and far-reaching. But though everyone has seen the clips, and most people remember the principals involved in the brouhaha, could our writers remember each of the players whose participation was deemed worthy of punishment by game suspension?
The Correct Answer: Ron Artest, Chauncey Billups, Elden Campbell, Derrick Coleman, Stephen Jackson, Anthony Johnson, Reggie Miller, Jermaine O’Neal, Ben Wallace
Number of Writers Who Got All Nine Suspendees: 0
Number of Writers Who Got All But One: 2
Suspendees Correctly Guessed By All Writers: Ron Artest, Jermaine O’Neal
Number of Writers Who Guessed Derrick Coleman, Who Only Ever Played a Combined 50 Minutes for the Pistons: 1
Number of Writers Who Incorrectly Guessed Jamaal Tinsley: 10
Number of Those Writers Who Forgot the Third “A” in “Jamaal”: 3
Number of Writers Who Evidently Believed Jeff Foster Capable of Respectable Brawling: 7
Number of Writers Who Impressively Remembered the Existence of the Charged-But-Not-Suspended David Harrison: 3
Number of Writers Who Incorrectly (But Not Illogically) Assumed That Rasheed Wallace “Got Suspended for Something”: 1
I thought this was for sure the hardest of the questions I asked, so I was less surprised that no one aced it as I was that a bunch of the writers came close. I mean, c’mon — Derrick Coleman and Elden fucking Campbell? Who even remembers that those guys were still alive in 2004?
6. Can You Name The Eight Franchises to Win a Championship in the 60s, 70s or 80s, Besides the Celtics and Lakers?
Between 1960 and 1989, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers absolutely ruled the roost in the NBA, racking up 20 of a possible 30 championships between them. However, a handful of other teams were able to slip in in between their cracks and nab a title or two for themselves while the getting was good. Could our panel squint hard enough to see them amidst all the green and purple?
The Correct Answer: Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Bullets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Seattle Supersonics, Portland Trailblazers, Golden State Warriors
Number of Writers Who Got All Eight Teams: 2
Teams Correctly Guessed By All Writers: Portland Trailblazers
Least-Guessed Correct Team: Golden State Warriors (7 out of 16, not counting one “Philadelphia Warriors” guess)
Most-Guessed Incorrect Team: Houston Rockets (5 times)
Incorrect Team With Most Permutations of Incorrect Guesses: Sacramento Kings (Rochester Royals/Cincinnati Royals/Kings)
Number of Incorrect Teams Guessed Who Did Win ABA Championships Over the Timespan: 1 (Indiana Pacers)
Number of Writers Who Felt Obligated to Refer to the Sonics as the “Oklahoma City Thunder (Seattle Supersonics),” Possibly Because They Write About the Thunder a Lot: 1
Number of Writers Who Compared the Late-70s One-Timer Champs to Presidents Millard Filmore and Franklin Pierce, Presumably in Terms of Physical Attractiveness: 1
Worth noting that the St. Louis Hawks and the Houston Rockets, both popular incorrect guesses for this one, were pretty close with their championships, but did fall out of the timespan–the Hawks’ title coming in ’57-’58, and the Rockets’ two coming in ’93-’94 and ’94-’95. Both also made the Finals twice, in the 60s and 80s respectively, but lost to the Celtics all four times.
Aaaand there you have it. How did your test-taking prowess compare to that of our experts? And do you have the sudden urge to kill the rest of the day at the office playing Sporcle?