FanPost

Pulling back the curtain: A bit of insight into the making of a Fun Fact

On November 30th, 2012, the Knicks beat the Wizards 108-87. This was the first comment in the postgame thread:

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The Celtics didn't blow their huge lead, and November 30, 2012 became the first day that all 5 Atlantic Division teams won in regulation on the same night. But how did I figure this out? Well, for the first time ever, here is a step-by-step diagram as to how a specific Fun Fact was made.

Step 1 - Scan the boxscore for a noteworthy occurrence

On that night, I obviously noticed the all five Atlantic Division teams were winning and wondered when was the last time that had happened. When the Knicks are up big, like that night against Washington, it's not a problem to take one eye off the game and start researching Fun Facts as early as the third quarter. These instances, which occurred so often a season ago, yield the deepest and most obscure Fun Facts. My job would be a whole lot easier if every game was a Knicks blowout.

Step 2 - Figure out the easiest way to research the question

It's fortunate that the Knicks were winning handily because this one was tough. Most Fun Facts are relatively simple to figure out. Want to know who was the last Knick to score 50 in a game? Just plug the query into the Basketball-Reference database and out pops the answer. I cannot recommend B-R enough for NBA research. There is no database on the web that is even close to as all-consuming as Basketball-Reference's Play Index. However, as prodigious as it is, it is still far from complete, and on that night it would be of no use in attempting to answer my question.

As such, the only way to answer my question would be by going day to day and seeing if each Atlantic team won. The current iteration of the Atlantic Division was established in the '04-'05 season and there are approximately 175 days in a regular season, meaning that I would have to scan nearly 1500 days' worth of scoreboards to get the answer. As dedicated as I am to finding Fun Facts, that was not something I was willing to do. The next course of action was to eliminate as many days as possible.

My plan was simple: working my way backwards from the '12-'13 season, I opened the schedules of the last place teams in the division. These teams had combined to win 195 games between '04-'05 and November 30, 2012, meaning I had eliminated almost 90% of the NBA schedule over that time period. What's more, a number of these wins came against divisional opponents. Of course I wouldn't need to check those dates, bringing my grand total to somewhere between 100-150 days.

Step 3 - If necessary, adjust the query to save the fact

I'm sure many of you looked at the end of the previous paragraph and thought that even researching 100-150 days was too much effort. Well you're right, researching 100-150 days is a major hassle. However, I never expected to have to go that long anyway. Remember, the question was when was the last time all 5 teams won. If the answer was March 2012, I would be done within 5 minutes. I did not think that there was any chance that November 30th, 2012 would be the first time it ever happened.

March 2012 came and went though, and I had yet to find the elusive date. As I kept looking deeper into the past I got more and more excited. Maybe it had never happened before! Then I found it: March 26, 2008.

As far as I know, every one of my Fun Facts are true. Sometimes however, the truth needs to be spun the right way in order for a fact to attain maximum impact. "This is the first time since March 2008..." sounds good. "This is the first time ever" sounds better. Yes, every single Atlantic Division team won on March 26, 2008, but that night, the Knicks won in overtime. Was it possible that all five Atlantic teams have never won in regulation on the same night? By the time the game ended, I had finished checking all the dates and had my answer:

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