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Death of an NBA Statician

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A pioneer of basketball analytics takes his exit

Martin Manley

Some of you may read this post and wonder what it's doing on TDS. While it's not directly related to the Rockets it is clearly related to basketball. Last Thursday at 5 am, after sending some emails and overnight letters warning his family of what he was to do, Martin Manley sat outside of the Overland Park police station in Kansas and fatally shot himself. While this is not exactly interesting news, people kill themselves every day; Manley's death is noteworthy for the fact that he was sort of internet famous amongst the basketball analytics community. He wrote for the Kansas City Star for many years, published a few books and he helped popularize, nay invented¸ the NBA's standard efficiency rating. (EFF, not to be confused with Hollinger's player efficiency rating, PER)

If you're looking to learn more about basketball you can go there and just read the subcategories about sports. Manley was clearly one of the better basketball analytics out there. You can read his explanation behind EEF here. There are also long, extremely well written passages about sports and race and synesthesia, but you'd be doing a disservice to yourself, and the man who wrote these passages if you didn't hang around and read a little bit more about Manley himself.

Manley's expansive Web site is probably the most elaborate suicide note I have ever seen. Suicide notes are notorious for being cryptic and rambling and maddeningly unedited. Before he died Manley took meticulous time to answer pretty much any question a friend or loved one may have about his decision to kill himself. That he removed all mystery behind his death is a generosity most people, and even God himself, don't extend to our families when we die.

I am familiar with the NBA's standard efficiency rating; any serious basketball fan is, really. But I won't pretend that I had ever heard of Manley before news of this suicide hit the wires last week. In reading Manley's site, though, I feel like I know him. He was pretty honest about who he was and why he did what he did. I'm not sure that we should admire his acts or romanticize his death. (Yahoo didn't, it's now taken the site down but it lives on through various other mirrors which are linked above.) But there's something to respect about this man who brought order to the one thing that none of us will escape. Death. I believe this site is beautiful in that way. Manley hated gray more than the regular guy. He was all about the white and black. Numbers. Certainties. Order. Control.

A look at Manley's suicide Web site gives us a window into a beautiful analytical mind that was obsessed with facts and logic and simplicity. He looked at his own life the same cut-and dry way that he'd look at James Harden's game film. Why is it taking me ten times to read this over when ten years ago I only had to look at it once? I've no wife, no kids, If I wait too long, it'll be too late. Posterity would have dismissed me the same way it's done to billions of souls through eternity. Manley surmised as much, and he's left this slice of the internet where people can go and shoot the breeze with him about his life and his interests. He waited until his 60th birthday to kill himself, two weeks before the lease on his apartment was going to expire, and right around the time his life, car and health insurance was set to expire as well. He used a gun to kill himself and left nothing to chance. Only one word comes to mind when I think of all the work Manley put into his exit, and it seems fitting in this regard - Manley was, if nothing else, efficient. I just hope he found what he was looking for.