One of the hottest (and excruciatingly frustrating) ongoing debates in the world of sports is whether or not the concept of “momentum” actually exists. The term has historically been used to describe an athlete’s or team’s overwhelming ascension to superior performance in a given time period. As a reference, many pundits of the past most likely referred to Joe Dimaggio as having serious “momentum”. More recently, sports gasbags often refer to Steph Curry going absolutely fucking bonkers in a single quarter as Steph “gaining momentum”.
NOT EVEN SONNNN.
HOW-EVAH: the question of momentum’s false existence is relatively nuanced and cannot be adequately addressed with the binary options of “yes” or “no”.
Let’s take a quick step back and give y’all some context.
The debate surrounding whether or not the concept of momentum is a myth was jump-started a few years ago in a piece written by ESPN’s statista-phile NBA writer, Tom Haberstroh. I’d say you can read the piece here, but ESPN is still somehow convinced that they should severely limit the visibility of great content by making users “pay-to-read”.
More recently, ESPN personality Bomani Jones has championed the fact that momentum literally “ain’t no thang”. Over the past couple weeks on his radio show, Bo has delighted in taking listeners’ calls as they try to explain to him that he’s completely wrong. Most of the time, viewers unknowingly prove Jones’ own point while spewing nonsense during their 15 seconds of fame. While Bomani is absolutely correct in his ascertation, his explanations don’t go far enough to convince devout followers of the Church Of Momentum that they believe in a false prophet. Jones is absolutely correct that momentum is not real. However, it’s technically incorrect to say that what Church Of Momentum practitioners believe in, doesn’t exist.
(Sidenote: Don’t be surprised when you see Bomani Jones end up as one of the leading/prominent thinkers in all of American media within the next 5 years. Y’all definitely need to peep the radio show if you don’t listen yet.)
Momentum is not real. Momentum does exist. It is simply a MISNOMER. I know, kinda confusing. But let me explain….
The concept of momentum that people have referred to for decades is false. These believers often attribute ramped-up dominating performances during a specific time period as momentum. However, where is this “momentum” coming from? Can you grab it from thin air? Can you smell it? Does it taste good? You don’t know, because it’s not real.
However, the fact that what many refer to as “momentum” tends to be so clear and so apparent to so many people simultaneously, it’s impossible for it to not exists. Which brings us to the fact that “momentum” is nothing more than a misnomer.
Momentum is simply an extreme confluence of multiple factor that lead an athlete to perform at a consistently superior level. The most prominent factors that people misconstrue momentum for include:
In my not so fucking humble opinion, these are the 4 key things that actually represent momentum. Additionally, these elements appear much more in micro situations than in macro circumstances.
For instance, the San Antonio Spurs lost 4 games straight in the 2012 Western Conference Finals after heading into Game 3 of the series on a 20-game winning streak. As we all witnessed, San Antonio’s previous victories didn’t keep the OKC Thunder from storming back to win 4 straight games. That’s a pretty large sample size in which clearly the 4 factors listed above cannot exist throughout uninterrupted.
In regards to micro situations, the things that viewers inaccurately classify as “momentum” tend to occur more frequently. If you just think about it from a common sense stance, obviously a confluence of things such as extreme focus and severe luck can only happen in quick spurts. The play of LeBron James supports this idea.
I’ve never seen a better front-runner in the NBA in all my years watching pro ball than LeBron James (not meant as a compliment). When BronBron’s team is grooving, James tends to perform at peak levels and have an extra “pep on his step”. When LeBron has this extra pep in his step, he coincidentally starts making more and more difficult jumpers. During those runs where the Miami Heat scored 10 straight points on fast-break alley-oop dunks, it was almost as if LeBron could shoot the ball blindfolded and made it.
So, did James snatch this “momentum” out of thin air? Nah son. This happens when LeBron’s focus increases, which leads to better shooting form and fundamentals, which leads to better performance, which leads to increased confidence, which leads to even better performance.
That, my friends, is “momentum”. And that is why momentum is not real, yet does exist.
WE OUT HERE.