Taco Tuesdays have eaten into LeBron’s productivity and I have the data to prove it.
One of the most unappetizing developments in the NBA is LeBron James’ recent obsession with Taco Tuesdays. I’m not talking about the broader issue of cultural appropriation or his sad attempt to trademark the phrase. I’m talking about how the King’s curious obsession with eating tacos on Tuesdays, has led to him eating Ls on the box score.
Almost every culture has a kind of taco. The Greeks have gyros. The French have crepes. Italians have calzones. Americans have Taco Bell. Folding dough around a medley of meat and veggies is a food concept as old as time. And while everyone enjoys tacos, some of us are more fanatic than others…
Enter El Reye, LeBron James.
The man’s awkward passion for Taco Tuesday tends to evoke mixed reactions: anywhere between smiling at the heartwarming dad moment and a literal whole-body cringe. And I won’t deny, as a proper Houstonian who takes his tacos very seriously, I was suspicious when I first heard grumblings of the Ohio-native’s weekly affair. So, I looked to the numbers to see if there is more to this meat-and-cheese filled story.
“It’s just like Taco Tuesdays. It’s a (expletive) thing.”
Before biting into the data, I needed to pinpoint the origins of James’ taco-bsession (taco-obsession, hehe). After an exhaustive multi-minute googling sesh, the earliest Taco Tuesday observance I could find is this Instagram story from August 2018.
Just a few weeks later we got further confirmation of LeBron’s enthusiasm for weekday alliteration-themed occasions during a post-practice Q&A. His fervent response to the media’s questions about his “White Boy Wednesdays” playlist gave it all away:
“It’s a universal thing, right?’’ he asked reporters, with a smile. “It’s just like taco Tuesdays. It’s a (expletive) thing.”
It’s a (expletive) thing. Profound words with profound implications. It’s at this point we can confidently presume Taco Tuesday is a staple in the James house. His videos would increase in frequency and social media buzz throughout the 2018-19 season before reaching a zeitgeist level of furor with this May ‘19 insta-story.
Thus, we can split LeBron’s career is into two distinct periods:
- Pre-Taco Tuesday Era: 2003-04 – 2017-18 seasons
- Taco Tuesday Era: 2018-19 – 2019-20 seasons
With a reliable taco timeline established, it’s time to count the beans.
I began by compiling LeBron’s career game logs (the population) and identifying the day of the week each game was played on. Next, I pulled in his Season Averages (the control group) and selected the following 10 stat categories to get a comprehensive picture of his performance: Game Score, Points, Field Goal %, 3-Point %, Free Throw %, Total Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks, and Turnovers. For each of these stats, I compared his average performance for each day of the week to his overall average for the corresponding season.
Example: for the 2003-04 NBA season, LeBron averaged 20.9 Points per game. On Sundays that season, he averaged 26.6 Points per game. So, for Sunday during the ‘03-04 season, LeBron had a Points per game variance of +27.3%. This calculation is repeated for each day of the week for each of the 10 stat categories for each of LeBron’s seasons in the league.
A 5% variance threshold was used to clearly delineate between good and bad performances. Meaning, daily stat averages greater than +5% of the season average are considered “Positive” (green), variances less than -5% are considered “Negative” (red) and variances within those bounds are considered “Neutral” (yellow). This threshold divided the data points into the three stratums equally.
Pre-Taco Tuesday Era
For the Pre-Taco Tuesday Era, this analysis examined 1,050 total data points (10 stats x 7 days per week x 15 seasons) and found an unambiguous trend: LeBron plays better on Tuesdays.
Since LeBron entered the league, his Tuesday night performances have registered the lowest rate of Negative variances and the highest rate of Positive variances. Meaning, Tuesday is the day he is least likely to perform worse than his season average, and the day he is most likely to perform better than his season average.
When looking at the daily variances cumulatively, his Tuesday performance stands out even more!
Tuesdays had a Total Average Variance of 2.4%. Meaning, in the pre-Taco Tuesday era, LeBron posted an average stat line +2.4% better than his season average on Tuesday nights.
And with LeBron being undoubtedly the best player on his teams, we’d expect that Tuesday performance bump to be reflected in the Win/Loss column… It was.
LeBron came out victorious in 71% of his Tuesday outings in the pre-Taco Tuesday era – more than 4% better than his total win rate of 67% over the same period.
This is where things turn bleak. Lakers fans and LeBron-stans, now might be the time to log off.
Oh, How the Tacos have Turned
Everyone thought LeBron’s biggest weakness was his hairline. Turns out, it’s tacos.
Prior to his weekly taco tradition, LeBron’s Tuesday performance had the lowest rate of negative variances and the highest rate of positive variances.
In the first two seasons of the Taco Tuesday era, James’ sacred day has registered an +11% uptick in negative variances and a -17% drop in positive variances.
Looking at the variances by stat we get an even better sense for his Tuesday performance slump. LeBron is suddenly performing significantly worse than his season average most of the key stats! A complete reversal of the trend from the days before his Taco titilations.
Suffice it to say, LeBron’s average Tuesday performance has fallen flatter than Casa Ole’s® velveeta-smothered tostada. For those of you residing outside the great state of Texas, allow this trip advisor reivew to enlighten you on our state’s worst Mexican chain.
Similar to how Montezuma’s revenge transforms local cuisines into violent bowel movements, we’d expect LeBron’s shitty Tuesday performance to translate to the Win/Loss column… it did.
Since the weekday shenanigans began, LeBron’s Tuesday Win % has lagged his overall Win % by -2%.
To put all this data into perspective, here’s a few Taco-mparisons (Taco-Comparisons, hehe) for you to consider.
It’s becoming difficult to separate LeBron’s on-court performance from his escalating taco mania. Whether he’s sending taco trucks to the California firefighters, leading the Staples Center in an arena-wide taco chant, or his recent feature on Migos’ Taco Tuesday track – LeBron has progressively made the Latin street food a part of his identity.
After examining 17 seasons of data the findings are clear: LeBron James’ Tuesday performance has gotten measurably worse since his Taco Tuesday antics began.
So, what does this mean for LeBron and the Lakers?
Well, in the short run, they don’t have too much to worry about. The NBA curiously scheduled no Tuesday night matchups for the Lakers in the bubble restart. I don’t mean to stoke the r/nba conspiracy flames but if that sus pattern holds for the playoff schedule, we’ll need an official response from Adam Silver.
Note: the author contacted the the NBA League Office for comment but they did not respond prior to posting on reddit.
Looking past the current season, however, should Jeanie Buss and the Lakers consider intervening?
On the one hand, LeBron should face the mariachi music and acknowledge the way he’s let down his teammates, coaches and fans these past two taco-slowed seasons.
On the other hand, despite his Tuesday distraction and the performance decline it’s wrought, LeBron had an MVP-caliber season and led his team to the #1 seed in the Western conference.
What his teammates, coaches and fans deserve most is an unencumbered LeBron. An on-court LeBron who’s fully present every time he suits up; undistracted by the allure of alliteration themed dinner nights. And, an off-court LeBron who can freely indulge his primal taco impulses each and every Tuesday night. A LeBron so fully self-actualized it’d make Michael stop crying.
Thus, the data offers but one solution: Taco Load Management
Frank Vogel should rest LeBron on Tuesday nights so he can pursue his conflicting passions uninhibited.
You can check out the formatted write-up and all my research here!