Is Lil B’s Curse a Blessing?

A statistical look at Lil B’s curses

Author, rapper, motivational speaker, and Based God, Lil B has amassed a small, yet devoted and cult-like following. His rap music sets him apart (he once released an 855 song mixtape), but his online reputation has allowed him to transcend the title of rapper. This reputation is only strengthened by his close relationship with the NBA. He’s a devoted Golden State Warriors fan, and has even tried out for their D-league affiliate team in 2012.

Lil B is perhaps best well known for his alter ego, The Based God. Claiming he’s able to tap into the power of the Based God, Lil B has cursed and blessed various NBA players and teams. Most recently, this took shape in his feud with the Denver Nuggets. After The Based God sent out a tweet blessing seven NBA teams, the Denver Nuggets implied they hadn’t heard of Lil B.

In response, Lil B proclaimed the Denver Nuggets would lose their next game for disrespecting the Based God.

Whether his curse worked or not, the Nuggets ended up losing to the Sixers, 107–102.

This example is only one of Lil B’s many curses. Throughout his time following the NBA, he’s cursed several players and teams, most notably James Harden, and Kevin Durant. The real question is whether or not these curses have worked. Although there has been some anecdotal evidence that the curse might be more powerful than we think, this article will take a statistical approach to answering whether Lil B’s curse is something to fear. For this analysis we will focus on Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant spent enough time both under and free from the curse, so there’s enough data on either side. Finally, the results of Durant’s curse is often cited as being proof of The Based God’s power.

Lil B’s Curse on Kevin Durant

So how did Durant earn this curse? After Kevin Durant insulted Lil B’s music, The Based God took to twitter to curse then Oklahoma City small forward.

That year the Thunder ended up losing to the Heat in the NBA Finals, reinforcing the idea that Lil B’s curse may have worked. However, how does the curse hold up to a rigorous (not actually rigorous) statistical look?

To answer these questions I will focus on how Kevin Durant’s ability differed when under and free from the curse. From 2008 until the 2011 season, Kevin Durant was free from Lil B’s wrath, but from the 2011 season until the end of his tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant was cursed. To analyze his performance, we will focus on two main stats, Player Efficiency Rating (PER), and Estimated Wins Added (EWA). PER is an all in one basketball rating that tries to simplify a player’s stats into one comprehensive number. EWA is the amount of wins a player adds to the team’s total if he were replaced by an average ‘replacement player’. Both of these metrics serve as comprehensive measures of a players skill and contribution to the team.

Kevin Durant’s PER (years shaded red are under the curse)

Looking at PER, it appears that the curse didn’t hurt Durant, and if anything improved his ability. The years following the curse saw a significant improvement in Durant’s efficiency rating, and the year the curse was lifted, Durant’s PER dipped slightly. The years under the curse saw a PER of 28.1, whereas the years free from the curse saw a significantly lower 24.6. This certainly goes against the idea that Lil B’s curse worked. Now let’s look at Estimated Wins Added.

Once again, there’s little evidence that the Based God’s curse had any negative effect. Kevin Durant’s best years were those under the curse. Furthermore, in 2014 Durant fractured his foot, leading him to miss the first 17 games of the season. This would significantly lessen his estimated wins added. If 2014 is thrown out as an outlier, Durant’s EWA is 25.15 games under the curse, and only 19.5 otherwise. We might be right that Lil B’s curse is powerful, but is it possible it is more of a blessing than a curse?

However, there’s an important caveat. Lil B’s curse took place during Kevin Durant’s prime basketball playing age. This would mean that Durant would be expected to play better during the curse. Is it possible that Lil B just curses people right as they’re heading to their peak. Using data about player efficiency from this site, I was able to factor in a player’s predicted performance as they age, to see whether Lil B’s accidental blessing could be accounted for by age. Unfortunately, because the data is only from age 23 onward, there is not as much data to go off of.

Expected vs. actual EWA and PER for Kevin Durant (Curse is highlighted in red)

The most notable thing from looking at the graph is how bad of a year 2014 was for Kevin Durant. As mentioned earlier, much of this could be attributed to his fractured foot. However, considering that, Kevin Durant did better during the curse than before it, even when factoring an expected age effect. This can be a weird graph to read, but the y-axis represents how much better or worse the player did than expected. If it’s above zero, it means age hurt Durant less than normal, and if it’s below zero, it means it hurt Durant more than normal. Once 2014 is thrown out, Durant did beat expectations more than he did when off of the curse.

Does this mean that Lil B’s curse is a blessing? Probably not. With a sample size of a few years, and no tests of significance, we really can’t be sure. But it seems as if whatever effect Lil B has, it isn’t negative. I’m not recommending NBA players intentionally provoke The Based God, but it might not be the end of the world if they do.