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‘Hot Takedown’ Wonders: Do Stars Matter?

After Chris Paul and Alex Ovechkin were knocked out of their playoffs this month, there were a lot of hot takes about how neither was a big enough star to carry his team to a championship. On this week’s “Hot Takedown,” Kate Fagan, Neil Paine and Chadwick Matlin look at some of the research on whether you need a star to win a title, or whether winning a title makes you a star. According to Neil’s analysis, the sport that relies on star players the most is basketball — then come baseball, football and hockey.

Hot Takedown

Here are the notes Neil worked from for the conversation:

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For the most recent Hot Takedown podcast, Neil Paine whipped up some research on how much a "star" should be expected to win a championship in their career, and how much they help a group of average players grab a title in a given year. Neil ran hundreds of career simulations, surrounding star players with various caliber teammates. These are his notes from the conversation. Some findings: Across the four major sports, stars have the biggest impact in basketball, then baseball, football, and hockey. If you surround a superstar with average teammates: Lebron James has a 12-34% yearly chance of winning a title in his prime. Mike Trout had 5-10% chance in his prime. Alex Ovechkin had a 2% chance in his prime. For a player like Alex Ovechkin, the average NHL team has a 1% chance of winning a title — he only raises it to 2%

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Jody Avirgan hosts and produces podcasts for FiveThirtyEight.

Kate Fagan is a writer for espnW and a regular panelist on the FiveThirtyEight sports podcast Hot Takedown.

Neil Paine is a senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight.

Chadwick Matlin is a senior editor at FiveThirtyEight.