Data Viz Done Right

August 16, 2012

LeBron James is underpaid by nearly $7M. But you can’t pay him with pies!

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LeBron James is pretty awesome; we all know that.  Sports Chart of the Day has interesting content, but creates horrible charts; we all know that too.  This time, Sports Chart of the day is trying to represent deviations with pie charts.  Really, seriously, I’m not lying.

Here’s the evidence.

If the headline of Cork Gaines’ article didn’t tell you what the point of the story was, do you think you’d actually be able to deduce anything from his pie charts?  Can you tell me who is the largest % underpaid? 

This has to be in the top 2 or 3 worst ways to represent change.  But then again, Sports Chart of the Day (and their cohorts over at Chart of the Day) create quite a bit of chart junk.

There’s some pretty basic information available and there are also some simple ways to portray the data that will tell the story better.  Let’s go through a few examples (in no particular order).

Example 1: Bar in bar chart, labeled by the amount under/overpaid

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With this chart design, you can compare the salaries at a glance, both for the player and across the team.

Example 2: Bar in bar chart, but the bar lengths represent the % of the team payroll for each player.

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This chart is the identical shape as example 1, but the percentages provide a bit more perspective than the raw numbers.  You cannot easily discern from example 1 that LeBron should account for 30% of the team payroll.

In both example 1 and example 2, you’re able to quickly rank the players based on their current salary (you may not have even noticed that they’re not in order on the pie charts).  So I can clearly see that Mike Miller is the 5th highest paid player and that he’s basically making 2x what he deserves.

It’d be even better if you could select your sort criteria. Fortunately I can build and share in seconds using Tableau. Click here to see it live.

Example 3: Bar chart that shows the amount each player is underpaid or overpaid.  Color is used as an additional visual cue.

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This chart represents the math between the two bars in chart 1 so that the focus is directly on the amount LeBron is underpaid (and the amount Chris Bosh is overpaid).  I prefer this over example 1 because the message is much simpler and clearer.

Example 4: Bar chart that represents that % that a player is underpaid or overpaid.  In other words, who is really getting screwed.

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Interesting…when you compare this chart to example 3, it’s a very different story.  Yes, LeBron is the most underpaid, but that’s because he makes so much money.  This chart here tells us that he’s actually getting screwed the LEAST of those that are underpaid.  Can you imagine being underpaid by 44% and being able to prove it?  James Jones’ agent needs to get to work!

This chart also shows us how ludicrously overpaid Wade, Bosh and Miller are.  Good luck restructuring those contracts to help out their teammates.

I’ve provided four alternatives, but many more exist.  If I had to pick one that tell the story the best, I would go with example 4 because it makes the salaries all relative.

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