Mike Zarren, AB'99, was a die-hard Boston Celtics fan growing up, and an economics major at UChicago. He never dreamed he'd combine the two in a succesful career.
As a student of Steven Levitt, Zarren became fascinated with the power of statistics. Nonetheless, he left numbers behind and went off to Harvard Law School. In his second year, he became an unpaid statistician for the Celtics, as the team began to explore the potential of data-intensive analysis of NBA players—basically, Moneyball for basketball.
Zarren could supply the relevant numbers, and by 2005 he turned his position into a full-time job. He is now considered a leading expert in Association for Professional Basketball Research Metrics (APBRmetrics). To try to give the team a competitive advantage, he takes statistical analysis far beyond the traditional points, rebounds, and assists. The team now collects vast detail on every player, every shot, and every game, which Zarren analyzes to guide coaching and player trade strategies.
Today Zarren is likely the only graduate of the undergraduate economics program with an NBA championship ring.