Napoleon Complex Study Shows Shorter NBA Refs Call More Fouls

Joey Crawford

According to a Napoleon Complex is the condition of being small in stature but aggressively ambitious and seeking absolute control.  In other words, shorter men try to make up for their lack of height with false bravado and machismo.

The Journal of Sports Economics did a study on the Napoleon Complex and how it relates to NBA officiating, finding that there is in fact a correlation.

Given the vast number of observations in a transparent environment, the interaction between players and referees in the National Basketball Association (NBA) provides a real-world laboratory that allows for observation and testing of implicit height-based biases (the so-called “Napoleon Complex”). Controlling for a plethora of referee-specific characteristics and including 4,463 regular season games from 2008 to 2012, we find that (i) more personal fouls are called when a relatively shorter three-person officiating crew is working and (ii) no more or fewer fouls are called when games involve relatively taller players. Such biases are probably not large enough to impact game outcomes but could affect gambling markets. Our findings support the conclusion that relatively shorter NBA referees officiate basketball games differently than their taller peers. The analysis spotlights an oft-suggested but rarely studied bias in a workplace where employees are heavily scrutinized and monitored.


Although there isn’t a drastic difference, about one more foul per 480 minutes, the correlation is interesting.  Maybe that’s what explains Joey Crawford’s quick whistle.

H/T: Deadspin