Here’s What Michael Jordan And The Stock Market Have in Common

“Look at the air, look at the hang time, look at the flying motion”

The debate is an ongoing one. Michael Jordan or LeBron James, who is the greatest player that ever lived. For me, it’s Michael – hands down. Sure, I’m biased – I grew up in the 80’s. The shoes, the jersey, the shorts, the posters – I was obsessed with him. Watching highlights of MJ now gives me goosebumps each and every time. His skill, his talent, his style, his accuracy, his precision, that air time would have not only the supporters in the stands up on their feet, but also the game’s commentators.

He was an absolute sniper with that ball in his hands. Leave him open for a split second, and he’ll put that thing away before you even had a chance to work out what happened.

Michael leads the NBA All-Time Points table with an average of 30.12 points per game. Quite impressive. But MJ’s scores per game were no where near his average. With the data that’s available, I have crunched the numbers. I looked at each game Jordan played and took the points he scored during that game. I was able to get my hands on 868 game data (Jordan played 1,072 games). I then calculated how many times Jordan scored 30 points in a game. The number is 35. Michael Jordan scored 30 points per game, 35 times in his career. In other words, 4.03% of the time he scored his average points.

Each blue dot in the chat below represents one game, and the red horizontal line represents an average of 30 points. You can see the range of scores that are well below and well above his average.

Data: www.landofbasketball.com

The Australian stock market has delivered an average annual return of around 13% since 1980. But short-term results may vary, and in any given period stock returns can be positive, negative, or flat. When setting your expectations, it’s helpful to see the range of outcomes experienced by investors historically. For example, how often have the stock market’s annual returns actually aligned with its long-term average?

The chart below shows calendar year returns for the S&P/ASX 300 Index (Total Return) since 1980. The shaded band marks the historical average of 12.94%, plus or minus 2 percentage points. The S&P/ASX 300 Index had a return within this range in only four of the past 39 calendar years. In most years, the index’s return was outside of the range—often above or below by a wide margin—with no obvious pattern. For investors, the data highlight the importance of looking beyond average returns and being aware of the range of potential outcomes.

Source: DFA

Despite the year-to-year volatility, investors can potentially increase their chances of having a positive outcome by maintaining a long-term focus. The chart below documents the historical frequency of positive returns over rolling periods of one, five, and 10 years in the Australian market. The data show that, while positive performance is never assured, investors’ odds improve over longer time horizons.

Source: DFA

While some investors might find it easy to stay the course in years with above average returns, periods of disappointing results may test an investor’s faith in equity markets. Being aware of the range of potential outcomes can help investors remain disciplined, which in the long term can increase the odds of a successful investment experience. What can help investors endure the ups and downs? While there is no silver bullet, understanding how markets work and trusting market prices are good starting points. An asset allocation that aligns with personal risk tolerances and investment goals is also valuable. By thoughtfully considering these and other issues, investors may be better prepared to stay focused on their long-term goals during different market environments.

As you wouldn’t bench Michael when he’s scoring 15 points per game, investors shouldn’t be benching their investment strategy when returns are looking below average. If you’re not playing the game, you’re not scoring the points.

“There’s Michael Jordan and then there is the rest of us.”

— Magic Johnson

Take the long-view. Thanks for the memories Michael.