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Off the charts
[ 2007-12-11 11:29 ]


Reader question:

In this sentence from an AP story on the NBA (James' Triple-Double Leads Cavs Over Raptors, November 24, 2007) – "If he continues with this scoring and stats, I would hate to see the numbers at the end," Cleveland teammate Damon Jones said. "They will be off the charts" – what's "off the charts".

My comments:

"Off the charts" means exceptional. "The charts" is a standard list of achievements people make, such as the pop music charts. People whose records make the charts are obviously very good, i.e. his latest song has stayed in the Top 10 charts for seven consecutive weeks. When something or somebody is "off the charts", they"re said to be extra-standard, exceptionally great.

In the case of our discussion, Jones was simply marveling at teammate LeBron James and his extraordinary numbers (stats) early in the NBA season. James had just scored 37 points to go with 12 rebounds and 12 assists (a triple double, a rarity these days) in the Cavaliers' 111-108 win over the Raptors. What Jones meant by "they'll be off the charts" is if James kept on having these high numbers till the end of season, those numbers would be phenomenal, unprecedented, uncharted, unbelievable, unheard of, beyond compare.

James is not new to getting "off-the-charts" numbers, of course. In fact, in his NBA debut four years ago, he scored 25 points prompting Marc Stein to write in ESPN.com, "James' Start Goes off the Charts". In that game, James scored 25 points. In comparison, Kevin Garnett, another superstar, had 9 points in his first game as a starter. Kobe Bryant had 12 and Tracy McGrady had 13. Even Michael Jordan, star of all stars, had just 16 points in his debut (back in 1984). Hence, Stein's off-the-charts assessment.

"Off the charts", in theory, can mean exceptionally poor too. This from another NBA story (Uncharted Territory, November 14, 2007, NJ.com):

There is a very popular phrase... that goes like this: "He's off the charts." The phrase is being used on RJ (Richard Jefferson) a lot lately – by the coach, by the captain, and mostly by the media who kill every spare minute mimicking the coach and the captain.

But now RJ has a question about it:

"What charts are they talking about?" Jefferson demanded to know. "Because you know, I can be off the charts the wrong way. As in, 'He's so awful, he's off the charts.' I wish I knew where that chart was. Who has it? And who charts it?"

...

"Show me those charts if you ever see them," he pleaded. "I must see if they're good charts or bad charts, because I want to find out how you get back on them."

Speaking of off-the-charts numbers, I'll toss up a few just for kicks. Wilt Chamberlain (1936-99), arguably the most dominant basketball player to have ever run up and down the court, once scored 100 points in a game. In another game, he grabbed 55 rebounds.

To put those numbers in perspective, the most points scored in a game by Yao Ming, who plays the same center position as Wilt, is 41. Yao's most rebounds in a game is 22.

Yao, 27, will have many good years ahead of him but statistically speaking, he'll never reach Wilt's heights because Wilt, if Yao lovers don't mind, is literally off the charts.

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About the author:
 

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

 
 
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