Half of professional basketball players are technically overweight, according to the government’s standard [“Overweight NBA Players? A Cautionary Tale,” Newsday.com, March 9]. So are 97 percent of pro football players.

These obvious misclassifications point to a serious problem: Public debates about obesity in America – including the possibility of lawsuits against restaurants and food companies for making people fat – are shaped by the same inaccurate classification. The Body Mass Index (BMI), which measures only height and weight, divides Americans into government-approved and officially “fat” categories.

Unfortunately, the BMI is the only standard the government uses. Widely repeated (and grossly exaggerated) statistics, such as obesity costing $117 billion and killing 400,000 Americans each year, are all based on the BMI.

If the technically overweight Kobe Bryant were to die in a car accident, he’d count towards the mythical 400,000 deaths figure. If Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took pills for high blood pressure, the bill would count towards the $117 billion number. Let’s ditch the BMI and stop telling Lebron James that he needs to lose weight.