Will Carmelo Anthony catch Kevin Durant or settle for another runner-up spot?

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers. Postings appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant holds a slight lead in the NBA scoring race, averaging 28.3 points per game, just under a point more than Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant, each with 27.5 ppg. If he wins the scoring crown this season, it will be Durant’s fourth consecutive title, matching Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan as the only players to win four consecutive scoring titles.

But if Durant holds on to that top spot, it may be just as interesting to see who finishes as the runner-up in the race. Anthony and Bryant are in a virtual tie for the second spot with LeBron James a full point behind them at 26.5 ppg. Anthony has one scoring title runner-up honor on his resume, while Kobe has been second in four seasons. LeBron has finished second in three seasons.

Utah’s Karl Malone holds the NBA mark with the most second place finishes in the scoring race with five. If Kobe finishes in second, he would tie Malone. If LeBron finishes second, he would tie Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal with four runner-ups. A second place finish for Anthony in the scoring race would give him two for his career, making him the 18th player in NBA history to finish as the runner-up in scoring in two or more seasons.

Here’s a look at the players who have finished second in scoring in two or more seasons (the number of scoring titles by each of these players is listed in parenthesis).

Second place finishes in scoring, player (scoring titles)

5: Karl Malone (0)
4: Kobe Bryant (2); Shaquille O’Neal (2)
3: LeBron James (1); Dominic Wilkins (1); Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2)
2: Allen Iverson (4); Hakeem Olajuwon (0); Moses Malone (0); World B. Free (0); Oscar Robertson (1); Jerry West (1); Elgin Baylor (0); Paul Arizin (2); Bob Cousy (0); George Mikan (3); Alex Groza (0)

In the history of the NBA, there have been 24 times when a player that averaged over 30 points per game did not win a scoring title. The last player to reach this mark was in the 2005-06 season when both Allen Iverson (33.0) and LeBron James (31.4) averaged over 30 points per game but finished behind Kobe Bryant who averaged 35.4 ppg to win the scoring crown that season.

Here’s a look at the players who have averaged the most points in an NBA season and did not win the scoring title that year.

Points Per Game, Player, Year

34.0 Elgin Baylor, 1962-63
33.0 Allen Iverson, 2005-06
31.8 Elgin Baylor, 1960-61
31.6 Walt Bellamy, 1961-62
31.4 Oscar Robertson, 1963-64
31.4 LeBron James, 2005-06
31.3 Jerry West, 1965-66
31.3 Oscar Robertson, 1965-66
31.2 Jack Twyman, 1959-60
31.1 Moses Malone, 1981-82
31.3 Bob Pettit, 1961-62
31.0 Karl Malone, 1989-90
31.0 Jerry West, 1964-65

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