Inside some numbers from The Last Dance
With little live sports to watch on TV, the next best thing we have these days is “The Last Dance,” the 10-part ESPN documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls of the1990s and their attempt to win their third straight NBA title (for the second time) in Jordan’s and coach Phil Jackson’s last season with the team.
As a person who tends to watch sports (and listen) with a curiosity towards the numbers in the games, I was interested in a couple of segments in the series where some numbers caught my attention. Here are two of them:
- In one episode that focused on Dennis Rodman, there was a trivia stat that was sandwiched during commercials. It mentioned that Rodman held the NBA record for most games played (seven) with 20 or more rebounds and zero points in that game. In fact, he is one of only five players ever to have those stats in a game; the others were Marcus Camby (twice), Reggie Evans, Happy Hairston and Clyde Lee (each once).
It’s one thing to not score a point in a game and have 20+ rebounds, but what about playing in a game where you never put up a shot?
Rodman and Wilt Chamberlain are tied for the NBA record for most rebounds in a regular season game, 18, without taking a shot in that game. There have been 47 times that a player has had 10 or more rebounds in a game and did not take a shot in that contest. Rodman leads this group; he did it nine times in his career. Reggie Evans is second on the list; he did it in five regular season games. Four other players did it two or more times in their careers: Chamberlain, Caldwell Jones, Charles Jones and Alton Lister.
In today’s NBA game where shooting and scoring takes precedence, it’s hard to imagine a player being in a game where he doesn’t fire up at least a couple of shots when he is on the court. Well, Rodman played seven games in his career where he played 30 or more minutes in the game and did not attempt a field goal. That tops the league. Charles Jones did it in five games in his career; Ben Wallace did it four games in his career, and Jason Collins is fourth on the list with three such games.
- In one of the middle episodes, (#5 or #6), a good portion of the episode focused on The Dream Team. Jordan and Dream Team teammate Magic Johnson were shown bantering back and forth about fouls that were (or were not) called in a legendary scrimmage game played by the team. Jordan opined that Magic was always getting the calls in the NBA and had probably never fouled out of a game.
How correct was Jordan?
His comment sent me to the computer to do the research. Of the 12 players on the team, all are in the Basketball Hall of Fame except Christian Laettner. So here’s the question for you: Of the 11 members of the Dream Team who are in the Hall of Fame, which player fouled out of the fewest regular season NBA games in their career?
To refresh your memory, here are the 11 Dream Team members who are in the Hall: Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Chris Mullen, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, John Stockton.
Well, Michael may have had a point… Magic Johnson fouled out of only five NBA regular season games in his career, the fewest among the 11 Dream Team members in the Hall of Fame.
Here is the list:
Career NBA regular season games fouled out
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Major League Baseball has the designated hitter; the NFL has placekickers and punters. In the NBA, there are defensive specialists and players who are inserted into the game are certain times to fulfill a role. Let’s focus on one of those roles: the “designated rebounder.”
Last season Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls came the closest to this title when he had a season with 646 rebounds and 485 points, the only player in the league with 600+ rebounds and less than 500 points in the 2014-15 season. He became the 28th player in NBA history to have at least one season with these numbers.
When we look at the other players who reached these numbers, the title of “designated rebounder” would probably most fit former player Dennis Rodman, a Hall of Famer. He had six seasons with these numbers, more than twice the number of any other player in the league:
Most seasons with 600-plus rebounds and less than 500 points
6: Dennis Rodman
3: Chris Dudley, Reggie Evans, Jeff Foster, George Johnson, Ben Wallace
Rodman is also the only player in league history to have over 1,000 rebounds in a season with less than 500 points. He did three times with three different teams: 1992-93 with Detroit (1132 rebounds, 468 points), 1993-94 with San Antonio (1367 rebounds and 370 points) and 1997-98 with the Chicago (1201 rebounds and 375 points).
Last season was the third straight year that a player reached these numbers; Golden State’s Andrew Bogut did in 2013-14 and Reggie Evans did it with the Brooklyn Nets in 2012-13.
Let’s take a look at one other stat: 600 or more assists and less than 500 points. Those numbers have been reached only one time in NBA history. In 1988-89, Charlotte’s Mugsy Bogues had 620 assists and 423 points, the only time in league history that a player had 600-plus assists and less than 500 points in a season.
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SIX STATS… is a bonus feature of Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’
1. Rodman led the NBA in total number of offensive rebounds in six seasons. He led the league in average rebounds per game in seven straight seasons.
2. He had more rebounds than points in 12 of his 14 NBA seasons. He scored more points than rebounds in his first two seasons and had more rebounds than points in a season in the remaining 12 seasons of his career.
3. Of the 38 players who have 10,000 or more career rebounds, Rodman and Ben Wallace are the only two players who have less than 10,000 points.
4. In his three years at Southeastern Oklahoma, Rodman averaged 26.0, 26.8 and 24.4 points per game. The most he ever averaged in an NBA season was 11.6, his second season in the league.
5. Never known as a significant offensive threat, Rodman led the league in field goal percentage in 1988-89 with a .595 field goal percentage.
6. Rodman had 20 or more rebounds in 159 NBA games. His teams had a 123-36 record (.774 winning percentage) in those games.
Bonus: Rodman is the oldest player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounding. He was 36 years old (and 341 days) when he led the NBA in rebounds in the 1997-98 season.