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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Luka Doncic: Have we seen him before?
Back in 1986, there was a very popular song by Suzanne Vega titled “Luka.” The first few lines of the song went like this: “My name is Luka. I live on the second floor. I live upstairs from you. Yes I think you’ve seen me before.”
I mention this because one of the compelling stories from this NBA season has been the play of Dallas Mavericks rookie “wunderkid,” Luka Doncic. The 19-year-old (he won’t turn 20 until February 28) from Slovania, was the third overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Through the first half of this season, Doncic has been putting up some really impressive numbers for a rookie and seems to be the front-runner for this year’s Rookie of the Year Award. With his impressive skill set and overall game, in some circles, it might be said (unlike the song, “Luka,”) that we have not seen someone like him before.
Doncic leads the Mavs (through games of January 13) in points per game (20.2), and is second on the team in minutes played, rebounds per game (6.7) and assists per game (5.0). What makes these numbers all the more impressive is that if Doncic should finish the season with 20 points per game and five rebounds and five assists per game, he would join a very short list of rookies that have achieved these numbers.
Here’s a look at the four rookies in NBA history who averaged 20 points per game and had five rebounds and five assist per game in their rookie campaigns in the league:
Oscar Robertson, 1961, Cincinnati (30.5 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game, 9.7 assists per game)
Michael Jordan, 1985, Chicago (28.2 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, 5.9 assists per game)
LeBron James, 2004, Cleveland (20.9 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, 5.9 assists per game)
Tyreke Evans, 2010, Sacramento (20.1 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, 5.8 assists per game)
Robertson and Jordan are already in the Hall of Fame and James will certainly join them when he hangs up his sneakers. Evans? His name on the list might have surprised more than a few NBA fans.
In addition, Doncic is on pace to total more than 1,600 points in his rookie season. That has happened 39 times in league history. Since 2000, we have seen the following rookies top the 1,600-point mark in their first season: Elton Brand (Chicago-2010), LeBron James (Cleveland-2004), Carmelo Anthony (Denver-2004), Kevin Durant (Seattle-2008), Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers-2011) and Donovan Mitchell (Utah-2018). Of the 39 rookies who had 1,600 or more points in their rookie campaigns, 21 are currently in the Hall of Fame, with others like James, Anthony, Griffin, Durant and Tim Duncan likely joining that group in the future.
Wilt Chamberlain tops the list of most points scored in a rookie season with 2,707. He is followed by Walt Bellamy (2,495). The Dallas Mavs team record for most points by a rookie is 1,732 held by Jay Vincent in 1982.
It’s still early in Luka Doncic’s career, but he appears headed to that upper echelon of NBA players
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The 27-rebound game was Drummond’s sixth game of his career where he had 25 or more rebounds in a regular season contest. That ranks tied for 12th all-time in the league, but he’s light years away from the leaders in this category.
According to research on Basketball Reference.com, Wilt Chamberlain had 25 or more rebounds in 165 games in his career, most in the league. Here are the six players who top this stat category.
Most career 25+ rebound games
Since the 1999-2000 season, Drummond is second on the list with his six 25-rebound games; Howard tops the list with seven. Dikembe Mutumbo is third with four.
If we drop the number down to 20 or more rebounds per game, Drummond ranks 16th on the career list with 45 such games. Chamberlain again tops this category with 343 games with 20 or more rebounds in his distinguished career.
One more note: Of the 12 players with 50 or more career regular season games with 20 or more rebounds, all are in the Hall of fame except for Dwight Howard, who has 79 games and is still active.
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Back on January 28, Cleveland Cavalier point guard Kyrie Irving scored 55 points in a win over Portland. The 55 points in a game are the most scored by an NBA player in a game this season.
The 22-year-old Irving, who turns 23 later this month, just missed a mark by two points in that game. According to research done on basketball-reference.com, Irving’s 55 points fell two points short of the most points scored by a 22-year-old, 57, by Rick Barry in an October, 1966 NBA game.
Just two months earlier, the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant scored 44 points in a loss to Golden State. Kobe’s 44 points as a 36-year-old fell one point short of Shaquille O’Neal’s 45 points he scored at the age of 36 in a February, 2009 contest against Toronto.
Let’s take a look at the most points scored in an NBA game by players ages 18 through 44. Note: Since the research for this stat was done on basketball-reference.com, these stats only go from the 1963-64 season until today. Obviously a 25-year-old Wilt Chamberlain would top the list of most points scored by an NBA player age 25 when he tallied 100 on March 2, 1962.
Here’s a look at the most points scored in an NBA game by each age group from 1963-64 to today.
Age, Player, Points Scored
18: LeBron James, 37
19: Cliff Robinson, 45
20: LeBron James, 56
21: Rick Barry, 57
22: Rick Barry, 57
23: David Thompson, 73
24: Tracy McGrady, 62
25: George Gervin, 63
26: Karl Malone, 61
27: Kobe Bryant, 81
28: David Robinson, 71
29: Pete Maravich, 68
30: Kobe Bryant, 61
31: Wilt Chamberlain, 68
32: Wilt Chamberlain, 66
33: Rick Barry, 55
34: Karl Malone, 56
35: Alex English, 51
36: Shaquille O’Neal, 45
37: Karl Malone, 41
38: Michael Jordan, 45
39: Michael Jordan, 45
40: Michael Jordan, 43
41: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 25
42: Robert Parrish, 16
43: Robert Parrish, 12
44: Kevin Willis, 6
Note: The totals above reflect only regular season games. If we include playoff games, there would be a handful of changes on the leaderboard: Karl Malone scored 50 points in a playoff contest at age 36; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 26 points at age 41 in a playoff game; and Abdul-Jabbar scored 24 points at age 42 in another playoff game.
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Fifteen NBA players averaged 24 or more points in their first NBA campaign, led by Wilt Chamberlain who averaged 37.6 points per game (ppg) in his rookie season of 1959-60. Here is the list of the 15:
Player, rookie season ppg, rookie season
Wilt Chamberlain, 37.6 (1959-60)
Walt Bellamy, 31.6 (1961-62)
Oscar Robertson, 30.5 (1960-61)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 28.2 (1969-70)
Elvin Hayes, 28.4 (1968-69)
Michael Jordan, 28.2 (1984-85)
Rick Barry, 25.7 (1965-66)
Terry Dischinger, 25.5 (1962-63)
Elgin Baylor, 24.9 (1958-59)
Geoff Petrie, 24.8 (1970-71)
Sidney Wicks, 24.5 (1971-72)
David Robinson, 24.3 (1989-90)
Earl Monroe, 24.3 (1967-68)
Walter Davis, 24.2 (1977-78)
Bernard King, 24.2 (1977-78)
Two quick notes: Of the 15 players listed above, only two, Jordan and Baylor had career scoring averages higher than their rookie season ppg.; Jordan averaged 28.2 his rookie season and tallied 30.1 ppg for his career… Baylor had a career ppg of 27.4 after a 24.9 ppg mark in his first season in the league. Four of the 15 players listed above never topped their rookie season ppg in their careers: Bellamy, Dischinger, Wicks and Davis. Dischinger had the most significant drop going from a rookie season ppg of 25.5, yet his career ppg was only 13.8.