I know that I watched the Pacers play the Lakers in the 2000 NBA finals, but I don’t really remember the games. I remember that I watched them with my dad. I remember it being summer and that it felt strange to be watching night games while the sun hadn’t set. I remember watching one particular game for about the first quarter and a half and getting really excited and telling my dad that I felt like going outside and shooting around and asking if that was crazy, to miss part of the game.
I’m in my 30’s now, and the feeling of wanting to play basketball when I watch basketball hasn’t really gone away. This seems strange to me in that, when I was a kid, I was still plausibly practicing to be good enough to play in games that other people deem meaningful. I still hoped to be good enough to play on the high school varsity team. I could still daydream about playing in college or professionally without feeling dumb.
Now I play pick-up basketball with other aging office workers. My wife makes fun of her "adult" coworkers who push themselves in games like these and end up injured, but I mostly feel lucky it hasn't happened to me. When I reflect on these games with some distance from them, I think of them as meaningless. But as we leave the gym, I'll still be admonishing myself on whether I played good defense, on why my shot was off, and what I need to remember to do differently next time.
While watching an IU game with Dan Dakick as the TV commentator, Dakich talked about how rare it was to become an NBA star. The context Dakich provided for his comments was something like, "people talk about Romeo Langford becoming an NBA star." He stated that even Eric Gordon wasn't really a "star," and he's the closest comparison to Romeo in recent IU history.
I feel like few people, myself included, have a grasp on what it takes to play in the NBA, let alone how good you have to be to be a "star." I also think that when you watch sports, there's a natural inclination to ask yourself, "Could I have done that?" and "What would I have done differently?" The notion that it seems a lot of people confidently answer "yes" to the first question and have a quick answer to the second is beyond the scope of this blog post, but I wanted to try to get a picture of the average NBA player.
I pulled data from stats.nba.com for the 2018-19 regular season. The data had 530 players. I looked at height, weight, age, a basic stat line, draft round, games played, minutes per game, country, and what college each player attended.
The average height of an NBA player in the 2018-19 season was 6'7". The average weight was 217, though the average weight of a 6'7" player was 214 pounds. You can see the average weight at each height in the second graph below.
According to the CDC, the average American man is about 5'9", and the average weight of an American man is about 198 pounds. According to the NBA's data, there's only one professional player that's 5'9" (Isaiah Thomas), and he's the shortest person in the NBA. He's listed at 185 pounds.
The average age that season was 26, but the most common age was 23. The graph below seems to quickly peak at 23 (from the youngest age of 19) and trail off into the early 40's.
At 42, Vince Carter was the oldest player in the NBA. Dirk Nowitzki was the only other player 40 years of age or older. There were 118 players that were 30 or older, or about 22% of all players.
Over half of all players were drafted in the first round (53%). There are actually slightly more players who went undrafted (129) than were drafted in the second round (120).
The average stat line of all 530 players is listed below. The average games played was 49 (of 82), with 19.36 minutes per game (of 48). The average points per game was 8.6, assists were 1.9, and rebounds were 3.6.
I was surprised that the dataset had 530 players. There are 30 teams in the NBA, which means there are only 150 starters. If you assume a back-up per starter, only about 300 people would really be needed. At 530 players, that means that 17 or 18 people recorded some amount of time per team.
The graph below shows a count of games played per player, grouped into buckets. It looks like there are clusters of players at the low and high end of games played last season.
There were players from 125 different colleges and 43 different countries.
The majority of NBA players attended college, but at a count of 109, None was, by far, the largest category in the data. There are 118 non-US professional players. I suspect that there's a strong, but not direct, correlation, due at least in part to the one-and-done rule.
Even if you start to divide the count from each school into tiers, Kentucky seems like it's own tier, having produced the most professionals at 31. Duke could be the second tier by itself, with 22. UCLA and UNC would start the third tier (15 and 13).