My Dataset

Up to now, I have only discussed the 2006-07 NBA season. From this point on, I’m opening my analysis up to what I call the “modern era” — beginning with the 1979-80 season and continuing through the present. I have chosen to focus on this era for several reasons:

  1. The eighties saw the rise of Magic, Bird, Jordan and the rise of a more star-centric NBA. Game play now is comparable to game play 20 years ago, which cannot be said for the game in the 1940s and 50s. These are the players with whom we are the most familiar, and this is the game that we care the most about today.
  2. Going further back in time, we start losing things: the three pointer does not exist prior to the modern era, blocks and steals are not tracked, and the ABA teams were not part of the league until ’76-77. This makes it increasingly difficult to make comparisons across seasons. I am not interested in attempting to estimate the number of blocks George Mikan would have had in ’50-51 for use in a comparative analysis, but I am interested in comparing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Dwight Howard.
  3. Even though I could go back further and gather scoring, rebounding, assist, and field goal stats, the marginal utility, for me personally, of that information, is less than the marginal cost of gathering it. As such, until such point as that data becomes centrally collected and easy to download, I will be sticking to the modern era, which is big enough (10,000+ player-seasons) for me.

I should note that while I appreciate and enjoy many of the other statistics available today, especially plus/minus ratings, I do not foresee using them extensively. Some are not kept officially by the NBA and are thus not available in bulk, and others, which are second-order statistics derived from NBA stats, are doing exactly what I am trying to do, but I like my way better.

I would like to give credit and thanks to the excellent Basketball Reference for the statistics used in my analysis. Stay tuned for a lot more stats, a lot more lists, and many more really big graphs.

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