Data Visualizations
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The Historical Profile Of the NBA Player: 1947-2015

With more than 65 years under its belt, there’s no denying the rich history possessed by the National Basketball Association. This post will take a closer look at the history of the NBA’s most important individual – the player. How have players, their origins, and their roles evolved over time? Keep reading to find out.

Physical Stature

First let’s take a look at how the players themselves have changed over the years. We’ll keep this section short and sweet.

The chart below chronicles the average height of NBA players since 1947.

NBA players have gotten significantly taller since the earliest years of the NBA. In 1947, the average height was just 74.32″, since 1970, the average has dipped below 78″ just once (2010). 1980 also marks the year that the general increase in height stops. Since 1980, average height has been sporadic, but has generally stayed within the confines of 78″ and 80″.  After seeing the height chart, don’t expect to be shocked by the following chart, which details the average weight of NBA players over time.

Average Weight

The graph follows almost the exact same course as the height graph, which is what we all should have expected. That being said, the jump from the low of 184.5 to 227.8 is pretty massive if you think about it.

Player Origins

We all know that the NBA is one of the more diverse major North American professional sports leagues. Players come from all over the world to play in the NBA and some of the league’s best players came from outside the continent. That’s what we’ll take a closer look at in this section.

Initially, we’ll keep it domestic. Here is the distribution of player production for the U.S. States since 1947.

 

No one is surprised by the most productive state – California. With about 45 more NBA players produced than any other state. In second, New York, the most populous State in the nation with 309. These two states are in a league of their own. Three states have have only produced 1 NBA player – New Hampshire, Maine and Alaska.

Those of you with a careful eye will notice that there is one state missing from this list – Vermont. That’s right, Vermont has never produced an NBA basketball player. Ever. It is the Nation’s second-least-populous state, so I guess I can understand how this would happen, but even Wyoming (the least populous state) has produced 6 players. More players have been produced in Macedonia than in Vermont.

Now for the cities that have produced the most NBA players.

Despite California’s dominant lead as the most productive state, New York City and Chicago, Illinois edge out all other cities as the most productive in our study by a sizable margin. If you live in a major city, it is probably on the chart above.

Now it’s time to travel overseas. Of the 4200+ NBA players in the study, 351 of them came from a country other than the United States. Here, we see all of those countries, and the number of players they have produced.

Non-U.S. Country Production

 

Unsurprisingly, our neighbors to the north, the only other country with an NBA team, is in first place here, with 23 players produced. They are followed by France with 17, then Germany and Serbia with 16 apiece. I thought it would be interesting to take our height data, apply it to these countries, and see who produces the tallest and shortest players. That chart, which you’ll find below, only features countries that have produced more than one player.

Non-US Height

 

Romania and South Sudan produced the two players that tie for the title of “Tallest Player in NBA Hisotry” – Gheorghe Muresan and Manute Bol, both of whom were a ridiculous 7’7″. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that they sit atop the pack by such a wide margin. On the other end of the spectrum, we find Belgium, at an average of 76″. The most notable player born in Belgium is Tony Parker, the San Antonio Spurs‘ veteran guard. He sits at 6’2″. The other is Xavier Henry, who is 6’6″. Neither of these guys is particularly short, so Belgium’s place at the bottom of the list isn’t all that interesting.

Player Education

Some high schools and colleges have a serious knack for pumping out NBA players like Doughnuts at a Krispy Kreme. We’ll take a look at them in our final section – Player Education.

First, the nation’s top NBA player-producing high schools.

The Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia runs away with the victory here with 21 more players than the state of Vermont (sorry Vermont). But seriously…my high school hasn’t even produced an NBA player, and this one has produced 21? Ridiculous. Here’s a list of notable Oak Hill-ians: Steve Blake, Rod Strickland, Rajon Rondo, Ty Lawson, Carmelo Anthony, Jerry Stackhouse, Ron Mercer, and Stephen Jackson. Not bad. The city with the most schools on this list – Los Angeles with 5. If you lump New York City and its burrows together into one, you get 7 schools.

On to the colleges. I only included schools that have produced more than 20 players.

Colleges

Neck-and-neck at the top are Kentucky and UCLA. These two powerhouses have been going at it for years. Not far behind is UNC with 82 players produced. Below, the most productive schools decade-over-decade.

Colleges 1940s

 

 

Long Island State takes the win in the ’40s with 12 players. This section only includes 1947-49, so 12 players is a pretty respectable number.

Colleges 1950s

 

Here we see Kentucky at the top for the first time with 15 players . They will hang around for most of the rest of this section. Interestingly, Western Kentucky is in second place with 11 players.

Colleges 1960s

 

Tennessee State takes the win in the ’60s with 10 players. Here we see Duke, Indiana and Kansas in our list for the first times.

Colleges 1970s

 

UCLA sits atop the 1970s leaderboard with unprecedented 18 players. UNC comes in second with 16 which would also have been unprecedented were it not for UCLA’s record number.Colleges 1980s

 

 

UCLA repeats the 18-player decade in the 1980s. North Carolina loses their 2nd-place spot to Notre Dame.Colleges 1990s

 

In the ’90s, the Tar Heels finally get the most players produced, and they do so with 19 players, breaking the previous record of 18.Colleges 2000s

 

You knew they would take the top spot at some point. The Duke Blue Devils edge out UCLA in the 2000s with 17 NBA players produced.Colleges 2010s

 

Finally, we see Kentucky atop the 2010 leaderboard. What makes this remarkable is the fact that they’ve tied the record for player production, but have done so in only half a decade. That is a college basketball program to be reckoned with.

 

And that does it for my study on the history of the NBA player! I hope you enjoyed it. Leave questions and comments below, hit me up on Twitter @andrewpomo or email me (andrew@seatsmart.com) for specific data requests (this post doesn’t even scratch the surface of the data I collected!).

 

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Comments (8)

  1. David G. - Reply

    March 4, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Another great post and data. Thanks for putting this together!!

  2. Steve-O - Reply

    March 4, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    This is incredible. There had to have been an incredible amount of time that was put into making this!! Major Kudos

  3. Chris R - Reply

    March 5, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    New York is not the most populous state, that it was for the first 20 years of the NBA’s existence.

  4. Andrew - Reply

    March 5, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    this is great – thanks for putting in the time to do this – very useful

    does this take into account how heights “changed” over time in terms of “listed” heights? which in many cases are inflated for a number of reasons…

  5. James - Reply

    March 6, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Marquette has had 37 NBA players. One has never actually seen a minute in the NBA but has been contracted to two different teams so perhaps that’s why he was overlooked.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marquette_Golden_Eagles_men%27s_basketball#Warriors.2FGolden_Eagles_in_the_NBA

  6. Spectre - Reply

    March 25, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    What a dedicated effort to put this together. Proud of Univ of Arizona placing so high on the overall list even though my alma mater was a latecomer to the party. Also really impressed with D.C. Basketball. For a city that’s much smaller than those ahead of it the numbers look especially strong.

  7. parasol - Reply

    November 24, 2015 at 5:55 am

    Great data, but there is one mistake in non US players chart. There is no Poland in (Marcin Gortat) and there is Colorado in there (why put so much hate on Colorado? 😉

  8. T. Lowery - Reply

    November 25, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Great post. Very insightful.

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