Data Visualizations
from Best Tickets

The Unofficial 2013 NBA Player Census

This year sure has gone by quickly. It seems like just yesterday that the Spurs and Heat were duking it out in the NBA Finals. Now, here we are at the end of October, and the start of a new NBA season is upon us. With NFL action in full swing as well, this is the very best time of the year for many sports fans.

Many of you enjoyed one my previous articles, The Unofficial 2013 NFL Player Census, so as a follow up and in celebration of this new season of basketball, I decided to create a similar article for the NBA. I hope you enjoy!

Analyzing Each Position

Below, a chart showing the number of players at each position in the NBA

Number at each Position

There are considerably more dedicated guards than any other position in the NBA. More than double the number of centers, the number of players who “flex” between guard and forward or the number of players who “flex” between forward and center. Perhaps the one thing we can draw from this is that the classic dedicated center position may be losing demand. As evidence of this, consider how versatile big men like Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and even Dirk Nowitzki have thrived in the NBA. Let’s see if the chart below, detailing salary by position helps support this claim.

Salary by Position

While dedicated centers demand the second highest average salary, it is indeed the more versatile forward/center flex player that demands the highest paycheck. This supports the claim that the more versatile big man is more valuable in the modern NBA. For good measure, let’s look at each position’s durability.

EXP By position

According to this chart, guards have the shortest expected career length of any position in the NBA. There are a few easily recognizable reasons for this, including the decrease in speed that comes with age, as well as the generally hazardous style of play many guards have adopted (Derrick Rose anyone?). Here we see another indicator of the decreased value of the dedicated center as well.

Player Size

We’ll briefly look at the size of players in the NBA. Below, every single one of them on a height/weight scatter plot. There is some overlap here, so there are fewer visible dots than there are actual players.

Height and Weight

Now for a look at each team’s average height…

Height of teams

…and average weight.

Weight of teams

Overall, the 76ers have the largest team in the NBA, and the Jazz have the smallest.

Where Do NBA Players Come From?

Unlike the NFL, the NBA is home to many players from outside the United States. This adds an interesting element to the league. Where would the Spurs be without Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili? The Mavs without Dirk Nowitzki? These overseas ballers have real talent and the NBA is really starting to embrace this fact. Below, the non-US countries that have produced NBA players.

countries correct

None of the countries that have produced four or more NBA players are too surprising to see. It’s the ones like Congo and Senegal that really impress. These countries are among the most impoverished in the world, particularly the Congo. The likelihood of making it out of one of these countries to become a superstar multi-millionaire athlete is slim to none. Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo are the two Congolese individuals currently playing in the NBA, and they deserve some recognition. Below, the teams who currently have non-US players on their roster.

Teams With Non-US Players

The Spurs kill this category. Not only are they the only team who is mostly imported, more than 70%  of the team is from a country other than the United States. As one of the best teams of the past three decades, do you think they might have caught on to something here?

Moving on to the United States, we’ll take a look at each of the states to have produced NBA players.

player producing states

California nearly doubles the production of any other state. In fact, California accounts for about 12% of the players currently in the NBA. Only 39 states have produced current NBA players and three of them have produced just one. While California seems to be a player factory, it does gain an advantage when you consider its population of more than 38,000,000. Which states are producing the most NBA players per capita?

Most Efficient States

If you’ll backtrack to the NFL Census published previously on the Best Tickets blog, you’ll see that Louisiana is tops in player production efficiency for both the NFL and the NBA. This is really quite remarkable. Can we give this state an award or something for this? Indiana, home of the Hoosiers, comes in a surprisingly distant second, followed closely by Arkansas. The least productive states to have produced more than one current NBA player are Oklahoma (.08 per million), Arizona (.31 per million) and Virginia (.37 per million).

The cities that have produced the most players are shown below.

Player Producing cities

California’s largest metropolis, Los Angeles, heads up this list and is followed closely by New York City, a notoriously basketball-crazy city. The most efficient cities, however may not be as familiar.

Cities per 100,000

Saginaw, Michigan wins this one by a long shot. Second-place Baton Rouge produces at less than half the rate of Saginaw. The current players out of Saginaw are Kenyon Martin of the Knicks, Draymond Green of the Warriors and Jason Richardson of the 76ers.

Race in the NBA

There is a caveat to this section, and its name is Jeremy Lin. As the only individual currently in the league with Asian ethnicity, it was very difficult to portray him on the graph below, which displays the race distribution of the NBA.

Race Distribution

With nearly 75% of the NBA population, black players are the vast majority. Next up, white players with 20.2%. Hispanic and mixed players both account for 3.7%, and Asian players (Jeremy Lin, in case you forgot) account for .02% of the players in the NBA. Combine all the other races in the NBA, and double them and they still don’t come close to matching the black population.

Below, I detail the race distribution of each team.

Team Race Distribution

The team with the highest concentration of black players is the 76ers, and they are followed closely by the Pacers. The Spurs have the highest concentration of white players  in the NBA by a longshot. The Clippers and Warriors have the highest percentage of mixed race players, and the Timberwolves have the highest concentration of Hispanic players. You already know who has the highest concentration of Asian players. The Timberwolves are the only team in the NBA whose roster does not contain at least 50% black players.

How do players of each race get paid on average? Don’t forget the Jeremy Lin rule.

Salary by Race

Some of the players making up the mixed column include Brook Lopez ($14,693,906), Steph Cury ($9,887,640), Kris Humphries ($12,000,000), Blake Griffin ($16,441,500) and Joakim Noah ($11,100,000). The Hispanic category includes Pau Gasol ($19,285,850), and his brother Marc ($14,860,524).

The Player Factories

Many of the players in the NBA went to college before going pro. Below, the schools that have produced the most players currently in the NBA.

Top Player-Producing Colleges

Some very familiar names here for fans of NCAA basketball. Really all of these teams are basketball powerhouses year-in and year-out.  The top players from Kentucky include Eric Bledsoe, Anthony Davis, Tayshaun Prince, Rajon Rondo, Nerlens Noel, Demarcus Cousins, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and John Wall. Players from Duke include Carlos Boozer, Gerald Henderson, Kyrie Irving, Luol Deng, and Shane Battier. Now, which school’s players average the highest NBA salaries?

Highest Average NBA Salary by College

Wake Forest runs away with this one. The biggest contracts for former Demon Deacons include Chris Paul ($18,668,431), Tim Duncan ($10,361,446) and Jeff Teague ($8,000,000).

As far as position specialties, Kentucky heads up the center and guard position with four and eight current players respectively. Duke and Kansas have both produced six current NBA forwards.

Vets and Rooks

Steve Nash and Derek Fisher are officially the oldest players in the NBA at 39 years old. Technically, Steve Nash is older than Fisher by about six months. The youngest player in the league is Giannis Antetokounmpo (18), who was born when Nash and Fisher were 20 years old. Some players have the durability to last much longer than others. Take Tim Duncan for example, whose level of play at age 37 is hardly distinguishable from his level of play when he was 27. Below, the age distribution of players in the NBA.

Age Distribution

The heaviest concentration of NBA players comes between ages 22 and 25. This group accounts for 38.44% of the NBA population. The salary x age distribution chart below tells an unfortunate tale for this group.

Salary By Age

The average salary of players between the ages of 22 and 25 is $3,258,176. That’s 41% of the league average, which is $7,893,549. At age 25, however players tend to start making decent money. At age 28, players have the best chance of making big money. After age 32, the trend for salary becomes very difficult to predict.

AVG Player Age

Heat, Nets, Knicks, Spurs, Lakers, Bulls, Clippers, Pacers, Grizzlies. What do these teams have in common?

1. They were all playoff teams last year.
2. They are all one of the top ten oldest teams in the league.

Of the top ten youngest teams, only the Bucks and the Rockets made it to the playoffs last year.

That does it for our analysis of the Unofficial 2013 Player NBA Census. We hope you enjoyed it, and have walked away with some new knowledge. Here’s to another excellent NBA season!


The raw data for this piece is available for download by clicking one of the two buttons below.


Concept Development: Brett Cohen, Andrew Powell-Morse

Created by: Andrew Powell-Morse

Brought to you by: Best Tickets

Previous Post Evolution of the NFL Offense: An Analysis of the Last 80 Years | Next Post Players of the NFL and the NBA: A Side-By-Side Comparison

Comments (12)

  1. Dave - Reply

    October 29, 2013 at 10:27 am

    This is great. Remember kids, youth does not always equal success.

  2. John - Reply

    October 30, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    Wonderful! I trust you enjoyed putting this together as I did in looking over this wealth of data.

    Please follow up with a similar blog for the NHL

    The demographics and entry paths to the NHL are a little more complex.

  3. Mark - Reply

    November 6, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Really, really great stuff. Would it be possible to see number of players in the NBA normalized by enrollment of their respective schools? Obviously Duke would run away with this but it would in interesting to see how other ‘basketball factories’ perform.

  4. Ben - Reply

    December 27, 2013 at 9:28 am

    I have one word for it, “Brilliant”.

  5. Koba Khit - Reply

    May 8, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Great article and insights. May I inquire where you obtained the data set and in particular the weight and height of the players. Thanks.

  6. Connor - Reply

    August 13, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    This was a cool read thanks!
    -Connor Green

  7. Kevin - Reply

    September 3, 2014 at 7:33 am

    What’s the original source for your data, if you don’t mind? Did you collect it by hand?

  8. Jeane Wolsky - Reply

    October 26, 2014 at 12:35 am

    I have recently started a web site, the info you provide on this site has helped me greatly. Thanks for all of your time & work. “Yield not to evils, but attack all the more boldly.” by Virgil.

  9. Carletta Brooksher - Reply

    October 27, 2014 at 4:54 am

    Enjoyed reading this, very good stuff, thankyou . “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” by Mother Theresa.

  10. Lala - Reply

    November 13, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Very informative. Most comprehensive data analysis of NBA players even if from last season. I can tell, however, that race was assumed, as it is not quite accurate. But nonetheless, good stuff.

  11. Bill J - Reply

    January 6, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    It’s time to update the “Where NBA Players Come From” chart. Your 2013 list shows Canada with just six. This year it’s either 11 or 12.

  12. Nic - Reply

    August 10, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    Very nice! But I think you made a mistake with the Spurs race chart. “0.0%” mixed? I’m pretty sure Tony Parker is half-black and half-white (Dutch mother) and that Tim Duncan is mixed as well (either white or hispanic). Also, is Patty Mills considered black?

Add a Comment