Revisiting the NBA’s All-Time Scorers

As some can gather by my recent post on Kobe cracking the 30,000 mark, I have a chip on my shoulder about how points are viewed in the NBA. The simple fact is misses matter and which type of shots players take matter. As Allen Iverson showed, it’s possible to get high point totals — and the accolades that go with that — by just shooting a lot.

I decided to look at the NBA’s top scorers by including misses. The metric True Shooting Percentage (TS%) already accounts for this but as a percent it’s harder to understand. If we count each point as a point, each miss as a point, and each free throw attempt as 0.44 points, we can see how many points a player netted over their career. Let’s examine the “new” top 20!

Some Ramblings

I saw a recent post that mentioned Kobe’s 30,000 (Biasotti: Advanced stats that help break down NBA). A funny point is he explicitly mentions

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the all-time scoring leader, and Karl Malone is second, but not many people would call him them the game’s greatest scorers.

I found this slightly hilarious as both their point totals and the advanced stats say just that. In fact, Kareem’s record as top scorer (both total and net) seems virtually untouchable.

For Kobe fans they should be happy that Kobe is still on the list. He joins a fun list with Moses Malone and Oscar Robertson of being players that earned pretty much all of their net points via free throws.

It is worth noting that all of these players, with the exception of Artis Gilmore, are top 100 scorers via point total. What changes is rank. We notice that Magic Johnson was actually a more effective scorer than Kobe Bryant!

The final note is that clearly most of these players are more “modern”. Oscar Robertson is our only player to have played before 1970. For what it’s worth, both Jerry West (2288) and Wilt Chamberlain (2702) were very good scorers. However, the three point line definitely helps out many of our scorers. Additionally longevity is pretty much required to make this list and medical attention,training, etc. has improved over time.

This subject’s a lot of fun to me and I’ll be looking at it more. Hope you enjoyed it!


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