The Best NBA Scorers of All-Time


Recently I broke down the best NBA scorers using “Net Points”. This metric simply views how well a player scores but also factors in misses. The formula is:

[Net Points] = [Points] - [Field Goal Attempts] - 0.44 * [Free Throw Attempts]

Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain destroyed the 60s and Kareem owned the 70s. This wasn’t good enough for Arturo though. The number of possessions an average NBA team has had per game has dwindled over time. The 1970s, when we first had complete data for possessions, the average team got around 125 chances a game to score. This has dropped by almost 20 a game! While I feel this gets into comparing Babe Ruth’s 60 to Roger Marris’ 61 by including season length, it is a valid point.

With that in mind, I redid the leader board adjusting for possessions. I looked at the percentage of a team’s possessions a player likely had access to and normalized it to a 100 possessions scale. Then I multiplied it out by the total possessions to get Pace-Adjusted Net-Points. Complexity abound, I know! For reference, pretend some baseball games went to 9 innings, while others went to 10. I’ve adjusted for this difference and acted like all games are 9 innings. With that, here’s a list of the top pace-adjusted Net Points players. To stick in baseball land, I’ll list all of those above 300!

Player Season Pace Adjusted Net Points
Charles Barkley 1988 448.0
Adrian Dantley 1984 425.2
Adrian Dantley 1982 416.3
Adrian Dantley 1981 415.7
Michael Jordan 1988 409.9
Kevin Durant 2013 406.6
Karl Malone 1990 402.5
Michael Jordan 1989 402.4
Michael Jordan 1990 388.1
Charles Barkley 1990 377.5
Charles Barkley 1989 372.7
Kevin McHale 1987 367.5
Reggie Miller 1990 363.8
Kevin Durant 2010 355.2
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1980 349.1
Michael Jordan 1991 343.8
Chris Mullin 1991 337.1
Shaquille O’Neal 1994 336.6
LeBron James 2013 323.2
Peja Stojakovic 2004 322.6
Adrian Dantley 1986 321.7
Amar’e Stoudemire 2008 320.7
Reggie Miller 1991 320.4
Karl Malone 1991 319.9
Karl Malone 1993 318.6
Chris Mullin 1990 311.7
Glen Rice 1997 311.2
Patrick Ewing 1990 310.3
Bob McAdoo 1975 307.4
Artis Gilmore 1982 307.4
Artis Gilmore 1979 306.8
David Robinson 1991 306.8
Larry Bird 1988 302.6
Kiki Vandeweghe 1984 301.5

Best of the Best

Only eight players have cracked 400 net points. Barkley, Dantley, Jordan, Durant, and Malone. What should be noted is that Dantley did it three times! What’s more, he’s tied with Jordan being on the list of over 300 net points four times. Dantley was one of the greatest scorers ever. In a league that loves scoring, it took years for him to make it to the hall of fame. I consider that a snub.

One other fun list to note:

  • Adrian Dantley – 4
  • Michael Jordan – 4
  • Charles Barkley – 3
  • Karl Malone – 3
  • Kevin Durant – 2
  • Reggie Miller – 2
  • Chris Mullin – 2
  • Artis Gilmore – 2

Here’s a list of all players that showed up multiple times. Kevin Durant’s recent scoring performances have been nothing short of amazing. In fact, we haven’t seen scoring close to this level since 1990, over two decades ago.


The NBA didn’t start keeping enough boxscore stats until 1974. As such, we can’t easily calculate possession for older eras, including those with Wilt and Oscar Robertson. There are three pre-1974 records worth noting:

  • Kareeem Abdul-Jabbar 1972 – 480.9 Net Points
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1971 – 453.4 Net Points
  • Wilt Chamberlain 1967 – 421.0 Net Points

The players likely exceeded 300 pace-adjusted net points. This obviously would put Kareem on the list multiple times as well.

Dantley again

This was a lot of fun to review. It’s hard not to be seriously wowed by Adrian Dantley’s numbers. What’s even more remarkable is that even though he played in the three-point era, he didn’t take threes. Dantley took over 15,000 shots in his career, only 41 of these were threes! This makes Dantley just that much more impressive.


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