Statistics are the way that the performance of players and teams is quantified. Output has been tracked with box scores for as long as basketball has been played professionally. However, the recent surge of analytics in the sport has created more holistic statistics for each facet of the game. Data that is commonly tracked include points, rebounds, assists, turnovers, blocks, and steals, as well as player's shooting percentages by shot type. Team statistics focus on points scored and allowed per game, as well as adding up all the individual player performances. Stats are important because they show teams what aspect of the sport they are doing well in and what they need to do better. Stats are also important for players in terms of getting new contracts in free agency since they can point to their numbers as proof of their ability.
While the basic stats are calculated by simply watching the games and recording every instance of an event occurring, the more advanced statistics require models and equations that can be determined using the traditional stats. One example is win shares, a stat that attempts to quantify how many wins a player added to their given team based on their performance. Win shares are the sum of offensive and defensive production. For offense, points, the number of possessions, and a player's impact on each scoring opportunity are taken into consideration, while the defensive metric is based on how often athletes can stop their opponent from scoring in addition to their ability to force changes of possession. Win shares are one of many advanced metrics, alongside Player Efficiency Rating, Effective Field Goal Percentage, and True Shooting Percentage.
Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain have the highest points per game rate in NBA history at 30.12 and 30.07, respectively. Chamberlain and Bill Russell lead in rebounds per game at 22.89 and 22.45. Magic Johnson and John Stockton round out the traditional stats leaderboard with an average of 11.19 and 10.51 assists per game for their career. Using win shares as the most cohesive statistic that currently exists, the top five players in history are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain, Karl Malone, LeBron James, and Jordan, all accumulating over 214 total win shares.
Statistics are very important in basketball. Front offices use performance stats to decide which players would be best to sign for their team's given strengths and weaknesses, and coaching staff use numbers to exploit their opponents. NBA players are constantly trying to improve their stats, not just so their team can win, but so they look better on paper for potential contracts or recognition like All-Star games or the Hall of Fame. Statistics matter at every level of the game, even if they do not seem to play a role in what actually occurs on the court.
Since there is no footage of many non-modern era basketball players, statistics are important for comparison and for quantifying their abilities and accomplishments. Even for the players who we do have the ability to watch a film on and examine their every play, data is a much more efficient and comprehensive way of determining which players are the best and worst in the NBA at any given time.
Steve Kerr is the all-time leader in 3-point field goal percentage at 45.4%. Steph Curry has the highest career mark of active players at 43.5%, slightly higher than his younger brother at 43.3%. The highest single-season mark was set by Kyle Korver in 2010 at 53.6 percent, while Joe Harris led the league last season at 47.4%.
The 3-point line was not introduced until 1979, meaning any players before that year had the ability to qualify for the percentage leaderboard. With modern playing style becoming more dependent on the three-pointer and focusing less on the physicality of the game, make percentages have seen a spike as well as total attempts across the league. Even big men are beginning to frequent the arc as it is considered efficient to take many three-point attempts during a game.