This is the first of a four-part series ranking the best National Basketball Association players of all time. In this story, TAPS (Total Average Point Score) is introduced, comparing players from the 2019-20 season.
Who is it? Is it Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Magic Johnson or Larry Bird? Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? Among fans and media, the question is, “who is the greatest of all time?”
The first National Basketball Association game tipped off on November 1, 1946 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It would include the National Basketball League (1937-1949) and later the American Basketball Association (1967-1976). Since then, thousands of athletes have checked in, some for 20 games, others 20 years. Only a few are truly the elite. While the greatest players is not our focus yet, we can answer a part of the question. Who is the best?
Is it even possible to rank the best basketball player, and is there a way to come to a decisive and objective conclusion?
A definition of best, according to Merriam-Webster:
BEST adverb (1): excelling all others (2): most productive of good
The best basketball players excel in productivity. They have mastered the ability to score, rebound, assist and defensively to create turnovers—steals and blocks. The best players have mastered their craft, creating a unique identity and niche on the court. These are the Black Belts of Basketball, the heroes aspiring icons and mortals emulate. They also posses an all-around game; generally good in two of the three offensive categories and one of the defensive, depending on position and size.
For this comparison of the best, winning and accolades are not considered. Championships banners and seasonal awards awards are reserved for other comparisons. Here we only only use statistics. These vital basketball statistics, or, facts, will give us an unbiased response to the question of who is the best. The five primary statistics are the ones by which a player is measured.
The method we will use is Total Average Point Score, or TAPS. TAPS is simply the sum of the averages of points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, the 5 primary statistics by which players are measured. To get Total Average Point Score (TAPS), we simply add the numbers, left to right. That’s it. The result is a concrete statistical tally of the best players by season, past and present.
The 2019-20 NBA season ended early due to the COVID – 19 pandemic. Still, we can crown the statistically best player by looking at their Total Average Point Score (TAPS). In the following table, we line up several players’ regular season statistics for good measure.
James Harden boxes out Giannis Antetokounmpo and grabs the title for best player of 2019-20 with a TAPS of 51.1.
It should be noted that when the league shut down the regular season on March 11, 2020, Giannis and Harden had nearly identical above scores, except Giannis was ahead. Harden performed slightly better when the league resumed July 30, edging out the Greek star.
The TAPS Player of the Year, needs no input from sports writers, or media hosts, those who make their living writing, talking and reporting about basketball, respectfully. The numbers tell the story, affirm and challenge historic accolades and rebuke errant, misleading sports media.
TAPS is objective and unbiased.
Total Average Point Score is different than the Most Valuable Player award. TAPS only deals with statistics. There are more complex formulas used to calculate basketball efficiency and productivity in today’s data driven world, and each has a place. But, for facts and an honest ranking, the process is simple and straightforward. For the 2019-20 regular season, James Harden is statistically, the best player in the NBA.
In the next part we look at previous decades and begin ranking the best basketball players of all time.