An Introduction to Player Career Score

One of the most fascinating aspects of professional basketball is that there exists a continuous debate about which players are greater than other players. Who was better: Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell? Larry Bird or Magic Johnson? Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? As much fun as these debates are, though, they can never definitively be answered.

There are tools to help with these questions. Statistics like points per game or total rebounds tell part of the story. Advanced metrics like Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares help illustrate a player’s contributions to his team. However, none of these measurements can quantify a player’s accomplishments throughout his career. This is why I am introducing a new measurement: the Player Career Score, or PCS.

So how does it work? PCS looks at the achievements that most clearly impact a player’s chances of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. It then weights those achievements based on their prestige and difficulty to accomplish, converting them into a calculable number. The numbers for each achievement are then added together into a single score. After the final score is tallied, it is then adjusted so that the top scorer (currently Michael Jordan) has a score of 1000.

The elements of the formula, listed from most heavily weighted to least, are: MVPs, championships, All-NBA team selections, postseason success, All-Star team selections, and regular season success. To answer the previous questions in terms of PCS, Bill Russell, with a score of 770.0, had a more accomplished career than Wilt Chamberlain, who had a final score of 699.2. Magic Johnson (734.2) bested Larry Bird (689.3). LeBron James, currently sitting at 874.8, surpassed Kobe Bryant, with a final tally of 747.6, in 2014 and never looked back. James, in fact, would be on pace to pass Jordan with three more MVP-caliber, championship contending seasons. (Very few scores reach those heights. Only 12 players have a score above 500. The threshold for guaranteed Hall of Fame election is 200, a mark 63 players have reached.)

Titles and MVPs, though, are not all created equally. The leader of a championship team, as measured by win shares, receives more points than role players or bench players. Jordan’s performance in the 1998 playoffs garnered twice as many points as Toni Kukoc’s performance, and over five times as many as Luc Longley. For MVPs, the voting totals matter. Stephen Curry’s unanimous MVP in 2016 was worth more than his contested MVP in 2015. In addition, despite not winning the award, Kawhi Leonard earned MVP points in 2016 since he received votes for the MVP.

One important note is that certain criteria also have to be met in order for a player to receive full marks. A player must be named to an All-NBA First Team, two All-NBA Second Teams or three All-Star teams to get full credit for their score. Otherwise, they receive half, two-thirds, or three-fourths credit depending on how many All-NBA and All-Star teams below those marks they accomplished. This system allows championships to be weighted as heavily as they deserve to be, while ensuring that players who were role players on multiple championship teams are not grouped together with the players who led fewer teams to titles. (For example, Robert Horry is currently on par with Deron Williams and Dan Majerle. Without the qualifying criteria, he’d be on par with Jerry Lucas and Tiny Archibald.)

I’ll get into the real nitty, gritty details of this thing at a later point, but for now, I think that’s a good primer.

Ultimately, the Player Career Score will likely never settle the debates about which player was better in his prime. However, It will be an important tool in deciding which player had the better career, and, in turn, which players are most deserving of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.


5 thoughts on “An Introduction to Player Career Score

  1. I’m confused with this PCS. How are you coming up with this? I guess you said you’ll talk about it more later. You mentioned it determining who’s better in their prime, but it sounds like overall career. Which is it?

    Also, do players get credit for multiple 1st team all-nba or once you reach 1 of these, then it’s all the same? That paragraph was quite unclear.

    For the record, I don’t trust most of these metrics, and they’re often useless-no way of telling how accurate they could be, that rate players to decimal points. It’s interesting water-cooler talk, but that’s about it. And everyone thinks theirs is the best. But, I appreciate this concept, it’s interesting.


    1. Thanks for the comment, express. I’ll have to go back through and see if I can clarify things, but I do plan on my next post being a full explanation of the concept. To answer your questions, players rack up points for every achievement every year: every All-Star selection counts, every All-NBA selection counts, every MVP vote counts, etc. Magic Johnson’s nine First Teams count for nine times more than Mark Price’s one.

      And I’m sorry if this wasn’t clear before, but PCS does not measure a player’s prime. It only measures the total value of a player’s entire career – a full resume counter, if you will. For example, it’s not saying Karl Malone was a better player in his prime than Oscar Robertson, but it does say Malone had more accomplishments throughout his career than Robertson did.

      I hope that clears things up, but let me know if you have further questions.


      1. Until you explain it more, yes.

        Your end product of the top 12 seems fairly accurate, though nobody would completely agree on the order. # of games/years played should be included somewhere, too.

        I hope you understand a lot of the problems with doing it like this, just like most any other stat. First, the MVP award is the most subjective award out there. I think overall it’s been fairly accurate, though I probably agree with the winner less than half the time. The winner has to play on a very good, at worst, team to have any chance. The reason players no longer vote on it is because they were believed to let your bias effect their votes. The irony in that is that the media seems much more biased/clueless now. Also, many people might think James/KD are better players than RW/Harden, but not necessarily think they should be ahead of them in MVP voting. That’s something to consider, too, but can’t really be measured I suppose among other things.

        Titles depend ‘a lot’ on teammates/coaches and competition. There’s really only 3 teams have a chance to win this year. And take Oscar or Wilt for example. You might be right about Oscar after thinking about. The general consensus on him is top 10 all-time at least. But, he only made the playoffs 5x out of 10 years as the #1 guy and only reached 50 wins once, and I don’t think the cupboard was particularly bare either. Asking him to win a title in CIN is another matter, but it seems like he should’ve done more to garner top 10 status.

        Postseason success is tricky, too. I guess that includes everything but titles in the postseason. For example, PHO misses the playoffs in 2014 with 48 wins, while Jordan’s Bulls make the playoffs each of his first 3 years with sub .500 records, though he missed much of 1986. If Jordan played on teams like that every season of his career, he’d have 0 titles, not very good postseason success, probably 0 MVPs given how bad his teams are, and bad regular season success(though I’m not sure exactly what regular season/postseason success means-individually, team-wise, or both?).

        I’ve found win shares is a terrible metric to use, but I guess you don’t since you’re using it, which brings up another problem even if you think it’s a good metric to use: you’re using another metric incorporated into your metric. Pau actually led LAL in WS in the playoffs in 09 and 10. Curry was certainly GS best player in 2015, but he had nearly twice as many WS as Finals MVP Iggy. He needed Iggy outplaying James in the Finals to win the title, and Curry was maybe only the 3rd best player in the Finals that year.

        Also, all-nba teams can be very subjective, too. And even if accurate, the 3rd best player in the nba might miss out on the 1st team if the top 2 players in the league are both guards. And was Deandre Jordan even a top 30 player last year, and he made the 1st team since a C has to be named? He wasn’t an AS last year either. Even if someone really disagrees with AS team selections overall, the top 15-20ish players are always there. I have a hard time believing someone who can’t make an AS team really making that big of a difference over the final 30-35 games to jump all the way to 1st team status.

        Overall, you’ve covered most of the areas you should. MVPs need to be highly considered, at least the totals. However, MVPs being the most subjective thing out there and weighting that #1 seems like a huge red flag. Being well-liked by the media greatly helps your chances. Having the right team(very good to great, but no other perceived elite players helps the most). Kobe/Shaq hurt each other in the past, as have KD/RW, though KD won one, but RW has always been underrated at least partially due to him not being a media darling. Curry/KD will hurt each other this year. Jordan benefited from Pippen being underrated. Though, an argument could be made Jordan deserved more; however, he’s benefited a lot more from the media than anyone else I’ve ever seen being the biggest media darling ever.


  2. Thanks for the reply again, express. Your questions are helping me make sure I address all the possible issues when I post the full explanation. While it’s true there is a lot of subjectivity in the voting for awards, but the actual winner of the award is an objective fact. For example, we can debate whether or not Latrell Sprewell deserved to be All-NBA First Team in 1994, but we can’t debate whether or not he actually got that honor. He did, that’s just a historical fact. With PCS, I’m trying to look at players from a historical perspective and compare their achievements to one another. Who won which awards and how many seems to be the most objective way to do that.

    I do realize voting patterns can be a bit… unconventional, let’s say, some years. To mitigate some of the subjectivity (and because the data is available), I use MVP Award Shares for each year rather than who actually won the MVP. The MVP is such a prestigious award, and so hard to get, I think it’s important to give players credit for even being considered for the award – so every MVP vote counts. To use Shaq and Nash as an example: Shaq gets 219 of his total points from all the MVP votes he racked up during his career; Nash gets 121.4 points from MVP Award Shares. So, even though Nash actually won two MVPs and Shaq won only one, Shaq has almost twice as many points by virtue of having significantly more MVP-caliber seasons. Curry, Durant, Harden, James, and Westbrook should all earn points this year in the MVP category – it’s just a matter of who gets how many, depending on how the voting shakes out.

    As for win shares, I do like that metric a lot. I admit it’s a little hard to understand – I don’t think I even totally get it, but the explanation on basketball-reference is really fascinating to see what it incorporates, and I can’t really find anything I disagree with. Plus if I look at the all time leaders in win shares and postseason win shares, they correlate really well with the players I naturally associate with consistent regular season success and with consistent long playoff runs. (I do have a system in place to weed out more recent players who benefit from a larger playoff field compared to past players.) Win shares also help with scoring longevity, too. Since it’s a counting stat, a player who plays for 20 years will just naturally rack up more win shares than a player who plays for 10 years. I think PER is a much better metric for determining a player’s prime or his value over the short-term, but I think win shares work better when looking at an entire career, which is what I’m trying to do with PCS.

    I admit the system isn’t flawless yet. There are probably 7-8 guys I think are out of place in the top 100 or so (all too high). But they’re generally close enough to where they should be that, at this point, I’m confident enough in the system to debut it to the public.


    1. Yes, all the awards are subjective, which is why it’s odd to think you can make up a formula that rates players to a decimal place. As I mentioned earlier, it’s cool to look at as long as you realize all the limitations and that it’s far from perfect/reality, which it seems since it’s your formula, you think it’s pretty legit. It might end up being ok or even good, but there’s so many problems with all the criteria to think you can just plug them into a formula and spit out a #. I do think your criteria are good criteria to look at, and hopefully all-defensive teams are used as well. Using MVP shares is better than straight out MVP wins, but I have to really question weighting the most subjective award first and an award that is often messed up in its voting. There’s still people out there who think CP3 is better than RW period and/or say CP3 is a better PG. RW has been better than CP3 for several years now, but gets punished on MVP/all-nba teams.

      Win shares might be fairly accurate some of the time, but far from perfect, and there’s terrible examples using it; the Pau example being one of them. You have a 1x AS and 0-12 in the playoffs over 7 years in MEM to suddenly becoming the best player on 2 title teams. You can’t just put some #’s from raw stats into a formula and spit out a # and have that tell us who’s a better player, that’s not how basketball works.


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