Thanks to the lockout you’ve probably read or heard how long average career of NBA player really is, and you can easily google it but… it’s not up-to-date information and there are very few details about it…
For example, how average NBA career length has changed through league’s history?
Is it so much longer now than it used to be? How exactly is it calculated?
How does this average career span differs for NBA starters and deep reserves?
I’ll answer those and many more questions in this post… but let’s start with the description. I collected data from basketball-reference.com for every season from 1946-47 to 2010-11, then I removed multiple occurrences in one season [usually due to trades] and finally counted how many times player appeared on the list.
Simple, right? Such sequence gave me an average NBA career length of 4.869 seasons for 3668 players.
But you’ve already knew that so let’s begin the fun part…
Here’s an average for all players who finished their career in any given year.
|Average Career Length||For So Many Players||The Only Year||Number of Teams||Season Ended
|Average Career Length||For So Many Players||The Only Year||Number of Teams|
… and as a graph…
So it is longer than it used to be… but the biggest rises occurred around the time when expansions happened so that’s probably just an effect of creating more jobs in the NBA.
Now that we have such basic information covered let’s dig in a bit deeper…
Here’s a historical distribution of career lengths [for those which ended before last season]…
Outliers are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis ;-)
Here’s a similar breakdown for those who played last season [obviously most of them can become longer]…
Outliers are Kidd, Juwan Howard and Shaq ;-)
Speaking of old players… here’s an average age of players who have just finished their careers in the NBA…
… and average age of those players who have just started…
Keep in mind that before 1976-77 season NBA added 4 new teams to the league and there were some 30 years old rookies… Also we can easily see the effect of recent draft age limit.
That was fun… but all above graphs and calculations counted every player equally…
even if he only got a try-out at the end of season and failed. Shouldn’t he be happy that he got a chance?
Should we even count that as a “career” or was it more a chance at one?
Well, let’s tweak the question a little bit…
What’s the average career length for NBA Players in various rotation roles?
Minimum of 41 games played in a career = 6.18 seasons.
Less than 12 minutes per game for a career = 2.01 seasons.
More than 12 minutes per game for a career but less than 20 = 5.01 seasons.
More than 20 minutes per game for a career but less than 25 = 7.59 seasons.
More than 25 minutes per game for a career but less than 30 = 9.21 seasons.
More than 30 minutes per game for a career = 10.88 seasons.
NBA All-Star at least once = 11.36 seasons.
So yeah, it’s not an one-dimensional question and it really depends on how good a player is perceived to be ;-)
BTW, dimension also matters… average careers for players with…
Height of 7 feet or more = 5.78 seasons.
Height from 6-7 to 6-11 = 5.43 seasons.
Height from 6-3 to 6-6 = 4.51 seasons.
Height 6-2 or below = 4.12 seasons.
P.S. If you are interested in an average career length for NBA Coaches and GMs click on the link ;-)