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Journey through Miles of NBA Travel History

14 Dec

In my last post about Distance Traveled by NBA Teams during a Season I offered an innocent curiosity… but quite typically for me it lead to more questions plus more serious questions… and man, I went big this time.

Instinctively I wrote about Portland’s loneliness on the US map with recent team’s relocations from Seattle and Vancouver and then I hit me… wait a second, I can check the influence of those changes!
Average journey for each NBA team in a single season? That’s nice… but how about the whole history?
I could finally settle the issue how amount of travel actually has changed through league’s history!

So while I was fired up I got my hands dirty, this time with schedules from basketball-reference.com
[but I still used latitude and longitude of U.S. and Canadian Cities from infoplease.com and an algorithm converting it into distance in miles from meridianworlddata.com] but before we look at the results a couple of technical notes which you should keep in mind:

- I totally ignored random games in temporary locations but I included changes which lasted at least a season. So for example, Nets spent one year in New York so I accounted for that in calculations but if the same Nets played a game in Kansas due to some difficulties I assumed they played at home. In recent decades this point probably doesn’t matter but in early days of the NBA it could have some impact.

- I totally ignored exhibition games like those in London or Tokyo and I assumed they were played in team’s arena. There were few of them and I prefered to save some time than play with such details.

- This batch of numbers in some cases is slightly different than in my previous post because there I used scheduled games and here I used games when they actually happened [so any postponed games made a tiny difference here].

OK, that’s enough, here’s what I dug out from that goldmine of information so far…

Let’s start with a graph of Total Journeys by NBA Teams Over 800 Miles per Season [which is easier to digest version of Total Miles Traveled per team because there’s a 0.99 correlation between those two]:

Total Journeys by NBA Teams Over 800 Miles per Season

… and here’s a big one: Average Miles Traveled by NBA Team per Season per Game Since 1952

Average Miles Traveled by NBA Team per Season per Game

Even though there’s a lot of data involved I think conclusions are pretty simple:

1)Shockingly in the 60s players traveled more per game than in the 90s!
And in a worse means of transport. Yikes…

2) Expansion through US cities obviously added a lot of total miles for each team,

3) Changing divisions for Chicago, San Antonio and Houston before 1980-81 season worked out nicely…

4) In the last 20 years NBA either used similar schedule or they figured out the most optimal version of it.

Finally, here’s a breakdown for each city/team:

City/Team Start Finish Average Miles Traveled
per Game since 1952
Games # Over 800 Miles % of Such games
San Francisco 1963 1971 780,59 729 213 29,22
Miami 1989 2011 696,73 1854 872 47,03
Vancouver 1996 2001 680,79 460 163 35,43
Seattle 1968 2008 657,77 3330 1159 34,80
Portland 1971 2011 647,7 3330 1204 36,16
LA Lakers 1961 2011 644,7 4136 1445 34,94
San Diego 1968 1984 641,51 820 281 34,27
Minnesota 1990 2011 640,45 1772 751 42,38
Houston 1972 2011 633,37 3248 1371 42,21
San Antonio 1977 2011 630,93 2838 1239 43,66
Golden State 1972 2011 610,61 3248 803 24,72
Orlando 1990 2011 606,83 1772 738 41,65
New Orleans 1975 2011 601,83 984 353 35,87
Denver 1977 2011 592,06 2838 1253 44,15
Phoenix 1969 2011 591,69 3494 1133 32,43
Sacramento 1986 2011 589,02 2100 537 25,57
Oklahoma City 2006 2011 583,84 410 139 33,90
Memphis 2002 2011 577,59 820 231 28,17
Utah 1980 2011 575,1 2592 739 28,51
Dallas 1981 2011 569,25 2510 904 36,02
LA Clippers 1985 2011 557,53 2182 713 32,68
Kansas City 1973 1985 552,28 1066 292 27,39
Atlanta 1969 2011 533,8 3494 583 16,69
St. Louis 1956 1968 523,33 1005 270 26,87
Charlotte 1989 2011 507,49 1690 288 17,04
Boston 1952 2011 503,47 4780 1226 25,65
NY Nets 1977 1977 496,65 82 14 17,07
New York 1952 2011 489,4 4779 879 18,39
Milwaukee 1952 2011 483,71 3775 769 20,37
Buffalo 1971 1978 479,16 656 118 17,99
New Jersey 1978 2011 476,4 2756 483 17,53
Washington 1974 2011 475,03 3084 553 17,93
Toronto 1996 2011 471,09 1280 230 17,97
Indiana 1977 2011 465,59 2838 574 20,23
Philadelphia 1952 2011 464,24 4698 833 17,73
Chicago 1962 2011 460,32 3817 756 19,81
Rochester 1952 1957 446,53 424 135 31,84
Detroit 1958 2011 446,33 4355 669 15,36
Cleveland 1971 2011 445,05 3330 592 17,78
Minneapolis 1952 1960 435,45 643 143 22,24
Cincinnati 1958 1972 413,32 1189 97 8,16
Syracuse 1952 1963 402,83 883 118 13,36
Baltimore 1952 1973 381,44 1021 111 10,87
Fort Wayne 1952 1957 321,4 423 17 4,02
Indianapolis 1952 1953 316,68 137 15 10,95

Well, if amount of travel was NBA’s goal then Vancouver and Seattle deserved to lose a team…
and Portland might be next! On the other hand there’s still a midwest bias ;-)

Also, have I found a reason why relocation to San Francisco might not be a good idea?

P.S. If you want to know something specific from this dataset, let me know in the comments.

Also so much data led to another post about Patterns in All-Time NBA Schedule.

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2 Comments

Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Scrutiny

 

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2 responses to “Journey through Miles of NBA Travel History

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