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  • Writer's picturehenryfarleyjohnson

Which State Could Field the Best NBA Team?

Was recently wondering which states churn out the most-- and best-- NBA players. Fortunately, Basketball-Reference keeps birthplace data quite tidily!

A heads-up that this post is mostly just lists, so even by this blog's standards, it won't be much to look at! But it still could be fun, we'll see...

OK, first, let's look at the number of NBA players (all-time) born in each state:

There's only one state in which no NBA players have been born. See if you can spot it! (I'll also put the answer at the bottom of this post.)

Now let's look at population-adjusted leaders:

Bear in mind that a) this population data is a couple years old (from a 2017 estimate) and b) This is not really a measure of NBA players per 100,000 people-- the NBA data is across time, and the population data is just a snapshot. But good lord does D.C. score high! I was sure this was a coding error, but unless I'm overlooking something (or unless Basketball-Reference mixed something up), it looks like D.C. might just produce a wildly disproportionate share of NBA players.

Now let's look at the actual abilities of the players born in each state. To do this, we can use Value Over Replacement Player, or VORP. We don't have to go too in-the-weeds about how Basketball-Reference calculates VORP, but the link is there if you're interested! A major downside of this method is that VORP is only available after the 1972-1973 season, so this measure will not be kind to states whose best players were in the league before then. With that caveat in mind, let's look at total VORP by state:

As you might expect, this lines up pretty closely with each state's count of players produced. North Carolina and Louisiana outperform their counts, the former led by Chris Paul (#7 all-time in VORP), the latter led by Karl Malone (#4 all-time).

Now let's pretend we're actually holding a basketball tournament, and each state can put together a starting lineup of its 5 best players. Who, according to VORP, comes out on top?

Some states can't quite field a 5-man team, which explains the NAs. The asterisks signify a Hall of Famer. And sorry for the sloppily stitched/tiny fonted tables. Still kinda interesting to look at, though, I think! Quite a Big 3 for the Empire State!

P.S. How about Delaware's #2 and #3 players being named Bones Hyland and Dexter Boney? What??

P.P.S. It's Vermont!


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