Who has the best “worst season”?

This is a question that for some reason started to occupy my thoughts a few months ago: if we take all the NBA players and check their scoring average throughout their entire careers, and specifically look for their worst scoring season – who’s worst season will be the best? What player, even at his lowest point in terms of scoring, was still THE MAN?

So I did what every stats-junkie would do – I looked it up. I remembered that Michael Jordan averaged a career-low of exactly 20 points per game during his last season in Washington. Which is pretty damn awesome, because you know – he was 40 fucking years old at the time!!

So having an average of 20 points-per-game for your worst season is amazing, but is this the best anyone has ever managed?

So I went over some data. Aaaaand it turns out that of all the retired players, His Airness is one of only two players in NBA history who never ever had a season in which they scored less than 20 points per game!

Ok, so surely Michael is THE MAN, right? I mean, who can top god? Well, it turns out that there is someone who can.

Jordan might have been the winner of this legendary competition I just made up, IF he wouldn’t have returned to those last two Wizards seasons, a comeback which Bill Simmons deemed as one of the most depressing comebacks ever (and I semi-agree, although it was truly amazing to see what awesome things he could do in the league at the age of 40).

If Jordan’s last NBA shot ever was that game-winner-title-clincher-awesome-jump-shot in game 6 against the Jazz in 1998, he would have won this contest by a mile, with a worst season of 22.7 (his second season, in which he only played 18 games). It would have never even been close; it would have been like Usain Bolt at the 2008 olympics.

But sadly, those two Wizards years did exist. And it is because of them that Michael finds himself on his most hated side ever – the losing side.

And so the first place goes to… Bob Pettit! The great Hawks center from the 50’s and the 60’s had a rookie season in which he scored 20.4 points per game, and after which he never looked back.

Bob Pettit‘s worst scoring season – 20.4 points per game.

Michael Jordan‘s worst scoring season – 20.0 points per game.

So yep, first place goes to Bob Pettit.

Now, did I write that this data only has to do with retired players? Yes I did. Well, if we also look at the data for the active players, we can see that Pettit’s record is in danger of being broken by both Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.

Carmelo Anthony‘s worst scoring season – 20.8 points per game.

LeBron James‘ worst scoring season – 20.9 points per game.

Both are awesome scorers. Can they break Pettit’s record? YES!!! Will they break it? Who knows… Carmelo is 30, LeBron is 29. They both have several years ahead of them in the league. Who knows what will happen to them in the twilight of their careers. Somehow I find it hard to imagine that both of them will settle for some sidekick role when they are in their late 30’s, the same way Kobe is not settling for this kind of role right now. But who knows… We’ll keep following their quest for Pettit’s first place!

Now, I must admit that there is actually one player in NBA history whose worst season is way better than Pettit’s worst season. That player is Alex Groza, and in his worst scoring season (1950-51) he managed to score 21.7 points per game (!!). The problem with Groza? That season was also his second best (!!!). That’s right, Groza only played two years in the league. After those two seasons he was banned for life from the NBA due to a point-shaving scandal that took place in his college days. So I’m not feeling comfortable with including him in the analysis. Not because of his ban, but because of him playing only two seasons in the league. You know, we must have a minimum statistical requirements as well…

I'm in second place? Yeah right... good one, Michael

I’m in second place? Yeah right… good one, Michael

4 thoughts on “Who has the best “worst season”?

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