Asking About Historical Stats

The foundation of every great sports debate is the phrase “all-time.” Who’s the best player of all-time? What’s the best team of all-time? What was the greatest game of all-time?

Thanks to a database that stretches back to the 1946 Basketball Association of America, StatMuse is your best source to easily find statistical evidence to back up all your “all-time” basketball arguments.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to use StatMuse to ask questions about historical stats. The history of professional basketball is available to you, all you have to do is ask.

(Stats included are accurate as of the date of publication. Results may have since changed.)

Defaulting to “All-Time”

In StatMuse, answers will default to all-time stats unless a timeframe is specified. For example, ask Who scored the most points? and you’ll get the list of the top career scorers in NBA history:

Who scored the most points?

If you don’t want the all-time list, simply specify a timeframe to limit your results. If you’re curious to see which player scored the most points in the 1980s, add those seasons to the end of the question:

Who scored the most points from 1980 to 1989?

In the decade dominated by Magic and Bird, it was the criminally underrated Alex English who led the ’80s in scoring by a margin of nearly 2,000 points. (We’ll soon support the ability to ask by decade, i.e. “Who scored the most points in the 1980s?”)

Player History

Speaking of the eighties, no one put up performances in the years of big hair and excess like Julius Erving. Getting the historical stats of a Hall-of-Famer like Dr. J takes just a simple question:

What are the most points in a game by Julius Erving?

If you don’t have a specific player in mind, but want to know which player is the all-time leader in a specific stat, you can find that player with questions like this:

Who has the most blocks in a game?

This answer reminds you that the late Manute Bol was a 7'7" shot-blocking beast. It’s important to note the disclaimer at the bottom of the data table that notes our data for in-game blocks goes back to the 1985–86 season.

This issue pops up with other categories as well:

Which center has the most steals + assists in a game?

So, Vlade Divac’s 17 combined assists and steals in 2004 is returned as the most of that combination by a center in a game, but both steals and assists, like blocks, aren’t available in our database on a game-level until 1985–86. Our stats for points, field goals and free throws are comprehensive and cover the entire history of the NBA.

Before proclaiming a result as the best of “all-time,” check the bottom of the data table to see if there’s a disclaimer listing any data limitations. If so, it’s better to phrase it as “most since 1985–86” or “highest in the last 30 years.”

Team History

Explore the history of your favorite team with team-specific historical questions. For instance, if you rocked a Charlotte Hornets Starter jacket in the 1990s and want to see which squad won the most games, search for the most wins in a season by the Charlotte Hornets:

What are the most wins in a season by the Charlotte Hornets?

Surprisingly, it was the post-Mourning, post-Johnson 1996–97 Hornets led by Glen Rice that won the most games in a season in franchise history. You may also notice that stats from the Charlotte Bobcats were included even though the question asked specifically for the Charlotte Hornets. Since the Bobcats transitioned to the Hornets, they’re still considered the same franchise and thus results for both are returned. Likewise, questions about the history of the New Orleans Pelicans will include results from the years when the team was known as the Hornets:

What are the fewest wins in a season by the New Orleans Pelicans?

Note that data from a current season will be included in historical searches, so while some answers may be a work in progress, it’s a good way to compare a player or team’s current progress with all of NBA history.

Pre-NBA Stats

Many of professional basketball’s all-time marks occurred in the infancy of the leagues that would become the NBA, and most of these marks aren’t good. This may come as a shock to some, but post-WWII hoops in a segregated league without a shot clock wasn’t so great. Just ask Which team scored fewest points in a game? to get an idea:

Which team scored the fewest points in a game?

Scoring just 40 points in a game may not be a huge deal in today’s college game, but in the pros it’s practically unheard of. Yet, in the BAA, the teams’ final scores often matched that of the decade in which the game was played. And then there was the Minneapolis Lakers and Fort Wayne Pistons debacle on November 22, 1950 where the teams scored a combined 37 points — the lowest scoring game in recorded professional basketball history.

If you don’t have much interest in stats from the Chicago Stag, the Pittsburgh Ironmen or the St. Louis Bombers (actual basketball teams once upon a time), you can filter your answers to the modern era by adding since 1980 or in the last 30 years” and discover that maybe it is possible to score fewer than 50 points in a modern NBA game:

Which team scored the fewest points in a game in the last 30 years?

Stats and Data Coverage

For a full list of every NBA stat we support and the years of data coverage for each, check out our basketball statistics glossary.

StatMuse Basketball Statistics Glossary
A listing of basketball stats that are searchable on

Try It Yourself

Now that you’ve seen some of the historical NBA questions you can ask StatMuse, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice. Log in to StatMuse and ask some of these questions yourself. Or come up with your own questions.

If you’re still not quite ready to ask your own questions, you can see some of the best ones shared recently on the homepage. If you need any help, click on the live chat icon in the bottom right-hand corner or send us a message on Twitter and we’ll answer any questions you may have.

In the next NBA tutorial, we’ll focus on asking questions about the best two months in sports — the NBA playoffs.

Full NBA Tutorial Series

  1. Asking About Basic Stats
  2. Asking About Advanced Stats
  3. Creating Shot Charts
  4. Asking Questions with the Math Engine
  5. Asking About Historical Stats
  6. Asking About Playoff Stats