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Sports & Gaming

Basketball Stat Guide: 9 Essential Basketball Statistics to Learn

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 16, 2020 • 4 min read

A professional basketball player is often judged by how many points they score, but scoring only tells part of the story. There are a number of important statistics that can help you better understand how a player’s performance truly impacts a game.

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9 Essential Basketball Statistics

There are nine statistical categories in basketball that you can use to gauge how well your favorite team or player performs on the court.

  1. Assist: An assist occurs when a pass leads directly to a teammate's scored basket. A pass does not qualify as an assist if a player is simply the last player to possess the ball before their teammate scores. Statisticians abbreviate an assist as "AST" in a basketball box score.
  2. Block: A blocked shot occurs when an offensive player shoots a legitimate field goal attempt and a defensive player tips or deflects the ball. Even if the defensive player's team does not recover the deflected ball, it still counts as a blocked shot. Statisticians abbreviate a block as "BLK" in a basketball box score.
  3. Double-double: A player achieves a double-double in a game when they accrue a double-digit total (10 or more) in two of the following five categories: points, rebounds, steals, assists, and blocked shots. The first “double” in “double-double" references the two required statistical categories, whereas the second "double" refers to the required double-digit minimum in those categories. For example, in game one of the 2020 NBA finals, LeBron James achieved a double-double by scoring 25 points and collecting 13 rebounds. If a player accrues a double-digit total in three, four, or five of the statistical categories, it is referred to respectively as a triple-double, quadruple-double, and quintuple-double. In NBA history, there have only ever been four recorded quadruple-doubles and zero quintuple-doubles. Statisticians abbreviate a double-double as "DD2" in a basketball box score.
  4. Field goal percentage: A field goal refers to any two-point or three-point shot. A player or team's field goal percentage consists of the total number of field goals made (FGM) divided by the total number of field goal attempts (FGA). For example, in the 2010 NBA season, Dwight Howard led the league in field goal percentage when he made 510 out of 834 field goal attempts, which calculates to 61.15%. When calculating field goal percentage, there are two main caveats: First, when the referee awards a shooter a scored basket due to defensive basket interference, it will count as a made field goal. Second, when a player misses a shot, but the referee calls a shooting foul, it does not count as a field goal attempt. Statisticians abbreviate field goal percentage as "FG%" in a basketball box score.
  5. Free throw percentage: Referees award free throws (worth one point each) for personal, flagrant, and technical fouls. A player or team's free throw percentage consists of the total number of free throws made (FTM) divided by the total number of free throw attempts (FTA). For example, in the 2018 NBA season, Stephen Curry led the league in free throw percentage when he made 278 out of 302 free throw attempts, which calculates to 92.05%. Statisticians abbreviate free throw percentage as "FT%" in a basketball box score.
  6. Rebound: A rebound occurs when a player recovers the basketball after a missed field goal or free throw attempt. Offensive rebounds (OREB) are the total number of rebounds collected by a player or team while playing offense. Defensive rebounds (DREB) are the total number of rebounds collected by a player or team while playing defense. Statisticians abbreviate a rebound as "REB" in a basketball box score.
  7. Steal: A steal occurs when a defensive player takes the ball away from an offensive player by either intercepting a pass or stealing the offensive player's dribble. Statisticians abbreviate a steal as "STL" in a basketball box score.
  8. Three-point field goal percentage: A three-point field goal percentage is the total number of three-point field goals made (3PM) divided by three-point field goal attempts (3PA). For example, a player who makes five out of nine three-point shots in a game has a 56% three-point field goal percentage. Statisticians abbreviate three-point field goal percentage as "3P%" in a basketball box score.
  9. Turnover: A turnover occurs when an offensive player loses possession of the ball to a defensive player before the offensive player attempts a shot. Some actions that result in a turnover by an offensive player include: having the ball stolen while dribbling or throwing a bad pass, stepping out of bounds, throwing the ball out of bounds, committing an offensive foul, committing a traveling violation, committing a double-dribble violation, committing a shot clock violation, committing a backcourt violation, and committing a three or five-second violation. Statisticians abbreviate a turnover as "TOV" in a basketball box score.

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