Do Stats Matter In Basketball?

Viewing the 2020–2021 NBA Season Using Game Score

Alexander Yu
Top Level Sports
Published in
9 min readMay 27, 2021


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The greatest all-time single-player performance in NBA basketball happened on March 28th, 1990. In a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, 27-year-old Michael Jordan played all 50 minutes of regulation and overtime and turned in this jaw-dropping line:

It’s not every day you see someone drop 69 points in an NBA game. But even then, how do I know that this is the greatest single-player performance of all time? There has to be another crazier game than this, right?

However, statistically, the answer is no. Basketball statheads may be familiar with the concept of “Game Score,” a statistic developed by John Hollinger that holistically looks at all aspects of a box score to determine a player’s overall impact on a game. When analyzing player performance with Game Score, there is no debate. This truly is the single greatest game of NBA basketball ever played (at least since the 1983–84 season when all stats were tracked; Wilt’s 100-point game would probably have beaten this).

The Basics of Game Score (GmSc)

Determining Game Score is as easy as plugging in a player’s stats into the following formula:

GmSc = PTS + 0.4(FGM) + -0.7(FGA) + -0.4(FTA-FTM) + 0.7(OREB) + 0.3(DREB) + STL + 0.7(AST) + 0.7(BLK) + -0.4(PF) + -TO

If you examine this formula closely, everything is pretty intuitive. Stats that benefit the team contribute positively towards GmSc. Missing shots, committing fouls, and turning the ball over hurts your GmSc.

You interpret GmSc similar to points scored- a GmSc of 10 is considered average, whereas a GmSc of 40 is considered exceptional.

If you put in Michael Jordan’s 1990 performance against the Cavs in this formula, you’ll get a GmSc of 64.60, which is unequivocally the best GmSc any player has ever achieved in any NBA game.

People frequently refer to Basketball Reference’s top 100 Game Scores page to discuss the top 100 best performances of all time.

Can GmSc Tell Us If Stats Actually Matter?



Alexander Yu
Top Level Sports

Self-development. Basketball. Unable to get dog hair off his clothes.