In basketball, if you want to win a championship, you have to be able to pass the ball around. In the history of the NBA, there has never been a single team that has been able to win it all with only one superstar who hogs the ball and takes all of the shots. That would be easy to gameplan against and 99.9% of the NBA would be able to figure out a way of stopping him, forcing him to make bad decisions and take bad shots.
But over the past 25 years, the term ball hog has become a major debate among NBA fans. The idea behind a ball hog is a player that would rather take the toughest shots on the court, forcing the ball up many of the times, rather than passing it to a teammate in a better position for a jump shot. But it is not very easy to judge what defines a ball hog since the entire concept of a ball hog is subjective.
For example, one of the most infamous NBA ball hogs ever is Allen Iverson. If you ask anyone to name the biggest ball hogs in NBA history, there is a great chance his name comes up. But how can he be considered a ball hog when he averaged 6.2 assists per game throughout his career, as a shooting guard, which ranks second on the all time shooting guard assists per game averages list making him anything but selfish.
Stephon Marbury is another popular name that keeps coming up when it comes to the term ball hog but he averaged 7.65 assists per game over his career, 18th all time. Now, Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, turned into a ball hog later on in his career so his overall numbers do not suggest that he belongs in this list either.
Then how do you measure a ball hog? What advanced statistical numbers should we use to construct a formula that would clearly give us the answer? There are several different methods out there today but one of the most popular ones is usage rate % (This measures several factors including minutes played, field goals attempted, free throws attempted, and turnovers in proportion to their team's numbers). The biggest issue with that measurement is that it does not factor in each shot's degree of difficulty, how many seconds per game they possess the ball, wins, and the number of passes made.
We came up with a way of doing it that would be fair and encompass assists, field goals attempted, free throws attempted, shooting percentages, minutes played, usage rate, winning percentage, and a couple of other stats we felt would help us measure what a ball hog is while also differentiating us from all of the other sites that try to do the same thing each year.
Here are the NBA's 15 Biggest and Most Notorious Ball Hogs.
15 Dirk Nowitzki
Why is nobody mentioning Dirk Nowitzki's name when asked to rate the NBA's most notorius ball hogs? Is it because he won so many games and brought them a championship? If so, then they are sadly missing all of the alarming numbers that point us in the opposite direction. Even Steve Nash made a joke about it last month when Dirk Nowitzki reached the 30,000 point milestone for his career. After the game, in celebration of his accomplishment, the Mavericks played a bunch of pre-recorded messages from former teammates and Steve Nash said, "Dirky, congratulations man. 30,000 points. How do you say that in German? Ball hog? Black Hole." He was kidding and the video was not mean by any standards, but to make the joke and then mention the black hole moniker is just something that the fans probably never even noticed.
When we looked at his career numbers, there is no way that a 7'0" power forward with his range could average 21.7 points per game over 1,394 games without hogging it. His usage rate is in the above average range, at 26.8%, and he has shot 22,600 field goals, making 47.3% of them, while only averaging 2.5 assists. The assists per game average has reached 3.5 in one season but that was the highest it ever got. He rarely passes the ball, choosing to take the open shot just about every single time he touches the ball.
14 Corey Maggette
By the time he retired, Corey Maggette was earning $10 million per season and was quickly becoming more of a liability than a contributor. So when he retired after the 2012-13 season, it might have had something to do with the lack of offers he was receiving around the league. It started about four years before he hung up his shorts, when he signed a 5-year deal worth $50 million to play with the Golden State Warriors before heading to Milwaukee, Charlotte, and, finally, Detroit.
Throughout his entire career, he was known as one of the most selfish players in the league. He could score 20 to 25 points a night but only because he was more worried about scoring than passing. He was even called out by Kevin Garnett, back in 2008, for being a ball hog, when KG openly made a comment to Maggette during the game in regards to his selfish play.
13 Rudy Gay
Before we jump right into the numbers, or explain our reasons behind putting Rudy Gay on the list of the NBA's most notorious ball hogs, we wanted to explain what the metric, Win Shares, is all about. It basically measures the number of wins a player produces for his team by using various statistics such as 2-point field goals, free throws, team assists, offensive rebounds, and a bunch of other offensive statistics. It is not perfect but it does help get an understanding about where a player has been and the team's he has played for. In other words, was he on bad teams or good teams?
We like to use it as part of the formula for ball hogs in the NBA because it showcases a stat that does not get enough respect, wins. Rudy Gay has been around since 2007, playing in 753 games. Throughout his ten seasons, he has struggled to help his team win and a big reason for that could be how much he shoots. He averages 19.7 shots attempted per game for his career while only shooting 45.2% from the field and 79.6% from the free throw line. The most telling stat for Rudy Gay is his career 2.3 assists per game numbers. He never was much of a passing guard.
12 Glen Rice
The greatest example of Glen Rice's selfish play is the 1998-99 season when he played for the Los Angeles Lakers. He was traded to the Lakers to be their missing piece that was going to lead them to another title but it did not work right away. His 27 games that season in LA should have been glorious but they turned into a mess. He averaged 17.5 points per game that season and actually hurt the Lakers overall offensive flow between Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. They would win the title the following season but it was mostly because of Phil Jackson's management of his team.
Before his playing days in LA, Glen Rice was considered a ball hog after spending a majority of his games with one or less assists per game. In fact, for his career, he had 415 games where he only had one or zero assists.
11 Bob McAdoo
Long before his days in Los Angeles, Bob McAdoo was a shot-taking expert with the Buffalo Braves and New York Knicks, averaging almost 23 shots per game. He failed to understand the meaning of passing the rock in order to win a championship. There is no chance to win a NBA title all by yourself but he tried for several seasons before being taught by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in LA. That was when he learned his place in the lineup and understood the meaning of teamwork.
His 22.1 points per game average, and 2.3 assists per game numbers only got better with his time with the Lakers. Before he got to LA, he was more of a shot now, talk later guy and moved around between six different times, playing all over the NBA throughout his 14 season career.
10 Mark Aguirre
Before Dirk Nowitzki came to town, the Dallas Mavericks were a struggling franchise in the NBA that were led by Mark Aguirre. During his eight seasons in Dallas, Mark was a scoring machine, averaging 24.6 points per game, and owning a career 29.1 usage rate. He was all they had for eight years and he took advantage of it by throwing the ball at the basket 21.5 times per game.
The former first overall draft pick was known for being moody, selfish, and a ball hog throughout his entire career in Dallas and was traded to the Detroit Pistons because of it. They swapped him for Adrian Dantley and a draft pick in a trade that Pistons fans wish never happened, even today.
9 Bernard King
It is tough to create a list of NBA ball hogs and not talk about Bernard King, who has a reputation of being a ball hog and that has lasted throughout his entire career. He was a high scoring small forward that contributed the only way he knows how, by shooting the ball as many times as humanly possible, each and every night.
He averaged a 23.5 shot attempts per game, which includes both field goal and free throw attempts, and a career usage rate of 27.8, both ranked in the Top 50 in NBA history. Fortunately for him, he did average 22.5 points per game and that seems to have masked the issues he faced on the court passing the ball. The best number to look at for King is his assist percentage, which looks at the percentage of made field goals from his teammates that happened while he was on the court. That number is a very low 16% for his career.
8 Gilbert Arenas
If a player averages seven or more assists per game for a season, he should not be considered a ball hog. He is making sure to pass it to his teammates and spread the ball to players in high percentage scoring situations. For a couple of seasons, Gilbert Arenas averaged 10.0 and 7.2 assists per game, almost dismissing the entire idea that he is a ball hog.
However, there are exceptions to the rule. In his case, it is the rest of his career. He was a three time All-Star point guard and yet struggled to reach the top-10 in the league in assists for most of his career. He finished with a 5.3 career assists per game average, ranked 97th on the all time list. He was only a 42.1% field goal shooter that averaged 20.7 points per game while not ever helping his team win much. It is easy to put two and two together here, right?
7 Steve Francis
The Houston Rockets are one of the NBA's fastest teams this past season, averaging 16.6 fastbreak points per game. They get down the court fast, and get the ball up and in the basket just as quickly, if not quicker. The Golden State Warriors are built the same way, pushing the ball quickly up the court and passing it around, opening up shots across the court. But back in the '90s, things were a tad different for the Houston Rockets.
Steve Francis was the star and the Rockets offense was built to run through him. Or, at least, that is what he thought about himself. His ball hogging skills became evident during his dribbling. He would get the ball, take it up the court, and dribble more than just about anyone you had ever seen, running out the shot clock, leaving his team to force up a bad shot, which he usually took himself.
He was a ball hog because he wanted to leave town the moment he realized that Yao Ming was going to be the star, not himself.
6 Antoine Walker
Let's take a moment to look at Antoine Walker's size. He was a beast, standing tall at 6'8" while weighing in at 224 pounds. Yet he was not your typical big man. Sure, he played his entire career as a power forward but he was one of the rare power forwards in the league that almost never posted up. Can you imagine a man of his size, playing at the power forward position today, not posting up or working the paint?
He was almost allergic to the paint, and took about 29% of all of his shots from beyond the arc. Now, that would not be an issue if he was hitting his shots regularly. However, he did not. He was a career 32.5% shooter from beyond the arc, which is the worst all time from players who have shot more than 4,200 three point shots. The only other player in NBA history to come close to that mark is Kobe Bryant. But Kobe won five titles and did many other things better than Walker, not to mention he is one of the greatest talents ever.
5 Glenn Robinson
If you wanted to showcase a player who was an All-Star on the offensive side of the ball but a horrible defender, you can start with Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson. He was an incredible scorer but could be found grabbing a hot dog whenever his team's were on defense. He just simply did not do much of anything on the defensive side of the ball. He did not have to at first, but after awhile, he turned into the star of the Milwaukee Bucks and he had to.
It was at that point that he began to suffer in the league and he would finish his career in San Antonio, winning a NBA title in 2005, before retiring. He was not shy when it came to scoring but if he was asked to defend someone or swim in a pool of sharks, he would grab his swimsuit before you finished the question. He was a natural ball hog because of his defensive inabilities and lack thereof.
4 George Gervin
Since George Gervin played in the NBA in the '70s and '80s, many fans seem to forget just how selfish he was in San Antonio. Sure, he is a Hall of Famer that belongs in the discussion for one of the NBA's greatest players of all time. But his biggest downfall from becoming the greatest was his inability to pass the ball around and make sure his teammates were getting involved in the action.
His 30.7 usage rate remains one of the highest ever but the fact that he shot the ball 20 times a night and averaged 25.1 points per game, while only getting 2.6 assists in the process, means that he had the chances to do something more than just shoot the ball. He led the Spurs to the playoffs in 11 of his 12 seasons with them, in both the ABA and NBA, but failed to get them a title because he was trying to do everything and all his opponent's had to do was shut him down and they could stop the Spurs.
3 Carmelo Anthony
Right now, Phil Jackson is turning Carmelo Anthony into a hero by talking about him in a way a former head coach would talk about a selfish superstar that is heading out of town. Just a few days ago, Phil Jackson said, "We have not been able to win with him on the court at this time and I think the direction with our team is that he is a player that would be better off somewhere else and using his talent somewhere he can win or chase that championship."
In other words, Phil is saying that Carmelo is a ball hog that does not help improve a team, he simply scores more points than anyone else because he is a selfish ball hog. It is no secret either that the consensus is that Melo is a ball hog given that his win shares is 97, brutally low for a player of his caliber, has a huge usage rate of 31.4%, and he attempts 26.8 shots a game while only averaging 3.1 assists and scoring 24.8 points.
Are you really shocked to see his name on this list?
2 Dominique Wilkins
Maybe if he won a title or two then Dominique Wilkins might not have made this list. However, after examining the facts, it is tough to dismiss him as one of the biggest ball hogs in NBA history. His win shares look good enough to get him off the list too but, again, he just has some of the worst numbers to argue against it.
For starters, he averaged 24.8 points per game but only 2.5 assists. That is the worst in NBA history for someone averaging at least 24 points per game. The next lowest is George Gervin's 2.8 assists per game before it quickly climbs all the way to 9.5 per game, held by Oscar Robertson. And let's not forget his 27 shot attempts per game is one of the most all time too.
If we add in the Usage Rate %, then he ranks in the top five all time with a 30.3 rating. Everything points to Dominique Wilkins being a ball hogging superstar that has no championships and a ton of questionable stats.
1 John Drew
Many of you probably have no idea who John Drew is and why a nobody would make such a list but for the hardcore NBA fans out there, he is the guy who David Stern sent packing after one too many substance abuse violations. His cocaine addiction sent him to rehab in 1983, missing 38 games, and eventually, got him kicked out of the league a couple years later. But during his playing days, all he did was score. He was a superstar in Atlanta, where he was a two-time All-Star in the late '70s, before heading to Utah, where his drug addiction took over his life.
On the court, he did one thing better than anyone else in the league, looking down and seeing nothing but the basket. It was almost as if he was wearing blinders to his teammates and would rarely, if ever, pass the ball. With a usage rate ranked in the top five all time, he had plenty of chances to pass, he just chose not to do so.