There are 5 major statistical categories in basketball: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. These 5 key stats have been around, basically, from the very beginning.
These 5 stats represent the most obvious and important broader categories of play. A box score including the 5 major stats is going to
The most blatantly obvious stat category, and the only stat that was there from the very beginning. You don’t know who won if you don’t know the score.
The most important points stat line would probably be player PPG (points per game). Your share of game points is a very strong indicator of how important you were to an offense.
Assists are a secondary offensive indicator. In the grand scheme, they are no less important than points, you just have to examine the assist a little more closely.
An assist occurs when a player passes to another player, who then scores. But it’s only counted as an assist when points are scored, and when the motion to score initiates directly from the pass. You don’t credit if you hand off the ball for a long drive through traffic.
So there’s a real magic (pun intended) to knowing when to thread that needle. You have to anticipate movement on the court, then place the ball in a position where the receiver has a clear path to the basket.
Racking up assists requires a great feel for the game. A passing wizard can turn a mediocre teammate into a point god. There’s a solid argument to be made for the assist as more valuable than the point itself.
A rebound occurs when a player secures possession of the ball after a failed scoring attempt. The noblest stat, it straddles the line between offense and defense. It is not as glorious as the point or the assist, but it is equally as important.
Fighting for rebounds is fighting for possession of the ball. You can’t score without possessions, and possessions are directly correlated with points. Your average hooper is more interested in sinking jumpers or running a smooth 2 man game than picking up trash off the boards.
As soon as you even begin to think deeply about the game, you begin to understand that collecting boards is one of the most important goals a team can pursue.
The obvious front line defensive stat. Get yourself between the ball and the goal and swat away.
Amazingly, the NBA didn’t officially start recording blocks until 1973. This means that there are some all-time greats that have no official claim on blocks records.
Steals are probably the most disruptive stat to log. You’re ripping an opponent’s offensive possession right out of their hands. At the right moment, this can completely shift the flow of the game.
Just like blocks, the NBA didn’t start recording steals officially until 1973. This means again, that vintage legends like Bill Russell or Wes Unseld don’t pop up in those official steals records.
These 5 statistical categories form the back bone of the basketball box score. The majority of extended basketball analytics are extensions of these basic groups. For example, rebounding is broken up into defensive and offensive rebounding. Scoring is analyzed according to point value, percentage, and at this point, even floor position.
And advanced statistics often arise as calculations based on these core 5 statistical categories. One of the more popular extensions is seen when logging double digits in 3 of the 5 categories results in a triple double. Similarly, a double double is a double digit score in 2 of the 5 categories.
But there’s no shortage of more intricate measures incorporating numbers from the 5 categories. New stats are devised all the time as statisticians and fans seek to analyze the game in new ways. Bu the majority of these new stats will almost always tie back to the core 5 in some way.