This NBA player visualization was created by mapping player statistics to physical attributes of simple, cartoon, caricatures (more blocks equals longer arms, more rebounds results in longer legs etc.) We updated the 2008 version to reflect the 2009-2010 season. Note that we are using totals not averages.
We originally released this visualization on Hoopism back in 2008, and we were amazed how frequently these stat-generated caricatures closely resembled the real players. Choosing what size to make the cartoon body parts relative to the stats was more art than science. However, the visualization uses a uniform formula to generate all of the players. As a result, many players with lower stat lines appear relatively nondescript. We actually like that aspect as it draws attention to the more accomplished players.
In addition to being pretty dam funny, we found that this format worked well to be able to quickly see which players are good at what, and for making relative comparisons between players.
For example looking at the Gasol brothers you can see that Marc is a virtual mini me of Pau. With the exception of steals, Marc’s stats are lower than Pau’s in every category, yet his relative skill set is remarkably similar.
In addition to seeing how similar players skills are, you can quickly see how different they might be. If you look at four well known big men in the league: Dwight Howard, David Lee, Andrew Bogut, & Marcus Camby, you can quickly see the differences in these players skill sets.
Dwight Howard: First thing that jumps out to me is that Dwight Howard scores less than David Lee, I would not have guessed that. Dwight’s slightly elongated head suggests that he shoots a higher percentage than the other three. Also interesting to see that Dwight has by far the largest mouth of the four big men. I always thought of Dwight Howard as a gentle giant, but you don’t get technical fouls by being polite. He otherwise appears to have a nice balance of blocks and rebounds.
Andrew Bogut: Bogut played in 69 of 82 games, so he is a little smaller than I would expect due to injuries. He looks generally proportional, but with the long arms and legs you would expect from a big man. Bogut has no hands, which means he has fewer steals than the other three big men.
David Lee: As mentioned, Lee has the largest head and it is relatively round. This means he scores a lot for a big man and shoots a decent percentage. Lee also stands out for having the shortest arms, meaning the fewest blocks. This makes sense to me as he relies more on positioning and tenacity than length for his rebounds.
Marcus Camby: Scores the least of the four big men so he has the smallest head. Despite being 35 years old and coming off the bench, he still manages to grab more rebounds and steals than Bogut and more blocks than Lee.
You could make the same visual comparison between gaurds or forwards. I will call out other comparisons in a future post, but for now, you can draw your own conclusions based on the visualization.
Additional Information: This project was originally created for a class in the Processing programming language I took with media artist Peter Kirn in the summer 2008. Processing is an open source programming language created by Ben Fry and Casey Reas. When I presented the original version to my graduate program, my classmate and fellow datavis designer Scott Murray pointed me to similar visualizations pioneered by David Chernoff. Thanks to Doug Stats for the sharing their 2009-2010 NBA stats database.