NBA Team History Word Clouds

We created word clouds for every team in the NBA based on who played the most minutes for each team. The larger names are players who played more, the smaller names are players who played less. Click on the images to download a .pdf version.


We considered using scoring or some metric other than minutes to create the word clouds but after creating a few using minutes we thought the results were really interesting.

One of the first clouds we created was for the Cleveland Cavaliers. We were surprised to see two guys we had never heard of, Bingo Smith and Foots Walker, show up as prominent members of the Cav’s team cloud. It planted the question of who else would crop up if we created a cloud for every team in the NBA?

We also like the idea that minutes is in many ways is the true measure of a teams DNA. If you watched every game a team played, these are the guys you would most often see on the court, for better or worse. Using relative scale for their names allows you to see who the major players are with just a glance.

We created the clouds on a website called Wordle, “a toy for generating ‘word clouds’ from text that you provide”. After playing with Wordle for a while we settled on some settings that we thought worked well. We opted for a uniform “vertical” layout to make it easier to read and make comparisons. Originally we used a single color for all of the names, so that names with higher contrast would not take precadence over those with less contrast. I think using multiple team colors sets them apart from each other better so we made the trade off. We chose the “Expressway Free” font as it had some style but was easy to read. We also opted for the “prefer alphabetical” settings to give some more structure to the visualization. In this case, players are alphabetized by first name.

Additional Notes: We think Daniel Bernier’s Processing based word cloud creator, WordCram, is very cool. We may try to use it in the future to connect a full stats database to his WordCram so you can generate clouds on the fly using whatever NBA data you like. Thanks again to Wordle for sharing their cool software and to databasebasketball.com for making their data available. Also thanks to everyone for sharing our last post on the NBA player visualizer. The DeadSpin feature generated over 20K visits to our site!