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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pro Basketball's Greatest Ball Hawks

This article was originally published at NBCSports.com on 11/19/06; all statistics have been updated to include the 2006-07 season

The NBA officially began recording steals and blocked shots during the 1973-74 season, one year after the ABA started keeping track of these statistics. Since then, just 52 players have had at least 100 steals and 100 blocked shots in the same season, 27 of whom only accomplished the feat once. Five players had 100-100 seasons in 2005-06: Kevin Garnett (104 steals, 107 blocked shots), Andrei Kirilenko (102-220), Shawn Marion (160-137), Ben Wallace (146-181) and Gerald Wallace (138-115). Only three players accomplished this in 2006-07: Shawn Marion (156-122), Josh Smith (101-207) and Ben Wallace (111-156)

How valuable is it to have a 100-100 player on a team? Could such a player actually be harming his team by gambling too much, resulting in defensive breakdowns? The careers of Julius Erving and Bobby Jones provide possible answers to those questions. Erving played against Jones in the ABA and then teamed with him for eight years with the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA. During that time, the 76ers made it to the Conference Finals four times, advanced to the NBA Finals three times and won one championship; Philadelphia never ranked lower than eighth in ppg allowed and usually placed in the top five. That was not a result of playing at a slow pace, either, because the 76ers twice led the league in point differential and were always among the league leaders in that category.

Kevin Garnett ranks third on the all-time list with eight 100-100 Club seasons. He missed having a ninth such year by four steals in 2001-02 and would have probably had another one in 1998-99 if the lockout had not limited the season to 50 games. Garnett has never exceeded the 200 level in either category and has ranked in the top ten in blocked shots only once in his 11 year career, which is surprising considering his length and jumping ability. He has never ranked in the top ten in the league in steals.

Ben Wallace has had seven straight 100-100 Club seasons and his shot blocking numbers are much better than Garnett’s. Wallace has produced three 100-200 Club seasons, tied for third all-time with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and is a two time member of the Top Ten Club (consisting of players who ranked in the top ten in the league in both categories in the same season), including 2005-06.

Andrei Kirilenko has rung up four 100-100 Club seasons in his six year career, including two 100-200 campaigns, and he is a one time member of the Top Ten Club. Kirilenko has also had three "5x5" games—contests in which he put up at least a total of five in the categories of points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots; "5x5" games have not been completely tracked but the only other players who are known to have accomplished this feat are Hakeem Olajuwon (six times), Vlade Divac, Jamaal Tinsley and Marcus Camby.

Julius Erving can be considered the founder and president of the 100-100 Club. He tallied 181 steals and 127 blocked shots for the Virginia Squires (ABA) in 1972-73, his second professional season. Erving is also the first member of the even more exclusive Top Ten Club. Erving accumulated a record 12 100-100 Club appearances in his 16-season career. Erving missed the cut for a 13th season in 1977-78 by only three blocked shots. He almost certainly exceeded 100 steals and 100 blocked shots in his rookie year (when such records were not kept), meaning that he was a consistent threat in both categories until his 15th campaign, when he was 36 years old! Erving set the standard with six Top Ten Club seasons and he missed having a seventh in 1981-82 when he finished 11th in the NBA in steals, .012 spg behind 10th place. In 1975-76, Erving logged the first 200-100 Club season, ranking third in the ABA in steals (207) and seventh in the ABA in blocked shots (160). Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Olajuwon are the only other 200-100 players; Jordan is the only player who did it twice and those were the only two seasons in his career that he blocked at least 100 shots.

Olajuwon displayed amazing defensive versatility during his career. He matched Erving’s standard with 12 100-100 Club seasons and ranks second with four Top Ten Club finishes. Erving had the first 100-200 season but Olajuwon is the undisputed king of this category, racking up 11 seasons with at least 100 steals and 200 blocked shots; in three of those seasons he amassed more than 300 blocked shots and on two occasions he combined 150-plus steals with 300-plus blocked shots. David Robinson had one 150-300 Club season and three 100-300 Club seasons; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the only other 100-300 Club player.

Erving and Jones are the only teammates to twice have 100-100 Club seasons at the same time (1979-80 and 1983-84). Jones, who is considered to be one of the greatest defensive forwards ever, earned eight straight NBA All-Defensive First Team selections, plus one Second Team selection and two ABA All-Defensive Team selections, while Erving only received one ABA All-Defensive Team selection. Does this disparity in recognition mean that Erving gambled too much to get steals and blocked shots, placing himself out of position when he failed to make those plays? Jones disagrees with that way of thinking: "He was an exceptional defensive player. My goal during my career was to get 100 steals and 100 blocked shots every year. I think that in my 12-year career I did it six times. He did it quite a few times (more than that). Those are unselfish stats. Those are stats that don’t hurt your teammates; they help your team. He had good anticipation and he was willing to gamble. He was willing to expend the energy and he was a tremendous athlete who could play both ends (of the court)."

Jones mentioned the g-word--gambling--in his answer. So, does going after steals and blocks--gambling, if you will--leave the team’s defense vulnerable in some way? Jones emphatically says no and explains the defensive philosophy that the 76ers used: "In the type of defense that we played, if one person gambled it was kind of like a spider web type of thing--the web stretches. If one guy goes, the other four sort of cheat and leave their men a little bit to help out in case the ball moves and a guy becomes open. You just keep rotating around. I don’t think it (going for steals or blocks) is selfish at all. I think that it’s good. You have to put pressure on the offense because shooters are so good. The offense has such an advantage because it can initiate what takes place, so as a defender you have got to try to instigate something to throw them off and make them do something they don’t want to do. The old term, 'pressure will bust the pipe,' is very true. It will make people change what they want to do."

Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham, who coached the 76ers during the seasons in question, amplifies those sentiments: "Julius had the great ability to block shots. His anticipation defensively for steals and creating turnovers was just wonderful and he was definitely underrated in that regard. He took a great deal of pride in his defense. We had to rely on our quickness more than physically overpowering teams. If Julius went for the steal and missed, there was supposed to somebody there giving him support until he recovered and got back into the defensive set."

Those 76ers were outstanding for reasons that went beyond having 100-100 Club players on their roster but their sustained success and strong rankings as a defensive squad are powerful indicators of the value of having versatile, athletic defenders like Erving and Jones. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were a similarly disruptive defensive duo on six championship teams in the 1990s, but neither was quite the shot blocker that Erving and Jones were.

"100/100" Club
Player Seasons
Julius Erving... 12
Hakeem Olajuwon... 12
Kevin Garnett... 8
Sam Lacey... 7
David Robinson... 7
Ben Wallace...7
Bobby Jones... 6
George Gervin... 5
Vlade Divac... 5
Shawn Marion... 5
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar... 4
Andrei Kirilenko... 4
Terry Tyler... 4

Note: List includes all players who
totaled 100+ steals and 100+ blocked
shots in at least four seasons

"200/100" Club
Player Seasons
Michael Jordan... 2
Julius Erving... 1
Hakeem Olajuwon... 1
Scottie Pippen... 1

Note: List includes all players who
totaled 200+ steals and 100+ blocked
shots in the same season

"100/200" Club
Player Seasons
Hakeem Olajuwon... 11
David Robinson... 7
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar...3
Ben Wallace... 3
Terry Tyler... 2
Patrick Ewing... 2
Andrei Kirilenko... 2
Julius Erving... 1
Gar Heard... 1
Bob Lanier... 1
Elvin Hayes... 1
Robert Parish... 1
Josh Smith...1

Note: List includes all players who
totaled 100+ steals and 200+ blocked
shots in the same season

"Top Ten" Club
Player Seasons
Julius Erving... 6
Hakeem Olajuwon... 4
Bobby Jones... 2
Ben Wallace... 2
Elvin Hayes... 1
Marvin Barnes... 1
David Robinson... 1
Andrei Kirilenko... 1

Note: List includes all players who
ranked in the top ten in steals and
blocked shots in the same season

posted by David Friedman @ 11:33 PM



At Sunday, September 23, 2007 12:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Garnett is very quick, a great leaper and a possesses great timing.

Why is he not a good shotblocker?
(1) Slow vertical, his explosion is slower than most plus his second jump is normally non-existant
(2) Poor positioning for blocking shots
(3) Lack of willingness to go after shots. Prefers to avoid fouls. Prefers to take position for rebounding. Not saying its a wrong choice just one that leads to less blocks.

At Sunday, September 23, 2007 3:34:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I agree with reasons 2 and 3 more than reason one; he doesn't seem to have any problem elevating over people to dunk or to grab rebounds.

At Tuesday, November 10, 2009 10:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW I have been looking for someone else to notice this interesting stat, turns out there is a whole blog article dedicated to this, great! Good analysis on Andrei Kirilenko, my favorite player, and part of the reason is the 200/100 or 100/100 ability that he has. Like you said he had 4 100/100 seasons in his first 6 years. I think he could have a lot more by now if 1) He didn't get injured 2) His role and position on the Jazz didn't change. (Notice he put up those crazy stats from 03-06 where he was basically the leader of the Jazz and played power forward. btw Hakeem was amazing- 11 200/100 seasons my goodness!

At Tuesday, February 09, 2010 10:54:00 AM, Anonymous mike said...


I am kind of surprised at some of the names that are in the club and who are not. Barkley,Wade,Webber and Ewing in. Duncan,Howard,Kobe and Lebron not.

At Tuesday, February 09, 2010 4:25:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Duncan has never had more than 70 steals in a season. Howard's career-high in steals is 77, though he is on pace to surpass that mark this season and has an outside shot of getting 100 steals (he is on pace for 91).

Kobe's career-high in blocked shots is 67 (2002-03); he only had 37 in 82 games last season and has already missed two games this season so--considering his age--it is a safe bet that he will never have 100 blocked shots in a season.

LeBron blocked 81 shots in 2007-08 and he blocked 93 shots last season. He has 52 blocks in 52 games so far this year. I think that he has a three to four year window left to have a 100 block season before his blocked shots totals inevitably begin to decline.


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