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Box Score For Every Game in NBA History

Posted by Justin Kubatko on January 24, 2012

Today I am pleased to announce that Basketball-Reference.com now has a box score for every game played in NBA history. Here are a few examples:

Now before you get too excited, let me explain: the box scores from 1946-47 through 1984-85 are scans of actual box scores. What that means is that we don't have those games in our database, so you can't search for things like the most points scored by a player during the the 1971-72 NBA season. I should also note that almost all of these box scores are abbreviated, i.e., they only contain field goals, free throws, and points for the players. That said, I think this is a valuable addition to the site that will be enjoyed by many.

I would be remiss in not thanking Dick Pfander, who did the lion's share of the work for this project. Several years ago we were referred to Dick by a third party. At first it sounded like an urban legend. I mean seriously, someone had made a scan of every box score for every game in NBA history? To our surprise, Dick had in fact done just that. Many thanks to Dick for his outstanding work.

Of course, it is our goal to one day have these games in a database-friendly format. However, given that the process would require a significant amount of data entry we're still thinking about the best way to accomplish that task. Until then, we hope you enjoy this new feature, and as always please let us know if you have any comments or questions.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 at 8:00 pm and is filed under Announcement, Basketball-Reference.com, Features. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

46 Responses to “Box Score For Every Game in NBA History”

  1. Have you considered adding a way for users of the site to update / correct info from the old scans? I know I'd be happy to pitch in by updating some old box scores.

  2. @Adam: That's one thing we've thought about, although we would have to program in a number of checks and balances to prevent sabotage, etc.

  3. i imagine there are people (me included) who would be interested in helping out with data entry and auditing. hook it up.

  4. @Brandon: As I mentioned to Adam, that's a possibility.

  5. I'd be extremely interested as well! I'm unbelievably excited about this.

    BTW to prevent sabotage, error and the like, you could give the data up to 3 passes each: 2 volunteers (which are all that will be needed in most cases, assuming no conflict), and one supervising individual (such as yourself) to settle conflicts/disparities.

    You'd have to randomize the group though (meaning you need a large sample to avoid participation bias), to make sure that two parties don't agree over false data.

  6. Very cool. I've been checking some of the famous games out.

  7. That's great :)
    I'd like to contribute as well :)

  8. Today.

    Is a good day.

  9. Awesome.

    BTW, in terms of the math, for those - like me - interested in collaboratively doing something through the site: Here's an eyeball calculation.

    40 years x 16 teams/year x 80 games/team ~ = 51200 team-games (2 team-games/game if you get me, so 25600 actual games)

    ~40 pieces of info/team-game * 51200 team-games = 2048000 pieces of info

    It would be a tremendous collaborative task, and yet at the end of the day if you could get 200 people to do 3600 pieces/data (so, say, 90 minutes), that would immediately kill about a third of the data entry. I mean, that's 900 man-hours for the whole thing.

    I'm not really sure what the implications of this calculation are, but I guess it's helpful for me to know the scale.

  10. @Alex D.: Let me give you the actual numbers. We have box scores in database format for the 1985-86 through 2011-12 regular seasons and 1991 through 2011 playoffs. That leaves 23,030 games that need to be entered.

  11. this is tremendous news!

    i would assume this is the result of dick pfander's collection?

  12. Vitor Abreu Says:

    Maybe an OCR solution + recaptcha-like system for verification? I'm sure many users would be willing to help out with the data entry.

  13. @Robert Bradley: Thanks. Yes, this is the result of Dick's work. In fact, in my excitement to get this out there last night I forgot to mention him in the post, which is inexcusable. I have since edited the post and added a paragraph about him.

  14. I'd be happy to volunteer some time with data entry if you all arrive at a solution that keeps the site safe. Please don't hesitate to email me if so.

  15. Great addition, thanks!
    But here's a question... where we can find/contact/read about THIS guy?
    "someone had made a scan of every box score for every game in NBA history? To our surprise, Dick had in fact done just that"
    I'm already a huge fan ;-)

  16. Thank you! Question for all: Any ideas how to find minutes played stats for pre 1985 games?

  17. @WiLQ - Dick Pfander is a gentleman from Michigan who began collecting NBA box scores from newspapers years ago. I first ran into him iabout 15 years ago before he had scanned them all, and he was a godsend for a couple of projects I was working on at the time.

    It's good to see his tireless work over the years is now available for public consumption!

  18. [...] Kubatko wrote a blog post about it for the site today today, and included some box scores from big games like Wilt [...]

  19. Michael Boyd Says:

    Great work as always, Jason (and Dick)! I too would be willing to help contribute to getting these box scores digitized. I've worked in electronic data transfer for software companies. There are probably some fairly easy ways to get it done without a massive manual entry project, depending on the quality of the source docments. E-mail me if I can be of help.

  20. Michael Boyd Says:

    Justin rather--I was just talking to Jason here at my office :)

  21. This is great, of course.
    The old boxscores tend to list starters first (F F C G G), and then other players as they entered the game.
    Some of the really old ones list Free Throws Missed at the bottom. Such oddities would be pretty hard to accommodate, except by hand-eye entering.

    As usual, I'd be interested in contributing to this.

    Are there any ABA box scores?

  22. Amazing progress, Justin. Dick "Super" Pfander went out & did what at APBR we'd dreamed of doing years ago for barnstorming basketball boxscores to re-create Globies/Crusaders/Rens seasons.

    MikeG asked about ABA boxes. Checking out the Indy Jets from the late Forties got me to wondering also about NBL boxscores. Might Dick've collected Mikan's non-BAA games?

  23. This is amazing...I'd help out too

    I'm lost for words...

  24. Also: Does this include ABA?

  25. @Mark: I have no idea where to find a complete set of box scores with minutes played (not to mention rebounds, assists, etc.).

    @Mike G: The ABA box scores need some work, as most of the files contain a week's worth of games rather than just one file for each game.

    And to all of those who volunteered to help out, a big thank you. We're still brainstorming the best way to get this done, but I'll let you know when we have a plan.

  26. @ Justin - I would assume most of those ABA boxes come from The Sporting News?

    I would hope/assume those would be a little more reliable than the ones posted in the newspaper, although local papers are likely to have more information.

  27. @Robert Bradley: Yes, I believe the ABA box scores came from TSN.

  28. Following the '72 season it's noted that the boxscores label Nate Thurmond's team the "Warriors" while the opponents are labelled "Los Angeles," or "Boston," etc. So did those boxscores come from a Bay Area newspaper?

    ......and did Dick Pfander collect NB-L boxscores as well as the ABA boxes? A collection of 1930s & Forties NB-L/MBC boxscores would complete the history of NBA/BAA/ABA.

  29. @Keith - to the best of my knowledge Dick didn't collect any NBL box scores.

  30. You have made this 56 year old very happy! Nice job...thanks

  31. ... nice.

    By the way, are you going to update the player game logs to include pre-1991 playoff games? I'm glad that the box scores are available, though.

  32. Okay, these box score scans aren't really showing up for me; what am I doing wrong or what gives?

  33. Excellent addition! Boy they didn't track much back in 1962, did they? FG, FT, F. Made field goals, made free throws, and personal fouls. Tough to make a meaningful metric out of that!

  34. This is truly amazing news! I will definitely be using these in my sports replays. Now, if only someone could pop up with game summaries for every NHL & WHA game! Hockey Summary Project has all of the scoring and penalties, but doesn't always have the actual lineups, which is what I really want for replaying seasons.

  35. Awesome work!

    For those interested, Robert Mays of Grantland.com wrote a piece about Dick Pfander's work:

    http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/15575/how-basketball-reference-got-every-box-score

  36. I do notice that the locations for some games aren't listed, for instance:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/boxscores/197511210KCK.html

    This game was played in Omaha, but the box score doesn't reflect this. I have this information on my site.

    Don't get me wrong - this site rocks, and kudos to getting all the boxscores! I'm confident all the data will be entered into digital form soon, and then it will be even better!

  37. [...] to put every box score in NBA history on its website: Last week, Justin Kubatko made an announcement that, on the first reading, didn’t make much sense. Kubatko, of Basketball-Reference.com, wrote [...]

  38. I second the OCR suggestion made above. It would be MUCH less difficult and probably more accurate than crowdsourcing the data entry.

  39. OCR just won't work for this as the formats are inconsistent. It just isn't as good for this sort of stuff as you might think.

  40. [...] finally, NBA fans can also enjoy what’s been commonplace for baseball fans for decades. Thanks to the work of a retired defense department official and the fine people at Basketball Refere..., every NBA box score is now online. A guy named  Dick Pfander has been collecting box scores since [...]

  41. [...] some time to kill? How about looking through every cover from SLAM? Still got a few extra minutes? How about every box score from the history of the NBA?- Rodrigue Beaubois, slowly grinding his way back to relevancy.- A roundtable to end all [...]

  42. Shane Larson Says:

    I absolutely love this new box score feature. Many thanks to Dick Pfander, I believe years and years ago I came in contact with this fellow but he was kind of hesistant to give me the box scores. I am glad to see all his work paid off.
    Here is a question, because most of the box scores are incomplete (pre-1985-86) with missing rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, etc., someone has them somewhere. Is there a way to contact the official NBA and request these records? If there is a price for these items, I along with others, would be willing to donate some cash.

  43. Re: converting the scans to data -- I'm sure you know about the Mechanical Turk service from Amazon. Perhaps that would fit the bill

  44. @ Shane Larson

    Elias Sports Bureau has every complete box score in BAA/NBA history.

  45. @NS

    Really? Damn....we need to find someway to get them to post them. Probably some insane amount of money though...I'd pay to see that though

  46. Thanks so much, big stats fan in search of that forever!

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