You may have heard that basketball players run about five miles per game.
Is it true? Not at all.
SportVU, cutting edge athlete tracking technology used by coaches around the NBA shows that the average player runs just 2.9 miles per game.
In 2014 Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls ran an average of 3.1 miles per game which was higher than any other player in the league.
How do we know this? Running stats are courtesy of a company called SportVU.
SportVU came onto the scene during the 2009-2010 season. According to ESPN it works like this:
There are six computer vision comeras set up along the catwalk of the arena — three per half court. These cameras are synched with complex algorithms extracting x, y and z positioning data for all objects on the court, capturing 25 pictures per second.
Each picture is time-stamped and automatically processed by a computer, which connects the data to the play-by-play feed and delivers a report within 90 seconds of play.
One of the stats the technology can track is distance run per game.
How is this helpful?
Say a player is coming off of knee-surgery. With SportVU a coach can limit the player to running just one mile per game (instead of the average 2.9 miles) rather than limiting the player’s minutes, which is a big ambiguous when it comes to injury rehab.
Pretty handy, right?
So, where did that five-mile basketball myth come from?
Back in 2012 Alan Stein, CCS, CSCS wrote an article for USA Basketball about how much the players at Gonzaga HIgh School run during practice and their games and here’s what he found:
- Kris Jenkins (forward) ran 4.94 miles in one game
- Tavon Blackmon (guard) ran 6.10 miles in one game
- Amanda Fioravanti (forward) ran 4.53 miles in one game
Stein writes, “The total distance run was actually higher than I anticipated. Including warm up, Tavon ran over 6 miles during the course of a game! And obviously that wasn’t down at a slow and steady pace. He covered 6 miles sprinting, cutting, back pedaling, slicing, accelerating, decelerating, jumping, landing, diving… all at game speed.”
It would seem players become increasingly more (running) efficient as they accelerate up through the ranks.