February 26, 2017

How many miles do basketball players run in a game? (compared to other sports)

2016/12/12 11:23 am 11:23 am11:23 am0 0 comments

Over the past five years, the NBA has started to keep track of a much larger variety of statistics regarding player performance. Originally starting with the expanded look in 2010 now owned by STATS (originally SportVu), NBA coaches now have a wide and diverse variety of statistics available to them in real time to include how far a basketball player runs during a game.

Pretty spectacular stuff.

Conventional wisdom has always placed the distance run during a game at around five miles for a player who starts the game and plays a majority of the minutes available.

Once real-time analytics were put to the test; however, the true number of miles run during a game was a lot less than expected. In fact, it’s about half. You can see how many miles an NBA player runs during a typical game in the current season here broken down by distance during offense and defense, minutes per game and average speed.

For the 2015-16 NBA season, the highest average of miles run during a game was held by the Chicago Bulls guard, Jimmy Butler, who ran an average of 2.72 miles per game. He would also lead the league in miles run per game in the 2014-15 NBA regular season.

Jimmy Butler 2

How far Did Step Curry Run in the NBA Playoffs?

Stephen Curry is no slouch either. He was able to exceed 26.2 miles (a full marathon) during the NBA Playoffs in 2014-15. Although we don’t award marathon medals, the Warriors did get to enjoy their NBA Championship trophy and associated rings due to his and his teammate efforts. The “Curry Marathon” was logged over 21 postseason games and is about right for the total mileage run by top tier NBA guards in a similar timeframe who are playing a lot of minutes and are active on both the defensive and offensive side of the court.

Average Miles Run by Sport

For the major sports where athletes run a fair amount during the contest, it is worth looking at which requires the most endurance out of their athletes. To see which sport has the most fit athletes, we collected information around the distance and miles that professional athletes run during an average match/game. Check out the chart for the major sports and how far that athletes will typically run at the professional level below.

Sport Miles Per Qualifier Positions
Soccer 7-9 Game 90 mins All (Except Goalie)
Hockey 4-5 Match n/a All
Basketball 2-3 Game n/a All
Tennis 2-5 Match 3-5 Sets All
Football (American) 1.25 Game n/a Wide receivers and Cornerbacks
Baseball < 0.3 Game 9 innings All

Seriously what was the over/under on baseball being the least fit of all the sports? Sheesh. For a second, I almost felt bad that this sport is considered America’s past time but considering that the United States has a 35% obesity rate, it’s as American as apple pie… as well as mac and cheese, Big Gulps, and potato chips.

With a huge field for offense and defense, Football (soccer) is the big winner with professional players running more than seven miles per game. Other positions in soccer still run more than even the most active basketball players, averaging somewhere between 7-9 miles per game.

Ice Hockey doesn’t have the technology, but this reddit thread suggests that a player playing the entire game could skate approximately 4-5 miles, again depending on how active they are during it.

Tennis players will see a wide variance in their distance run per match depending on the number of sets played. Typically, for a five match set, players will run just over two miles.

In American football, the average is lower, all dependent on the position they play. With an average distance run being south of two miles per game, cornerbacks run the most, while lineman won’t even come close to that mileage after a game.

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