We live in a “it’s who ya know” world.
That’s why business-oriented social networking sites like LinkedIn are so popular. Human connection is what makes the world go ’round, so it was only a matter of time before someone created something like this: Six Degrees of the NBA.
The folks at Fanatics decided to test out the old “Kevin Bacon test” – which says that any two people can be connected by six acquainted links or less – on NBA players.
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For example, Kobe Bryant - who will play his final NBA game this week – has gained 142 direct connections in his 18 years playing in the NBA.
Shaq is an obvious connection for Kobe. But remember that he also played with guys like Gary Payton and Karl Malone on the Lakers – connecting him indirectly to guys like Shawn Kemp and John Stockton.
Knicks star Carmelo Anthony has 122 direct connections, according to Fanatics. On the 2003-04 Denver Nuggets, Anthony played with Marcus Camby. Camby, of course, played on the same Knicks team as Patrick Ewing. Ewing played with Bernard King. King played on the 1977-78 New Jersey Nets with a guy named Phil Jackson. And Phil, of course, is a direct link to the great Knicks teams of the early ’70s.
Anthony is also directly connected to players like Allen Iverson, Baron Davis, Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd, Juwan Howard, Kenyon Martin, Metta World Peace, Mike Bibby and Rasheed Wallace. That’s a whole lot of NBA names connected to a whole lot of NBA years, teams and players.
Fanatics used NBA roster data from Basketball-Reference.com to do the project, creating a data set containing each player’s name, the team he played for, and the year he played for that team. If he played for multiple years or multiple teams, each pairing counted separately. With 4,336 players on 104 teams, Fanatics was left with 23,919 players and team pairs over 70 seasons. There was also a second data set which yielded 181,886 player-to-player pairs over 70 seasons.
Fanatics’ conclusion is: "The world is a small place. If you take the time to question your connections to others, you could discover that you are linked to virtually everyone and everything in existence. This is especially true in the NBA, where a shared love of the game and competitive camaraderie have linked the players – past, present and future – into a tight-knit community."