Predicting NBA success is incredibly difficult. With the NBA draft coming up I thought I would look at what part of the United States is most likely to produce NBA players. If you take a random child from birth, the formula for NBA success is some combination of culture, infrastructure, access, and genetic lottery. All of these are very difficult to quantify, but using the home states of the current players in the NBA we can get some insight into the first three.
I found this handy graphic that has some totals and I also have 2013 population estimates to make some quick n dirty NBA players per capita calculations. But first, I’ll check how the number of NBA players varies with population.
Unsurprisingly there is a strong positive correlation between population and the number of NBA players that come from that area. The predictive ability of population for NBA success is statistically significant at a 95% confidence level with and R-squared value of nearly 73%, meaning nearly 73% of the variance in the number of NBA players from a state is due to the population of that state.
Here are the states reordered by number of active NBA players per 100,000 state residents
The results are interesting and I don’t have the insight to explain them. The eye test says these results probably don’t correlate with NBA media markets or proximity to successful college programs, but that’s all from the hip. There are a couple of ways I may expand this in the future, with # of NBA teams, # of division 1 college basketball programs, # of AAU clubs, and some kind of childhood nutritional measure, off the top of my head.
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