These players took “putting a team on their back” to the next level. With the NBA season starting tonight, let’s take a look at the all-time single season leaders in terms of usage rate. According to RotoGrinders, usage rate is “defined as an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor.” To put this into perspective, in 2004-05, Jermaine O’Neal’s usage rate was 36.22 percent. This means that 36.22 percent of the time Jermaine was on the floor, plays ended with O’Neal either shooting the ball, turning it over, or getting to the line.
5. Allen Iverson 37.78 (2001-02)
The year after winning NBA MVP and reaching the Finals, “The Answer” did all he could to get his Sixers back to the promise land. In just 60 games of play, Iverson led the NBA in scoring (31.4), steals (2.8), and minutes per game (43.7). 2001-02 marked the fourth year in a row in which Iverson led the league in usage rate.
The 76ers other four starters, Matt Harping, Eric Snow, Derrick Coleman, Dikembe Mutombo, all averaged under 16 points per game. Mutombo, who, like Iverson, is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was 35 years old. Due to this weak starting lineup, Iverson took almost 28 shots per game, which ended up being his career high. He had nine games in which he scored at least 40 points, including a monster 58 points, 6 assists game against the Rockets. Iverson’s 42 shots in the win over Houston is good for 14th all time in terms of most field goal attempts in a single game.
In the first round of the 2001-02 playoffs, Philadelphia was eliminated in five games against Boston. Was Iverson gassed? Although he averaged 30 points per game in the playoffs, Iverson shot a rough 38.1 percent from the field. Following the series loss to Boston, Iverson was criticized by coach Larry Brown for missing practices. We all know how Iverson dealt with this one.
4. Michael Jordan 38.29 (1986-87)
Following the season in which Jordan missed 64 games due to a broken foot, MJ would go on to have one of the best scoring seasons the game has ever seen. While averaging 37.1 points per game on 48.2 percent shooting, Jordan joined Wilt Chamberlin as the only two players to score 3,000 points in a season. He would also go on to become the first player in NBA history to record 200 blocks and 100 steals.
Jordan, who was just 23 years old, took an absurd 2,279 total shots, which is good for sixth all time. Since 1980, the only other player to eclipse 2,000 shots in a season is Kobe Bryant, who achieved this in 2005-06. MJ played in all 82 games, leading the league in minutes, player efficiency rating, and win shares. Even with this historic season, Jordan came up short in MVP voting. Magic Johnson was named NBA MVP, after averaging 23.9 points and 12.2 assists per game.
Before playing with guys like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, and Dennis Rodman, Jordan struggled to bring Chicago deep into the playoffs. Even in this record setting 1986-87 season, Jordan and the Bulls only won 40 games, and were swept by Boston in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Just a reminder for those who think Jordan is the undisputed GOAT: At age 22, Lebron James led Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Eric Snow to a 50-win season and a trip to the NBA Finals.
3. Russell Westbrook 38.37 (2014-15)
Before the start of the 2014-15, Westbrook’s former superstar teammate, Kevin Durant, was diagnosed with a Jones fracture in his right foot and was out the first 17 games of the season. Durant would end up playing in only 27 games, as he would eventually be shut down for the season due to foot surgery.
This meant “The Brodie” was ready to ball. In the season opener, Westbrook went off for 38 points in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. After being sidelined due to a fracture in his hand, Westbrook erupted. In a win over the Golden State Warriors, Westbrook tallied up 17 points, 15 rebounds, and 17 assists. He became only the fifth player in NBA history with a stat line of 15-15-15 in a game.
In the 2015 NBA All Star game, Westbrook recorded 41 points, and was named the All-Star MVP. In a three game stretch in February, Westbrook became the first player since Lebron James to record three straight triple-doubles. This was a historic February for Westbrook, as he finished the month with a stat line of 31.2/10.3/9.1.
In 67 starts, Westbrook led the Thunder to 40 wins, while recording 31 double-doubles, and 11 triple doubles. Unfortunately, The Thunder missed out on the playoffs. This was only a preview of what was to come for Russ.
2. Kobe Bryant 38.74 (2005-06)
In the 2003-04 season, the Lakers were upset by the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals. Phil Jackson did not return, and Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat. The following year, the Los Angeles Lakers won only 34 games, and missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1993-94 season. Bryant missed out on the NBA All-Defensive Team, and fell to the All-NBA Third Team.
The “Black Mamba” had a lot to prove during the 2005-06 season. With Phil Jackson back as coach of the team, Bryant was able to carry the Lake Show back into the playoffs. On December 20th, 2005, in a game against the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant scored 62 points in just three quarters. He became the first player, since the shot clock was added, to outscore a team going into the fourth quarter.
On January 22nd, 2006, Kobe scored a career-high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. This still stands as the second most points in an NBA game, behind Wilt Chamberlin’s 100-point performance in 1962. Fortunately, Kobe was not done dominating. In the same month Bryant scored 45 or more points in four straight games. He would go on to average 43.4 points per game in the month of January, which is the highest for any player not named Wilt Chamberlin.
Bryant set the Lakers single-season records for most 40-point games (27) and total points in a season (2,832). He led the league in scoring, with 35.4 points per game, and finished 4th in MVP voting. Still, the Lakers were eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.
1. Russell Westbrook 41.65 (2016-17)
When KD was hurt, we saw a preview of what was possible for Westbrook. When Durant was officially gone, as he chose to sign with the Warriors, Russ did what he wanted. His 42 triple-doubles is now a league record, and he currently sits at fourth place for most triple doubles in NBA history. Trailing only Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, and Jason Kidd.
During this illustrious season, Westbrook racked up three 50-point triple doubles, which is most all-time. He finished the year with 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. Russ joined Oscar Robertson as the only two players to average a triple-double for an entire season.
Even with his unforgettable season, the Thunder were eliminated in the first round by the Houston Rockets. In the five games, Westbrook had a stat line of 37.4/11.6/10.8. He was named the NBA MVP, and now has Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to help propel the Thunder to the next level.
Do you see a trend here? When players’ usage rates are this high, the team is never successful in the postseason. One guy cannot do it all. Of the top 20 usage rate seasons, none of the players went on to win the championship in that same year.
Featured image by TheSource.com
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