Some records are never meant to be broken. In the NBA’s case, that is likely going to happen unless the records somehow reset a modern era. Wilt Chamberlain owns some records that will never be touched. In addition, some players would be lucky to even be within the top-5 on the rankings because of him. Others like Bill Russell, John Stockton, and Mark Eaton proved to be so good at what they did that it will be hard to see anyone ever topping their marks.
When it comes to shooting and efficiency, the modern era has worked its way into plenty of spots among the leaderboards. Stephen Curry, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook have made quite a few appearances, some good and some bad. As the season looks to enter its 76th year, which player has the best chance to insert their name among these records?
Here are the highest single-season averages in NBA history.
Points Per Game - Wilt Chamberlain
1. Wilt Chamberlain - 50.4 PPG (1961-62)
2. Wilt Chamberlain - 44.8 PPG (1962-63)
3. Wilt Chamberlain - 38.4 PPG (1960-61)
When it came to scoring, Wilt Chamberlain was a man amongst boys during the early 60s. Chamberlain is the only player to average over 40.0 points per game, something he accomplished two times. Chamberlain holds the top-4 spots for single-season scoring, which included a season of 37.6 points per game during the 1959-60 season. He also holds the sixth-highest scoring spot with 36.9 points per game during the 1963-64 season.
The only non-Chamberlain player to rank in the top 5 was Michael Jordan. His 1986-87 season, where he averaged 37.1 points per game, ranks fifth. James Harden and Kobe Bryant are the only players in the 2000s to rank in the top 10. Bryant averaged 35.4 points in 2005-06, while James Harden averaged 36.1 points per game in 2018-19.
Rebounds Per Game - Wilt Chamberlain
1. Wilt Chamberlain - 27.2 RPG (1960-61)
2. Wilt Chamberlain - 27.0 RPG (1959-60)
3. Wilt Chamberlain - 25.7 RPG (1961-62)
Imagine being asked to score nearly 40 points per game, and then you nearly pull down 30 rebounds along with it. Chamberlain owns six of the top-10 spots when it comes to single-season rebounding. All six times, he recorded an average of over 24.0 rebounds per game. The other four spots belong to Bill Russell. When it comes to single-season averages, both Chamberlain and Russell fill the top-18 spots.
The only player that is not either of those players in the top 20 is Nate Thurmond, who averaged 21.3 rebounds per game in 1966-67. Since the dawn of the new millennium, no player has averaged over 20.0 rebounds per game. The last time a player averaged over 20.0 rebounds per game was Chamberlain in 1968-69 with the Lakers.
Assists Per Game - John Stockton
1. John Stockton - 14.5 APG (1989-90)
2. John Stockton - 14.2 APG (1990-91)
3. Isiah Thomas - 13.9 APG (1984-85)
While with the Utah Jazz, Stockton finished a career as the all-time leader in assists. With Karl Malone, the tandem was an unstoppable force that helped the Jazz make the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998. Malone finished his career with the second-most points ever, while Stockton finished with the most assists, which remains a record today. Stockton’s success in the regular season featured six seasons among the top-7 for the best single-season average. The outlier is Isiah Thomas in the mid-80s.
The one player missing is Magic Johnson, who never made it near the 14-assist average. He was consistently around the 12-assist average, something he accomplished six times. Among the top-20 averages, Stockton and Johnson make up 15 of those spots. There are two players in the 2000s that have made an appearance in the top 20. Russell Westbrook (19th) averaged 11.7 assists in 2020-21 with the Wizards, while Rajon Rondo (20th) averaged 11.7 assists with the Celtics in 2011-12.
Steals Per Game - Alvin Robertson
1. Alvin Robertson - 3.7 SPG (1985-86)
2. Don Buse - 3.5 SPG (1976-77)
3. Magic Johnson - 3.4 (1980-81)
There are 10 occurrences in the history of the league where a player averaged at least 3.0 steals or more. Alvin Robertson accomplished that four times with the Spurs and the Bucks. His NBA record of 3.7 steals per game led to him being named Defensive Player of the Year. Robertson also averaged 17.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.5 assists that season, which is truly remarkable.
The second-highest total came from Don Buse, who began his NBA career with the Pacers in 1976-77. Buse played in the league from 1976 to 1985, where he played for the Pacers, Suns, Trail Blazers, and Kings and finished with a career steals average of 1.8 per game. Buse once averaged 4.1 steals but he was a member of the ABA. Johnson joines Michael Ray Richardson, John Stockton, Slick Watts, and Michael Jordan as the only players to ever average at least 3.0 steals in a season.
Blocks Per Game - Mark Eaton
1. Mark Eaton - 5.6 BPG (1984-85)
2. Manute Bol - 5.0 BPG (1985-86)
3. Elmore Smith - 4.9 BPG (1973-74)
Two of the greatest shot-blocking seasons came within two years of each other. Mark Eaton set the NBA record with 5.6 blocks in the 1984-85 season with the Utah Jazz. The following year, Manute Bol became the second player to average 5.0 blocks in a season with the Wizards. As of today, these are the only two players ever to record 5.0 blocks on average for a season.
17 players have averaged at least 4.0 blocks per game. Eaton accomplished this three times in his career, while Bol did it twice. Hakeem Olajuwon did it three times, while Dikembe Mutombo nearly did it three times but finished the 1994-95 season with a 3.9 average. The highest average since 2000 was when Alonzo Mourning averaged 3.7 blocks with the Heat during the 1999-00 season.
Turnovers Per Game - James Harden
1. James Harden - 5.7 TPG (2016-17)
2. Russell Westbrook - 5.4 TPG (2016-17)
3. James Harden - 5.0 TPG (2018-19)
While James Harden and Russell Westbrook are going to be Hall of Famers one day, nobody has turned the ball over like them ever. When looking at the top-10, Harden owns the record for turnovers on average, as well as the third-highest mark. Westbrook owns the second, sixth, and seventh highest averages. Joining Harden and Westbrook in the top 10 is Trae Young, who averaged 4.8 per game in 2019-20.
What is most interesting is that Harden and Westbrook both set an NBA record with the most turnovers per game during the 2016-17 season. At the time, it broke a record that was held by Charles Barkley set during the 1986-87 season, where he averaged 4.7 per game. Since the 2016-17 season, Harden, Westbrook, and Young have surpassed this record to push Barkley seventh.
Three-Point Field Goals Made - Stephen Curry
1. Stephen Curry - 402 3PM (2015-16)
2. James Harden - 378 3PM (2018-19)
3. Stephen Curry - 354 3PM (2018-19)
There has been a lot of talk about how the game has changed in the last decade. Let’s put it this way. Ray Allen once held the record for made three-point field goals in a season with 269 in 2005-06 with the SuperSonics. Before Stephen Curry came around, that was seen as a major milestone. Curry has passed that total seven times, including becoming the first player to make 300 and 400 threes in a season. Curry holds four of the top-5 best seasons when shooting the three-ball.
Allen’s former record now ranks as the 18th best season. Harden is the only other player to make at least 300 threes in a season, and he just missed two times but finished the 2019-20 season with 299 threes. Buddy Hield owns three appearances in the top-18, while Damian Lillard and Harden own two. Paul George, Klay Thompson, and Duncan Robinson all have made at least 270 threes or more. Altogether, Curry is the best shooter we have ever seen.
Three-Point Percentage - Kyle Korver
1. Kyle Korver - 53.6% (2009-10)
2. Steve Kerr - 52.4% (1994-95)
3. Tim Legler - 52.2% (1995-96)
During the 2009-10 season, Korver didn’t just lead the league in three-point field-goal percentage but also bested the old record set by Steve Kerr. Korver led the league in three-point field-goal percentage four times in his career. Kerr set the NBA record during a season that didn’t see Michael Jordan return to the Bulls until nearly the end. He then followed the following season with the third-best mark on a team that won an NBA-record 72 games in the season. It’s no coincidence that Stephen Curry has been a masterful shooter since Kerr has taken over. After all, Kerr owns two of the top-5 spots with the highest three-point shooting percentage among those that qualify. There are eight players in total that own an average of at least 50% or better. Both Korver and Jason Kapono are the only players since 2000 to accomplish that.
Field-Goal Percentage - Mitchell Robinson
1. Mitchell Robinson - 74.2% (2019-20)
2. Wilt Chamberlain - 72.7% (1972-73)
3. DeAndre Jordan - 71.4% (2016-17)
Mitchell Robinson broke a record that had stood for 47 years when he shot 74.2% from the field with the Knicks. It was only his second year in the league at the time. With that said, purists will say that it’s not fair that Robinson owns this record because Chamberlain played 82 games while Robinson played 61 games. Chamberlain also averaged 43.2 minutes per game, while Robinson played 23.1 minutes per game.
There are six players in the history of the league that has shot 70% or better from the floor for a season. Rudy Gobert joined that group for the first time this past season after averaging 71.3% during the 2021-22 year. DeAndre Jordan has impressively shot over 70% three times in his career. Then again, it’s easy to throw down dunk after dunk when Chris Paul was throwing passes during the pinnacle of “Lob City.”
Free-Throw Percentage - Jose Calderon
1. Jose Calderon - 98.1% (2008-09)
2. Calvin Murphy - 95.8 (1980-81)
3. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf - 95.6% (1993-94)
There are quite a few players that have shot over 90% for a season. There are just five players that have shot 95% or better. Two of those times came during the same season. When Jose Calderon set the NBA record, Ray Allen was also automatic at the free throw line. Allen owns the fourth-best percentage at 95.2%, which he completed during the 2008-09 season.
Calderon is the only player among the top 5 that did not play 70 games in a season. He played the fewest games with 68 games played. The next-best was Murphy at 76 games. Abdul-Rauf was the only player in the top-5 that played at least 80 games for a season, while Allen just missed 79 games. Allen was also the only player to average 3.0 made free throws per game, while Calderon averaged 2.2 made out of 2.3 attempts.