Renowned internet quiz site Sporcle has recently begun its countdown (countup, I suppose) to one billion games played, with a constantly advancing counter on their home page, currently somewhere in the 996 million range. Of those 996 million, I’d estimate that up to 50,000 of those plays (and possibly even more) have come from me. I played over days and nights at work when I was killing time in between assignments, distractions when I was watching something on TV that I was only half paying attention to, really just about any down time I’ve had in front of a computer, which, unsurprisingly, describes a very considerable percentage of my waking hours. Really, I’m just thankful I didn’t discover the site until my first year out of college, or I’d probably still be procrastinating on my finals studying a half-decade later.
As a basketball junkie, a good deal of my Sporcle time over the years has naturally been devoted to playing NBA-related quizzes. And over that time, the site has not only tested my basketball trivia acumen, but also served as kind of an informal history teacher, filling in the gaps in my basketball education, reminding me of things I’d forgotten (and far more that I never knew). For those unfamiliar with the site, Sporcle trivia doesn’t work in the basic question-and-answer format — rather, most quizzes give you a broad-ish category (like, say, players who averaged 10 rebounds a game in the ’90s) and ask you to list every answer that fits those qualifications, often with hints to give a little bit of context to the possible answers (like, say, the team the player did it for or the year they did it in). Though some of the quizzes can be very specific, a lot of them are basically tantamount to “name all the good basketball players you can think of.” Those are my favorites, and the ones that have taught me the most.
Sure, you can’t learn everything about the history of basketball by trying to guess every player who led the league in scoring for a day in 1991-92. But you take enough of these types of quizzes, you start recognizing names and details that slipped through some of the shallower narratives of the sport. You start being able to make educated guesses about players on the terrible Pacers or Kings teams from the ’80s, and you start being able to name the second and third-best players on the title-winning George Mikan and Bob Pettit teams of the ’50s. There comes a point where you actually get frustrated with yourself for not being able to name Bill Melchionni and John Williamson as retired Nets numbers from the team’s ABA glory days.
So as the historic games-played benchmark for Sporcle approaches, I figured it would be as appropriate a tribute to this legendary timesuck of internetness as any to recount some of the lessons and facts I’ve gleaned from playing countless Sporcle NBA quizzes over the years. And if you’re reading, Sporcle user sultanofswing, much respect. Your user-contributed quizzes on all sports are a constant source of obscure, esoteric inspiration.
1. Latrell Sprewell made All-NBA first team in his sophomore season.
Filling out All-NBA first team Sporcle quizzes is usually a cakewalk, even if they don’t give you the teams for the players. After all, it’s basically just the superstars that make it to first team, and there’s a great deal of repetition among those who have (your Kobes, MJs, etc.) But for reasons that have still never been fully explained to me, Warriors forward Latrell Sprewell actually made an All-NBA first team in just his second season — a season in which he averaged 21 a game on 43 percent shooting, and had a PER of just 15.9. It’s certainly not one you’d tend to make an educated guess on — even if you had the team name, you’d probably guess Mullin or Webber before you’d think of Spree — but it’s so bizarre in its seeming randomness that you’re not likely to forget it after missing it on a quiz or two, either.
2. Hal Greer holds a bunch of all-time Sixers records.
For a franchise that has had some of the most legendary, iconic players in league history put on their uniform, you might not come up with Hal Greer — a 10 time All-Star and Hall of Famer, but certainly not a league-defining presence on par with Erving, Barkley, Chamberlain or Iverson — for their all-time leader in scoring or games played. But indeed, Greer, who never split time with another team and/or other league like those four names previously mentioned, does hold those distinctions for Philly, and I’ve learned to guess his name for most Sixer-related quiz categories, even though I still mix him up with Gail Goodrich from time to time for no real reason. Dolph Schayes, another Sixer dating back to the Syracuse Nationals days, is also a good go-to for historical Sixers answers.
3. Sam Perkins really got around.
Never the star on any of his teams, and never a championship-winner, Sam Perkins nonetheless had a much longer and more successful career than I tend to remember. I occasionally remember to guess him for quizzes referencing the early-’90s Lakers, and sometimes I recall that he came off the bench for the mid-’90s Sonics, but his days in Dallas and especially his end-of-career time spent with the Pacers constantly eludes me. (By the way, if you wanna get geared up for this year’s playoffs while simultaneously indulging your insatiable appetite for ’90s nostalgia, I heartily recommend user ian2813′s series of ’90s Playoff Rosters quizzes, in which Perkins unsurprisingly features.)
4. Lee Nailon once led the Hornets in scoring.
“WHO?” For the 2005 New Orleans Hornets — which traded former franchise player Baron Davis midseason, and acquired future franchise player Chris Paul the next season — trying to guess who their leading scorer was is an exercise in futility, in which you keep trying different spellings of “Jamaal Magloire” in the hopes that one of them will be the right answer. Nope, that answer belongs solely to second-rounder power forward Lee Nailon and his 14.2 ppg in his second tour of duty with the Hornets, which ended with Nailon signing with the Sixers the next offseason, then washing out of the league entirely just 22 games later. Not much of a legacy, but he’ll be a “Scoring Leaders of the ’00s Per Team” presence forever, alongside Primoz Brezec and Marcus Fizer.
5. Both the Magic and Kings retired No. 6 jerseys for “The Sixth Man.”
Suuuuper lame when you’re guessing retired jerseys and you’ve exhausted all the obvious Magic guesses, until you’re forced to contemplate a universe in which a franchise retired the jersey of Terry Catledge or Darrell Armstrong for some reason. Still not as lame as the Heat retiring the numbers of Michael Jordan and Dan Marino (!!), though. How did we ever let that franchise win two championships?
6. Kevin Porter won a bunch of assist titles.
I can never remember what teams he played for, and I certainly have no idea what he looked or played like, but if you’re talking assists in the late-’70s, you best be guessing Kevin Porter, winner of four separate assist titles, no two coming for the same team consecutively. It seems weird now that a journeyman like Porter could have won so many assist titles without making a real impression on the league, though I guess the same could have potentially been said for Rod Strickland or Andre Miller had their peaks not coincided with those of legendary point guards like John Stockton and Jason Kidd. Don’t forget Truck Robinson or Michael Cage when doing those rebounding title quizzes either, by the way.
7. Both Adrian Dantley and Alex English played for a couple random teams before catching on.
Two of the best scorers of the ’80s — mostly with the Jazz and the Nuggets, respectively — took a while to find their niche in the NBA, and bounced around the league in a way that’s fairly uncommon for Hall of Fame scorers in their early careers. English played for the Bucks and Pacers before being traded to Denver for one-time Pacer great George McGinnis, while Dantley had trials with the Braves, Pacers and even the Lakers (like those ’80s LA teams needed the help) before getting shipped to Utah for the similarly past-his-prime Spencer Haywood. It can be tricky for these guys, especially during quizzes centering around players drafted by certain teams, since nobody thinks of English among the ranks of the homegrown Milwaukee greats, certainly.
8. Both Dave Bing and Bernard King had some surprisingly productive late-career years in Washington.
You tend to associate these guys predominantly with one franchise each — the Pistons for Bing, the Knicks for King — and it’s jarring the first time either guy pops up as an answer to a Washington clue. But both had a couple nice years as Bullets before all was said and done. Bing averaged 16 a game, finished top 10 in MVP voting and started on the All-Star team in his first of two years with the Bullets in ’75-’76, actually winning the game’s MVP honors for the only time in his career. King bounced back from what was essentially two years spent out of the league with an ACL tear with four solid campaigns in DC in which he upped his scoring each season, even averaging 28 a game — third in the league — in his last full season in ’90-’91. Oh, and there was also that other famous guy who staged a comeback with Washington in the early ’00s, whose presence you can still somehow forget amidst visions of Rip Hamilton and Christian Laettner.
9. Neither Bill Walton nor Arvydas Sabonis played for the Blazers very long.
Every time a Portland career quiz comes up — most points, rebounds, whatever in franchise history or for one of the decades — I try the names of both Walton and Sabonis, and basically neither are ever right. You know both Walton and Sabonis had relatively short peaks in Portland, but you can forget just how short they were, until you see that neither of them had as many points for the team as Mychal Thompson or Sidney Wicks. Sad, and you can imagine future Sporclers might be dissuaded from similar notions concerning the production of Greg Oden when trying his name on ’00s-themed NBA Sporcles a decade or so from now.
10. When in doubt, just guess Harper.
Ron or Derek. No matter what the category in play, chances are pretty good one of those two guys did it.