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The Gasols Are The Best Brothers In The NBA

Editor’s note (Feb. 15, 3:19 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly said siblings Pau and Marc Gasol did not play high school basketball in the United States. Marc played high school basketball in Tennessee. This changed one of the article’s main conclusions, that Spain is the top exporter of NBA talent when tallying total career wins above replacement (WAR) among players who were not born in the U.S. and who did not attend a U.S. high school. Instead, Germany is the top source of foreign NBA talent. The text and headline of the article have been changed to reflect this, and the international data has been excised from the piece.

 

Pau and Marc Gasol will make history Sunday night as the first brothers to start against each other in an NBA All-Star game, thusly cementing their status as the greatest sibling pair in men’s basketball.

As brothers in the NBA, the Gasols stand out. Their combined wins above replacement (WAR), as calculated by my colleague Neil Paine, is over 160. That’s far above the WAR of the next-closest brothers — Dominique and Gerald Wilkins (combined WAR of 112).1

Gerald who? ‘Nique is a Hall-of-Famer; Gerald racked up less than 10 WAR. So, taking an average of the brothers’ careers will better reflect the typical performance but correct for when one sibling was much, much better. If we take the arithmetic and harmonic means — basically, two different ways of averaging — the Gasols are still clearly the greatest brothers ever. A simple average of their WAR (the arithmetic mean, shown in the table below) is the highest. But the harmonic mean also has the Gasols on top — their 73.2 crushes all other pairs; the Wilkins brothers total only 17 by this measure. In second place are Gus and Ray Williams, with a harmonic mean of 45.9.2

BEST BROTHER CAREER WAR BROTHER(S) CAREER WAR TOTAL CAREER WAR AVG. WAR
Pau Gasol 104.5 Marc Gasol 56.3 160.8 80.4
Dominique Wilkins 102.5 Gerald Wilkins 9.3 111.8 55.9
Horace Grant 93.7 Harvey Grant 14.1 107.8 53.9
Gus Williams 54.7 Ray Williams 39.6 94.3 47.2
Bernard King 55.9 Albert King 4.1 60.0 30.0
Brent Barry 62.7 Jon Barry, Drew Barry 25.0 87.7 29.2
Mark Price 51.2 Brent Price 7.2 58.4 29.2
George Gervin 56.4 Derrick Gervin -0.5 55.9 28.0
Chuck Person 26.9 Wesley Person 26.5 53.4 26.7
Blake Griffin 51.0 Taylor Griffin -0.1 50.9 25.5
Stephen Curry 49.1 Seth Curry 0.0 49.1 24.6
Rodney McCray 47.7 Scooter McCray -0.5 47.2 23.6
Calvin Natt 33.9 Kenny Natt -1.0 32.9 16.5
Vinnie Johnson 32.8 Eric Johnson -0.6 32.2 16.1
Caldwell Jones 28.7 Charles Jones, Major Jones, Wil Jones 30.3 59.0 14.8
Brad Davis 29.2 Mickey Davis 0.0 29.2 14.6
Derek Fisher 28.5 Duane Washington 0.2 28.7 14.4
Willie Anderson 19.1 Shandon Anderson 9.3 28.4 14.2
Brook Lopez 18.7 Robin Lopez 8.1 26.8 13.4
Goran Dragic 24.4 Zoran Dragic 0.0 24.4 12.2
Jim Paxson 20.5 John Paxson 2.3 22.8 11.4
Campy Russell 20.4 Walker Russell -4.4 16.0 8.0
Dudley Bradley 15.0 Charles Bradley -0.7 14.3 7.2
Jeff Teague 16.1 Marquis Teague -2.3 13.8 6.9
Klay Thompson 13.1 Mychel Thompson -0.3 12.8 6.4
Markieff Morris 8.5 Marcus Morris 4.0 12.5 6.3
Glen Gondrezick 13.0 Grant Gondrezick -0.8 12.2 6.1
Jay Vincent 9.4 Sam Vincent 1.6 11.0 5.5
Jason Collins 4.1 Jarron Collins 4.0 8.1 4.1
Carl Landry 7.5 Marcus Landry -0.6 6.9 3.5
Mason Plumlee 5.6 Miles Plumlee 0.6 6.2 3.1
Cody Zeller 2.7 Tyler Zeller 2.4 5.1 2.6
Leon Douglas 3.8 John Douglas -0.6 3.2 1.6
Tyler Hansbrough 1.6 Ben Hansbrough -0.2 1.4 0.7
Audie Norris 0.7 Sylvester Norris -0.4 0.3 0.2
Michael Wiley 0.4 Morlon Wiley -0.2 0.2 0.1
Steve Scheffler 0.2 Tom Scheffler -0.2 0.0 0.0
Carl Thomas -0.2 Charles Thomas -0.3 -0.5 -0.3
Dick Van Arsdale -0.1 Tom Van Arsdale -1.1 -1.2 -0.6
Charles O’Bannon -0.2 Ed O’Bannon -2.0 -2.2 -1.1
Jannero Pargo -2.8 Jeremy Pargo -2.9 -5.7 -2.9
Brandon Rush -0.2 Kareem Rush -7.3 -7.5 -3.8
Stephen Graham -4.4 Joey Graham -4.9 -9.3 -4.7

So, when the Gasols take the floor Sunday night, they are indisputably the best brothers in NBA history.

Neil Paine contributed to this article.

Footnotes

  1. The 43 sets of brothers in the table below may not include all siblings who have played in the NBA, for two reasons. First, some brothers played in an era when the statistics needed to calculate WAR were not tracked. Take Ed and George Mikan, for example; George is a Hall-of-Famer. But because the Mikans played in the 1940s and 1950s, we can’t evaluate them. Second, this list may be incomplete. I used several online sources — here, here and here, among others; all siblings were then confirmed via Basketball-Reference.com — to construct the brother sets examined in this article. If there are any whom I overlooked, let me know.

  2. Because the harmonic mean calculation does not work well with negative numbers, and because it skews scores too low when WAR is very small (e.g. the harmonic mean of 0.1 and 9.9 is 0.198, whereas the arithmetic mean is 5), the harmonic mean could not be calculated for every set of brothers.

Andrew Flowers writes about economics and sports for FiveThirtyEight.

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