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The shooting accuracy of pro basketball players has increased so dramatically as to render rebounding statistics of a few years ago meaningless in comparison with today's figures. Very simply, because the sharpshooters miss so few shots today, there are fewer rebounds available. In 1959-60 the Celtics averaged more than 80 rebounds a game, but by now a typical rebounding team (like Houston) picks off only about 45 a game, the best hardly 50.
Malone is averaging 17.7 rebounds, while Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell routinely used to average in the mid-20s, but if today's rebounding statistics are taken in context, then the true value of Malone as a rebounder becomes all the more impressive.
Consider these figures:
?In the 1960-61 season, Chamberlain set the NBA record by averaging 27.2 rebounds a game. But Wilt's team, the Philadelphia Warriors, averaged 75.2 rebounds a game. This season, while Malone is averaging 17.7 rebounds, the Rockets are averaging only 45.3 per game. Thus, the Warriors of '61 had 66% more rebounds than the '79 Rockets. Malone grabs 39% of the Rockets' rebounds. Had Malone managed that figure for Wilt's Warriors, he would have averaged 29.3 rebounds.
?No player in NBA history has accounted for such a high ratio of his team's rebounds. Malone's 39% far surpasses the best previous mark of 36.3% that Wilt attained in 1962-63 with the San Francisco Warriors.
?While Malone is averaging 17.7 rebounds, the runner-up, Artis Gilmore, averages 13.3. Thus, Malone is performing 33% better than any other player in the league.
?The NBA has been distinguishing between offensive and defensive rebounds only since the 1973-74 season, and in the category of offensive rebounds no one but Malone appears in the record book. He set the record of 437 in 1976-77, his only full season in the NBA. He led the league last year with 380, although missing the final 23 games with an injury. At his present rate of 7.3 offensive rebounds a game—nobody else gets more than four—Malone will finish with about 600, better than the alltime record of 533, which Spencer Haywood accumulated in the ABA in 1969-70. Last Friday against New Orleans, Malone had one of the greatest rebounding games in NBA history—he took down 37, of which 19 were off the offensive boards.
Malone is, thus, the undisputed offensive-rebound leader. No single player has ever meant so much to his team as a rebounder. No player has ever pulled down a higher rate of rebounds. It would seem that this I year he has been the single most effective rebounder ever to play the game.