Total rebound percentage is a powerful number to know.
If a certain player is on the floor, what percentage of the missed shots does he grab? Big deal. Important to winning games.
And if you want to be really good at it, it turns out you had better be young. Like brand new to the NBA.
If you just look for the best seasons ever, in terms of rebounding percentage, the players are young. (UPDATE: NOT SO! See note below.) Super young. In the entire top 20, only one player was older than 23 as of February 1 in the season in question.
Arvydas Sabonis, a real outlier, cracked the list in the season when he was 31.
Besides Sabonis, nowhere in the top 50 is there even anyone as old as 25. There are a few (Dikembe Mutombo, Antonio Davis, Corie Blount) of 25-year-olds in the second 50, but no one in the entire 100 (besides Sabonis) as old as even 26.
Another wrinkle: If you look at players younger than 22 (who have played at least 500 minutes), since 1946, here's the all-time leader list. 10 of the top 15 are active in the NBA right now. Isn't that amazing?
It's not a high-schooler effect, either; All the guys near the top of this list went to college. Young players now are apparently better than young players used to be at getting rebounds, for some reason.
As much as we like to think of rebounding as the sacred art of savvy veterans, it certainly looks like youthful desire and athleticism are the real keys. Those coaches who lock all rookies on the bench could be missing out.
UPDATE: So, well, this is embarrassing. My first point about how how the best rebounders are young is just plain false. Turns out that as I did that search on Basketball-Reference, I had searched only among rookies. Yes, my magical insight was based entirely on a careless error.
Once that error is corrected, the picture changes in a major way, and we learn that if you want to be at the top of this list, instead of being young, you have to be Dennis Rodman.
Worth noting, though, is that of the non-Rodman leaders in this category, almost all are under the age of 30. Youth is still a factor of sorts: Only seven players made the top 100 after the age of 30. Rodman is a total freak here. He did it eight times after 30. Dikembe Mutombo appears four times, Marcus Camby three, Charles Barkley and Swen Nater twice each, Alton Lister and Chris Dudley once each.