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Monday, August 15, 2011
Real minutes played

By Henry Abbott

As background for an upcoming post about Kobe Bryant, I took a look at which players have played the most NBA minutes.

Here's the thing, though: I didn't just want to know about regular season (the list is readily available) or playoffs (ditto). I wanted the two combined. Seems pretty simple, right? This is the list that matters, if you're talking about mileage. But it's tough to come by. Eventually Basketball-Reference was nice enough to create the list for me, and it is both fascinating and below.

One surprise is how many of these players are either playing now, or retired in recent memory. Trainers would credit improved injury prevention and care. Economists would tell you that's because with salaries of the modern era, the best players have more reasons not to retire. Another little bump: The playoffs are longer than they used to be.

Pop quiz: Who played more real NBA minutes, Horace Grant or Larry Bird? How about Allen Iverson or Magic Johnson? Derek Harper or Lenny Wilkens?

Of course, the most amazing surprise of all comes from Bryant himself. He is already 16th on the all-time list -- there have been about 3,600 NBA players -- sandwiched right in there between Michael Jordan and Bill Russell, and he has not even turned 33 yet.
  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 66,297
  2. Karl Malone 62,759
  3. Wilt Chamberlain 55,418
  4. John Stockton 54,162
  5. Elvin Hayes 54,160
  6. John Havlicek 53,331
  7. Reggie Miller 52,927
  8. Gary Payton 52,599
  9. Jason Kidd 52,386
  10. Robert Parish 51,881
  11. Shaquille O'Neal 50,017
  12. Hakeem Olajuwon 49,971
  13. Scottie Pippen 49,174
  14. Moses Malone 48,867
  15. Michael Jordan 48,484
  16. Kobe Bryant 48,310
  17. Bill Russell 48,223
  18. Kevin Garnett 47,998
  19. Oscar Robertson 47,559
  20. Clifford Robinson 46,447
  21. Buck Williams 46,174
  22. Patrick Ewing 45,801
  23. Charles Oakley 45,388
  24. Ray Allen 45,156
  25. Horace Grant 44,793
  26. Tim Duncan 44,685
  27. Charles Barkley 44,179
  28. Hal Greer 43,430
  29. Clyde Drexler 43,109
  30. Dennis Johnson 42,948
  31. Mark Jackson 42,896
  32. Jerry West 42,892
  33. Otis Thorpe 42,074
  34. Michael Finley 41,904
  35. Rasheed Wallace 41,786
  36. Sam Perkins 41,383
  37. Dirk Nowitzki 41,363
  38. Larry Bird 41,329
  39. Derek Harper 40,880
  40. Walt Bellamy 40,879
  41. Allen Iverson 40,789
  42. Magic Johnson 40,783
  43. Kevin Willis 40,740
  44. Wes Unseld 40,721
  45. A.C. Green 40,671
  46. Jack Sikma 40,501
  47. Alex English 40,490
  48. Lenny Wilkens 40,467
  49. Dominique Wilkins 40,285
  50. Paul Pierce 40,085