Has a player ever left a game for six offensive fouls?

Mar 19, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) is defended by Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) is defended by Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

With the foul data used to calculate foul drawn percentages, penalty time, and how many quarters teams score or defend in the penalty, plenty of opportunities for less important research exist. Much less important. I can’t stress that enough. After all, the NBA’s regular season hasn’t started yet. There’s a small window to see, for example, if a player ever committed six offensive fouls in one game. Groundbreaking discoveries are possible thanks to NBA.com’s play-by-play data back to 1997-98, but also ones that are simply weird.

The easiest way to find out if a player fouled out strictly on offense was with, well, offensive fouls. In recent years, these were separated into fouls labeled as such, and one that highlights offensive charges. It’s a good tool to separate those when a player possessed the ball or not, like moving screens. Fouling out is typically associated with lacking discipline on defense, but maybe, for one night, the jig was up on a player known for committing great, but illegal picks, or a defender tested the hot flop theory after fooling refs six different times after collapsing upon contact.

Looking at offensive fouls, we see games from the primes of Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant. Unfortunately, both fell one foul short. A bunch of four-foul games exist, but only the most recent appeared here.

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It’s understandable that this method had no luck even across nearly two decades of basketball. Offensive fouls account for only eight to 10 percent of all fouls, and most come from bigs or high-usage players. For example, Howard typically has 20 to 30 percent of his fouls come from offense each season. Bryant’s fluctuated between 10 and 20 percent. In 2006-07, Eddy Curry recorded the highest rate at 35 percent, minimum 100 committed fouls in a season, and the highest total with 92. With the same 100 foul filter, committing none on offense over a full season has happened only 10 times since 1997-98. The most recent was Andre Roberson last season.

The search for six fouls on offense alone shouldn’t stop there, though, because some offensive fouls get upgraded to flagrants. With available play-by-play data, I could find about 120 fouls that were upgraded each season. From then to 2015-16, Shaquille O’Neal committed the most with 38. Metta World Peace recorded the most in one season with nine in 2002-03. Charles Oakley, a notorious bruiser with about 11,487 of his 40,280 regular season minutes from 1998 to 2004, racked up 20 flagrant fouls. If you stare long enough at play-by-play data, you can find 20 elbow or punch fouls.

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Unfortunately, mixing in these didn’t change much (there were ejections from punch fouls, though). Howard and Bryant were still at the top with five. Carmelo Anthony tallied four offensive fouls and one flagrant in a 2010 playoff game, but the flagrant happened on defense.

The last attempt was to mix in loose ball fouls. Granted, they occur when neither team has possession of the ball, but they can happen while crashing the offensive glass, and whistles for that foul take away any chance of retaining possession. If we combine those fouls that occurred while chasing an offensive rebound with traditional offensive fouls, two disqualifications show up. I sorted the table below by total fouls, then offensive fouls.

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Ah, the search for such a random “accomplishment” is at least somewhat fulfilling. As we can see, though, getting disqualified strictly from offensive fouls hasn’t happened in at least 19 seasons. (I excluded playoff games from the tables above, but it applies there, too.) Whenever it happens, though, it should have a spot with stats like magic beans, jump ball winning and losing streaksDevin Kharpertian‘s anti-trillions, Ian Levy’s anti-awards, and all of the tidbits from Justin Willard‘s week in reviews.

Lastly, if anyone’s curious, below is a Tableau dashboard looking at total fouls by type and the percentage of those types of fouls accounting for a player’s season total. Miscellaneous fouls were a combo of clear path, away from play, intentional, elbow, and punch fouls.

As noted with foul drawn percentages, totals may differ slightly from what’s at NBA.com/stats.