NBA athletes are arrested much more often than athletes from the NFL, MLB or NHL

Percent of athletes arrested by league in 2014.


NBA athletes most likely to commit crimes

Although NFL athletes are often in the news for domestic violence, DUIs and other transgressions, NBA athletes actually commit more 'crimes'.  In work done last summer over at fivethityeight, Ben Morris showed that NFL athletes actually commit crimes at lower rates than the general population.  In his work, he showed that roughly 2,000 DUIs are recorded per 100,000 regular folks compared to a rate of about 550 for the NFL.  In the above figure we see that 3.8% of NBA athletes committed a crime last year versus 2.3% of NFL players.  For example, there were 17 NBA arrests in 2014 and approximately 447 players.   For a detailed list of the offenses, please see  here

For now, the observed arrest trends are unexplained.  An oft presented theory is that NBA athletes are from poor neighborhoods and are thus more likely to commit crimes.  The idea that NBA athletes often rise from the ghetto has been proven to be rare.  In research published in 2011, the researchers showed that 'The popular image of the African American National Basketball Association (NBA) player as rising from the ‘ghetto’ to international fame and fortune misleads academics and the public alike'.  They found that roughly 65% of African American and 90% of White NBA players came from middle or upper class households.  

In 5 of the last 6 years, a greater percent of NBA athletes committed more crimes than other athletes.  The below figure represents these arrest data over time.