Word on the Street

One Trillion (wun tril’-yun) noun. Denotes those occasions in which a player logs one minute of playing time without recording any other statistic. The term is derived from the player’s statistical line in a box score, which (sometimes) reads as a one followed by 12 zeros – the conventional English-language numeric representation of one trillion.

Usage example:Notching a triple-single is something you tell your family about; notching a one trillion is something you tell no one about.

Word history: The term was invented by Scott Hastings, who managed to hang around for 12 seasons as a career backup/role player/scrub. Near as I’ve been able to determine, he created the trillion in 1990, as evidenced by this reference in the Sports Illustrated Vault: “Scott Hastings, little-used Piston forward, who claims to lead the NBA in a category that he calls the ‘trillion‘: ‘That’s when the box score reads one minute played followed by 0-0, 0-0, 0-0, 0 0 0.'” (Props to Hastings, not only for the uncommon self-awareness, but also for inventing a statistic to quantify his suckitude.)

The term was also explained in a 1999 Sports Illustrated article called Garbage Time. It says:

“Avoid the dread ‘trillion.’ In other words, if for some reason you can’t get off a shot, do something. In garbage-time lingo, trillion is the line in the box score a player gets when his minutes-played stat is followed by zeros in the nine other categories. ‘A trillion means you played, but you didn’t do anything,’ says Vancouver Grizzlies assistant Lionel Hollins, who was an NBA guard for 10 seasons. ‘No shots attempted or made, no assists, no rebounds, no fouls, nothing.’ If he still has a trillion in the final seconds, the experienced garbage-time player will commit misdemeanor assault to break up his zeros with a ‘1’ in the personal foul column.”

For the record, Henry Matsson – who informed me about this article, remembers hearing references to the trillion back in the 80s.

It was further expounded on in 2006 in, of all things, an NBA media guide. No, really.

“Some years back, ex-player Scott Hastings devised the Trillion Club. To become a member you must play in an NBA game (no minimum time) and do absolutely nothing since 15 zeros follow the minute column. (A commitee voted to allow a player to join the club if he only had a personal foul.) Ryan Bowen led in 2005-06 (with 19). The 2004-05 winner was Anthony Carter with a record 23. The 2003-04 winner was Darvin Ham with 10. The 2002-03 winner was John Salmons with 10. The 2001-02 winner was Mark Pope with 9; in 2000-01, Travis Knight had 11. In 1999-2000 Doug Overton and Bruce Bowen tied for first with 9. In 1998-99 David Wingate did it 8 times to beat out Brian Evans with 5. In the 1997-98 season DeJuan Wheat of Minnesota led with 11; in 1996-97 Jud Buechler was the runaway winner with 15 games. Lou Roe led in 1995-96 with 12, Doug Lee in 1994-95 with 7.”

The term was also used in this article written by Doug Smith for the January 26, 2007 edition of the Toronto Star. Said Smith: “When an end-of-the-bench guy gets in a blowout for a minute, and doesn’t record a shot, rebound, assist or point, his boxscore line is known as ‘one trillion,’ a one followed by nine zeroes.” Too bad for Smith (and Hastings before him, I guess) that a trillion actually has 12 zeroes. Don’t be too hard on him, though. After all, he is a Canadian. Can you name one famous mathematician from Canada? Exactly.

One problem with the trillion is that every box score is different. For instance, an ESPN.com box score would show 15 zeroes for a one trillion, while a Yahoo Sports box score would show 14. But why get bogged down by details? Webster’s New World Dictionary provides an alternate definition of “trillion” that reads “an indefinite but very large number: a hyperbolic use.” So perhaps we can agree that the term is simply a way of describing a player’s complete and utter statistical insignificance.

Word examples: Check out this December 29, 2006 box score for the Milwaukee Bucks. Not only did two different players “achieve” a one trillion (Chris McCray and David Noel), two other players almost did it too (Ersan Ilyasova and Damir Markota).


Editors note: A One Trillion is, as you see 1 minute of playing time with no stats. Therefor 12 minutes of playing time with no stats would be 12 Trillion, and so on, you get the point.

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