Hello, Goodbye

Hello, hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye
I say hello.
–The Beatles

Goodbyes are hard. They suggest a certain finality, a signal that something good has come to an end. Unfortunately, life is full of goodbyes, and today I must say mine. After six years, five websites, and hundreds of thousands of lines of code, my tenure at Sports Reference will come to an end this week.

I started working on what would become Basketball-Reference.com back in 2003. I was in awe of what Baseball-Reference.com had done for baseball statistics and I had the pollyannaish idea that I could do the same thing for basketball statistics. After spending months building the database and designing the pages, the website debuted to great little fanfare on May 10, 2004. In fact, shortly after announcing the launch of the website on the now defunct APBR Yahoo! Group I received the following reply:

what’s the difference? what does yours have that [databasebasketball.com] doesn’t, besides that mustard-colored header*?

Well then.

* For those of you who are wondering what the site looked like back in May 2004, check out the Wayback Machine’s archive of the site.

Truth be told, the feedback I received was mostly positive, and I continued to work on the site as a hobby while keeping my day job. After some time, though, it become apparent that I could probably make more money — and definitely have more fun! — by turning my hobby into a full time job. So in June 2007 I made a big decision: I resigned from my job as a lecturer for the Department of Statistics at Ohio State and started working full time for Sports Reference.

That decision turned out to be a boon for the basketball site’s growth. Back in 2008, my first full year working for Sports Reference, Basketball-Reference.com was the company’s least-visited site, averaging about 2.8 million page views per month. But today Basketball-Reference.com is the company’s second most-visited site, averaging over 11 million page views per month.

Along the way I’ve done a lot more that just work on Basketball-Reference.com. For example, I designed and built the hockey, Olympics, college football, and college basketball sites, expanding Sports Reference’s web presence from three sites to seven.

Despite the fact that Sports Reference has very few employees — the company had just two full time programmers until May 2011 — its network of sites has received numerous honors. Most notably, TIME magazine recognized Sports Reference as one of the “50 Best Websites” of 2010, and the company won an Alpha Award for “Best Analytics Innovation/Technology” at the 2013 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

In short, I am very proud of the work that I have done for Sports Reference. So why, you may ask, am I leaving? This isn’t the time or the place for me to get into the reasons surrounding my departure, so I’ll just say that I chose to leave due to “creative differences” and leave it at that.*

* Full disclosure: I will continue to be one of the company’s co-owners.

And even though I’m saying goodbye to Sports Reference, I’m saying hello to new challenges: In September I will start a job as a web developer for Franklin University in Columbus.

As for a personal Internet presence, I plan to stay plugged into the sports scene through my Twitter account (@jkubatko) and this blog (Statitudes). I also hope that the numerous friendships that I have developed thanks to my work at Sports Reference will continue. You can always reach me at my Gmail address (justin DOT kubatko AT gmail DOT com).

And with that, I say goodbye … I mean, hello.

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64 thoughts on “Hello, Goodbye

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed all of the work you did on basketball-reference.com, Justin. I fell into the same sort of obsession (?) / hobby (?) with building a basketball database, after work, from book resources, myself, so I really appreciate your level of effort (it took me 2.5 years!).

    Good luck in all your future endeavors. I’ll definitely keep up with Statitudes!

  2. Sorry to hear it! 11 million pageviews a month … I suspect most of them are me. So I take the future of the site seriously. Glad you’ll still be active on this blog and on Twitter. See you on the internet and best of luck in the new gig.

    1. Good to hear from you Henry. A number of people from ESPN.com have told me that they use the site every day, so I’m guessing your company’s footprint on the traffic is pretty large.

  3. I certainly love the work that you did (it’s such an invaluable resource) and wish you the best of luck in your future projects!

  4. Just wanted to thank you for all your work at Basketball-Reference. Your work has certainly made research with basketball data so much easier. Thanks again for all your help.

  5. Thanks, Justin. BTW, are you related to Roch (I’m from Baltimore). I use your site a lot just to show my son about the legends of the game..

  6. You never know where the road is going to lead you… Your work has always been top notch, and I’m looking forward to whatever you do next.

  7. Thank you so much for what you’ve done to the world of sports statistics. Basketball reference is my personal bible and I couldn’t imagine keeping up to date without it. Thanks again and good luck in your future endeavors.

  8. Thanks for making B-R great Justin and good luck with your next move!
    Hopefully those “creative differences” were on the programming side and not on users-only side so it won’t change B-R from gold mine to coal mine.

  9. I can’t thank you enough for all of the hard work you’ve done. When I have sports debates with my friends, I will often have your sites open on my phone so I can pretend that I knew a certain player had certain statistics for a certain year! I wish you best of luck at Franklin University.

  10. Sorry to see this. Basketball Reference has long been my go to for stats as I used the venerable Patrick Halverson’s Slam stats compiler to make beautiful fantasy basketball music for years and your site’s wealth of information took much of the sting out of losing my beloved Sporting News’s NBA Register.

    Best wishes for your future endeavors.

  11. Thanks for all your work, man. I use the site quite often and everytime I find a new feature I am just blown away by how indepth everything is.

  12. I will keep spending far too much time for my own good on this treasure of a website. THANK YOU for your work from Switzerland!

    1. You’re welcome. Wow, France, Belgium, and now Switzerland — I didn’t know the site was so big in Europe.

  13. The court was made of concrete
    The players were made of gold
    No one ever grew tired
    No one ever grew old

    Your passion was evident and admired by more than you realize.
    Curtis J Phillps
    Canada’s Basketball Historian

  14. I look forward to what you are going to be putting out here. Surely will be adding this to my daily blog list. Good luck!

  15. Justin,
    Thank you for all that you did at Sports Reference. It is a great tool that I use regularly. I have great respect for you and all that you have done, and I hope your new ventures are all that you hope they will be!

  16. Best of luck, JK. I have thoroughly enjoyed your work. From the get-go, basketball-reference was excellent, and it just kept getting better and better and better.

  17. Justin, your work is amazing. I have really enjoyed thinking about the ideas you’ve presented (I’m a hockey guy) and will definitely be following this blog (and following you on twitter).

    All the best
    Isaac

  18. Justin:

    Thanks so much for Hockey Reference as well as handling my personal requests. It’s a tremendous site. And good luck in whatever you do!

  19. Justin, thanks for all the time and effort you’ve spent on the site. I’ve surely accounted for a lot of those page views !

    Projecting stats for 400+ players by hand is no easy task, but I’ve done so for the past 6+ years by relying heavily on Basketball-Reference. I especially love the per 36 stats (while despising per 40 and per 48) and the player season finder (incredible tool). My projections/predictions/analysis wouldn’t be nearly as accurate without BBR, and you’ve always done a great job of continually making improvements and enhancements.

    Your hard work and dedication has also helped me dominate my own fantasy hoops leagues quite nicely, to the tune of over $62K in the NFBKC :)
    http://nfbkc.stats.com/basketball/nfbkc/earning_leaders.asp

    I hope you enjoy your new job, and it would be a pleasure to meet you down the road.

    Much thanks,
    Eric Wong
    RotoEvil.com

  20. The basketball site at Sports-Reference is my second favorite to the baseball version. The development you did is very notable, as at one point , it was nothing in comparison to the baseball site. Now it stacks up against B-Ref very well.

    BTW, I went to Franklin University in Columbus from ’82 to ’85. It was a tiny little school back then, yet very worthwhile. I wish you the best there and wherever you may go in the future.

  21. Thanks Teddy. My goal all along was to make Basketball-Reference.com the hoops equivalent to Baseball-Reference.com.

    Franklin isn’t so small now: It annually serves almost 10,000 students.

  22. Thanks for everything you’ve done with the Sports-Reference sites! Next time I’m downtown, your beers at the 16-Bit bar down the street are on me!

  23. great job.baseball reference came with my am coffee. you will be missed.from the last survivr of the Duluth bus crash.

  24. Thanks for all of the time and hard work you put into Basketball-Reference. You truly were a pioneer in making data accessible to all and propelling the analytics movement. I look forward to reading your blog.

    All the best,
    Spencer

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