Basketball is in Johnny Carver’s blood. But his body turned on him and prematurely ended his playing career before his senior season at Olathe Northwest over a year and a half ago.
Diagnosed with a slew of ailments, which he says includes severe ulcerative colitis, a nerve disorder and adrenal insufficiency, Carver had to find a way to stay involved in basketball.
“I never thought about quitting,” said Carver, a sophomore at the University of Arkansas.
“Basketball has been such a big part of my life. When I was done playing I needed that other outlet.”
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That outlet proved to be writing and analyzing the game. The result? A self-published book called “Ranketology.” The work uses an algorithm Carver derived to try and objectively rank the top 75 NBA players of all-time with the goal of settling the debate of greatest player of all-time.
Writing and basketball are both part of Carver’s lineage. His grandfather authored two books. His mother quizzed him from the NBA media guide at age six. His dad, Brad, played basketball at Kansas State and his older brother, Steve, played at Holy Cross before a concussion ended his career.
Brad was Shawnee Mission Northwest’s leading scorer until Steve broke his record.
His kin set records; hospital beds contained Johnny. He spent 16 days in the hospital and lost 35 pounds just prior to a varsity team tryout his junior year.
At first, Carver wanted to simply rank the NBA’s greatest players, then realized nobody cared about the opinions of a 17-year-old. One night in June 2013, while talking with his brother, Johnny hatched the idea that could differentiate him and would serve as the basis of his book.
“People will be really interested in having this legacy conversation,” Carver said. “It’s one of the great debates of our generation.”
A daunting task laid in front of him.
The summer going into his senior year of high school, Johnny spent 40 hours a week for weeks on end researching, formulating and ultimately, ranking the players.
Carver created a system called Skills Efficiency, in which he assigned values to each player in a variety of categories that include number of NBA Finals MVPs and regular-season MVPs.
Each category carries a specific weight, with number of championships carrying the most weight.
“I think that’s the most important when evaluating legacy,” Carver said. “Winning is what people turn to, so that’s what we valued the most.”
To recognize public perception of star power, Carver also used number of All-Star Game appearances as one of the many categories.
After Carver completed the excruciating aggregation of details, he began to write. He used the time allotted during his senior year journalism classes to write. Olathe Northwest athletic director Jay Novacek, who began a sports information director program Carver was enrolled in, strongly encouraged Johnny to use class time to write.
Without Novacek’s support, Carver said there’s no way he would have been able to complete the book.
“Johnny was one of those kids who, when you met, you just had a good feeling he was gonna do something big,” Novacek said. “Athletics were how he was going to identify himself.”
Carver finished writing, but needed to find a way to publish his book. Looking for guidance, he sent an email to Dallas Mavericks owner and businessman Mark Cuban.
Cuban responded almost immediately, Carver said. Cuban gave him the idea of self-publishing to maximize profit, he added.
“That was really cool,” Carver said of his correspondence with Cuban. “It meant a lot to me.”
It wasn’t the only interaction Carver’s had with NBA executives. Front-office operatives of the Pacers invited him to Indianapolis to watch a game, and Carver flew to Los Angeles to meet with Clippers assistant general manager Gary Sacks.
In between treatments and checkups, Carver is currently helping Denver Nuggets manager of basketball analytics Tommy Baceltis with draft research.
Getting a book published was a long process, but it came as little surprise to Carver’s brother.
“His perseverance through all that and competing when he was healthy is just the way that he is,” Steve said. “… Seeing that the hard work did pay off and it’s published and you can go out and find it means a lot.”
So far, “Ranketology” has sold more than 100 copies, Johnny Carver said.
Carver’s dream is to work for an NBA team out of college. That was an impetus for him writing the book: to get noticed by league executives.
“Everything I’m trying to do is reach out and show them I can be successful,” Carver said. “That’s what I’m going for.”