Like many modern-day conspiracy theories, the one involving Memphis Grizzlies forward-center Jaren Jackson Jr. began on the Internet by an anonymous poster on Reddit.
The redditor, u/AdMassive6666, posted early Saturday morning a 1,589-word missive titled “MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES SCOREKEEPER POSTING FRAUDULENT NUMBERS FOR DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR LEADER JAREN JACKSON JR.”
Within, the redditor points out that Jackson has almost twice the number of blocks at home than he does on the road and accuses the Grizzlies statistician of being overly kind and “padding” Jackson’s defensive stats.
As of 4:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, the post had 3,500 comments, and it spilled over to Twitter where it gained even more traction, and it was the NBA topic of the day.
It is a serious accusation since the statistician’s job is rooted in integrity, and statistics play an important role in determining awards and honors, specifically in Jackson’s case Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defense. Stats have also taken on greater importance in gambling especially prop bets when wagers can gamble on how many blocks a player has in a game. Sports leagues have embraced this, taking accountability to another level.
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The redditor pointed out that Jackson has 66 blocks and 22 steals at home in 16 games and 37 blocks and 12 steals on the road in 17 games. Specific plays were cited and other redditors provided video “evidence.”
No conspiracy theory, especially in the NBA, goes unchecked. Some of the best basketball media members went to work, including The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, Boston Sports Journal’s John Karalis, ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry, who specializes in basketball data and wrote the book “Sprawlball,” and The Athletic’s Seth Partnow, who worked in Milwaukee’s front office and is the author of “The Midrange Theory.”
O’Connor and Goldsberry reviewed all 66 of Jackson’s blocks at home. O’Connor watched in slow motion and concluded “only 3 of his 66 home blocks are incorrectly labeled, a completely insignificant amount.”
After watching the plays, Goldsberry called Jackson “the top rim protector on earth” and wrote on Twitter, “of the 66 blocks, 60 are clearly blocked by JJJ … 3-5 are questionable and two are kinda sus(pect).” But even one Goldsberry considers suspect is hard to determine from the video angle, and it’s likely Jackson got his hand on the basketball as Zion Williamson was going up for a shot, which counts as a block.
Partnow is smart and a unique thinker and found the controversy absurd. But nonetheless, he found the time to illustrate Jackson’s elite rim protection, detailing his points saved via rim protection at home and on the road and there’s a two-point difference.
Jackson made first-team All-Defense and led the league in total blocks (177) and blocks per game (2.3) last season. He leads the league in blocks this season (3.1) per game and anchors Memphis’ top-ranked defense, which allows just 103.4 points per 100 possessions with Jackson on the court and 111.4 when Jackson is not on the court.
Because stats are so important to sports with regards to awards and records – just look at the attention being paid to LeBron James as he gets closer to breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record – and because of the wagering aspect, the NBA was forced to weigh in.
“In order to ensure the integrity of our game statistics, auditors, independent of the statisticians on-site, review all plays and stats decisions in real-time during NBA games,” NBA senior vice president of league operations communications Tim Frank said. “If changes are necessary, they are made at that time or following a postgame review. All of the plays questioned in the post on Memphis games were scored consistently within the rules set forth by the NBA statisticians manual.”
For the rest of the season, no player’s blocks will be more scrutinized than Jackson’s.