Like many modern conspiracy theories, the one involving Memphis Grizzlies forward center Jaren Jackson Jr. on the Internet with an anonymous poster on Reddit.
The Redditor, u/AdMassive6666, posted a 1,589-word missive early Saturday morning titled “MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES SCOREKEEPER PUTTING FRAUDULENT NUMBERS FOR DEFENSIVE PLAYER-LEADER OF THE YEAR JAREN JACKSON JR.”
Inside, the redditor points out that Jackson has nearly twice as many blocks at home as he does on the road, and accuses the Grizzlies statistician of being overly kind and “padding” Jackson’s defensive stats.
As of 4:15 PM ET on Saturday, the post had 3,500 comments, and it spilled over to Twitter where it gained even more traction and was the NBA theme of the day.
That’s a serious charge since the job of a statistician is rooted in integrity, and statistics play an important role in determining awards and accolades, especially in Jackson’s case Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defense. Statistics have also become more important in gambling, especially prop bets when bets can bet on how many blocks a player has in a game. Sports leagues have embraced this and taken responsibility 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 playbacks were cited and other redditors provided video “evidence”.
No conspiracy theory, especially in the NBA, goes unchecked. Some of the top basketball media members went to work, including The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, Boston Sports Journal’s John Karalis, ESPN’s Kirk Goldberry, 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 notched all 66 of Jackson’s blocks at home. O’Connor watched in slow motion and concluded that “only 3 of his 66 home blocks are mislabeled, a completely negligible 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 pretty sus(pect).” But even one Goldberry considers a suspect is hard to tell from the video angle, and it’s likely Jackson got his hands on the basketball as Zion Williamson went up for a shot, which counts as a block.
Smart and a unique thinker, Partnow found the controversy absurd. But nonetheless, he found time to illustrate Jackson’s elite rim protection, detailing his points saved via rim protection at home and on the road, and that’s a two-point difference.
Jackson was 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 statistics are so important to sports in terms of awards and records — just look at the attention LeBron James gets as he approaches breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record — and because of the stakes aspect, the NBA was forced to weigh in.
“To ensure the integrity of our game statistics, auditors, independent of the on-site statisticians, review all plays and statistical decisions in real time during NBA games,” said NBA Senior Vice President of League Operations Communications Tim Frank. “If changes are necessary, they are made at that time or after a post-game review. All of the plays questioned in the Memphis game post were scored consistently within the rules set forth by the NBA Stats Manual.”
For the rest of the season, no player’s blocking will be more scrutinized than Jackson’s.