Getting To The Bottom Of Jaren Jackson Jr.’s So-Called “Blocks”
5:43 PM EST on January 30, 2023
Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies has always been a very good defensive player. This season is different. The Grizzlies allow the fewest points per 100 possessions in the NBA, per Cleaning The Glass, and are a whopping 6.5 points stingier defensively when Jackson is on the floor. This isn't one of those nerd-ass Shane Battier type deals, where Jackson improves his team's efficiency in non-quantifiable ways by standing in the right places and taking charges and assorted other try-hard crap. Jackson is one of three players in the NBA, along with Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis, who average at least 1.5 blocks and one steal per game, and Jackson averages a full block more than either of those other two, despite playing at least six fewer minutes per game.
It's possible to mount a campaign for Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) without league-topping statistical production—reigning DPOY Marcus Smart of the Celtics won on the strength of positional versatility, role, and team performance more than any particular statistical marker—but it certainly helps to have the Big Numbers, and right now nobody has Bigger Numbers than Jackson. If he keeps this up through the end of the regular season, it will be impossible to deny that he is the best defensive player in basketball.
That is, unless Jackson's statistics are the result of home-cooked books. In a Reddit post published Saturday, user AdMassive6666 crunched the numbers through Jackson's first 32 games played and found that a surprising and unlikely seeming number of Jackson's blocks and steals—66 of 101 blocks and 22 of 32 steals—came in Memphis's 16 home games. According to AdMassive6666, Jackson has been credited with five or more combined blocks and steals ("stocks") in 11 home games this season, versus just three road games. Additionally, AdMassive6666 identified seven instances in "recent" Grizzlies games when Jackson appeared to be credited in error, according to AdMassive6666's judgment, for plays either made by Jackson's teammates or not made at all. It's all extremely fishy and/or rat-smelling:
"I wonder if the scorekeeper has some sort of vested interest in Jaren Jackson getting maximum high value defensive statistics that he thinks he can get away with putting down into the box score ... My educated guess is that the Memphis scorekeeper(s) have been changed since last season and/or ULTERIOR MOTIVES, INCENTIVES are now in play with respect to JJJ's defensive statistics."
But this "educated guess" is limited by the scope of AdMassive6666's review of Grizzlies highlights, which was confined to "just a few of the Grizzlies' recent games." How deep does this conspiracy go? Naturally it is the duty of a serious professional blogger to finish what AdMassive6666 started and finally get to the bottom of this campaign of deception, with a more thorough review of Jackson's deeply suspicious record.
Saturday afternoon and then for some reason again Monday morning I utilized the NBA's own website to review the broadcast video of every single one of Jackson's recorded blocks on the season. It's frankly an unbelievable sequence of highlights, and if you have a few minutes to burn today I suggest you try it out yourself. Jackson might be the best shot-blocker in the NBA since Dikembe Mutombo's peak years. However, I am disturbed to report that beyond the seven dubious "stocks" identified by AdMassive6666—which to be fair include a number of plays that would be difficult to score for any observer who does not see events in bullet time—there are at least six plays here where Jackson was credited with a block despite video evidence that a block should not have been possible, raising serious questions about the legitimacy of Jackson's DPOY credentials and indeed the integrity of the NBA. Let us now consult the evidence.
Fraudulent Block 1: Dec. 2, 2022 vs. Philadelphia
Late in the fourth quarter of an eventual 117–109 Grizzlies home win, Joel Embiid of the 76ers used a jab step to get by center Steven Adams and drive unobstructed to the front of the rim. Jackson, who was last seen guarding Danuel House Jr. in the strong-side corner, suddenly appeared at the rim at the last possible instant and removed the ball from Embiid's possession as Embiid soared for a two-handed jam. Incredible, yes? More like impossible:
As you can see in Figure 1, Jackson (lower right) is stationed with both feet outside of the lane as Embiid (white uniform, left) gathers the ball for his dunk attempt. To cover such a distance and make a clean block without carefully choreographed wire stunt work is not possible. A scorekeeper who had any respect for the intelligence of his audience would not expect anyone to believe that this situation resolved with Jackson blocking Embiid's shot. A dunk? Yes. A layup? Fine. A foul? Possibly. But a block? No. It is outrageous to suggest such a thing.
Fraudulent Block 2: Dec. 7 vs. Oklahoma City
In the first quarter of an eventual 123–102 Memphis victory, Jalen Williams of the visiting Thunder drove into Brandon Clarke of the Grizzlies and missed a difficult layup. After a brief scramble under the basket, Jackson fell out of bounds and the ball bounced into the hands of a Thunder player, who immediately rose for a point-blank layup. Suddenly Jackson was there, punching the ball away with his left hand, all the way out to the three-point arc. Amazing!
Amazing, but immediately suspicious. For one thing, we are expected to believe that the player who recovered the loose ball under the basket is not Jalen Williams, no. 8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder, but is in fact Jaylin Williams, no. 6 of the Oklahoma City Thunder. I'm supposed to believe those are two different guys and not evidence of some shoddy casting by a league office that is clearly rigging games? Do I look like a fool to you? But more importantly, it is not possible to stand on the ground with your momentum going out of bounds here...
...with 7:48 on the game clock, and to also be airborne headed in the opposite direction, also with 7:48 on the game clock:
Nice try, James Cameron, but this is clearly CGI.
Fraudulent Block 3: Dec. 12 vs. Atlanta
In the first quarter of an eventual 128–103 victory (wow, another win—coincidence?) over Atlanta, Hawks wing De'Andre Hunter kept a live dribble in traffic at the free-throw line, with his defender pinned on his back. As teammate Clint Capela sealed rim protector Steven Adams under the basket, Hunter used a pump-fake and a smooth pivot to flow into a left-handed layup. And Jackson is there, hiding in plain site, moving as if choreographed and reaching up with his left hand to casually swat Hunter's layup over the rim.
A little too casually, if you ask me. In fact this whole sequence plays out with a degree of nonchalance that cannot be ignored. Indeed, volleyball teammates coordinate point-winning spikes with less beat-perfect timing than Hunter and Jackson showed on this play. The block would be a marvel of instincts and athletic grace, except for that telltale rhythm between Jackson and his "victim." This event has quite clearly been staged.
Fraudulent Block 4: Dec. 27 vs. Phoenix
Early in the second half of a rare Memphis home loss, Chris Paul of the Suns ran a side pick-and-roll with teammate Deandre Ayton, who was guarded on the play by Adams. Memphis appeared to botch their coverage, so that no one followed Ayton as he caught a nifty dish from Paul at the edge of the paint and rose up for a big right-handed jam. Jackson, guarding Jock Landale in the weak-side corner, instantly teleported to the front of the rim, somehow arriving on the scene ahead of Ayton and in position to reach up with that pesky left hand and spike the ball out of there. Remarkable!
Remarkable, that is, that you expect me to believe that there is an NBA player named Jock Landale. Where's his teammate, Sportsman McGuire? Is that Athlete Gunderson I see on the bench?
This is even more insulting than the Jalen/Jaylin Williams situation. This is a fictional character, and not a real man.
Fraudulent Block 5: Jan. 1 vs. Sacramento
In the first quarter of another impressive double-digit Memphis home win, guard Malik Monk of the visiting Kings cut backdoor on Tyus Jones and received a slick bounce-pass from teammate Domantas Sabonis. Dillon Brooks made a late swipe at the ball, falling behind the play and out of position to help, and giving Monk a clean runway to the rim. Suddenly Jackson appeared, somehow floating in front of the basket, and blocked Monk's layup. Jackson's momentum carried him under the backboard, where he reached unsuccessfully for the loose ball. Monk, seizing the ball, immediately leapt for another attempt. In defiance of all natural laws, Jackson is once again there, reaching up with that huge left hand to swat away a second Monk shot inside of three seconds.
How is it possible for one human to make both of these plays in such a short period of time? Obviously, it is not. Clearly something is off in this sequence. How sure are we that this is one person, and not in fact two people?
If they can find a convincing body double for Damar Hamlin, they can find one for Jaren Jackson Jr.
Fraudulent Block 6: Jan. 4 at Charlotte
In the fourth quarter of a blowout road victory over the miserable Hornets, Jackson retreated into the paint to deter a shot by Charlotte's Cody Martin. Ah ha! Here Jackson overcommitted, leaping at a pump fake and allowing quick wraparound dump-off pass to Mark Williams, stationed in the dunker spot. In all non-rigged scenarios, this sequence ends with a dunk. Here, no: Jackson twirled and almost blindly threw up that damned left hand, which not only stoned Williams's shot but also took clean possession of the ball for a runout, which ended with a Tyus Jones three-pointer. Outrageous.
Something is obviously afoot, here. Let's take a closer look:
But what's this!
That is clearly Snidely Whiplash. I hope I don't need to explain the significance of this sighting.