MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Anthony Davis' final game as a 22-year-old proved a fitting end to a year with enough highlights to fill out its own insert-age-here listicle.
The New Orleans Pelicans superstar finished with 40 points (14-for-26 from the field, 2-for-7 from 3-point range, 10-for-12 from the free throw line), 13 rebounds, five assists and one block on Wednesday. The 122-113 loss to the Charlotte Hornets marks the seventh time in the past three seasons that Davis has reached 40 points and 10 rebounds, tied with 27-year-old Kevin Durant for the most in that span. It was also the eighth such instance in Davis’ four-year career. Over the past 30 years, he trails only Durant (8) and Shaquille O’Neal (16) among players who reached those milestones before their 23rd birthday.
That’s just a taste of the staggering statistics the wunderkind has produced before becoming an official 20-something. His "Red" era, if you will, includes the following (courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info.):
Over the past 50 years, only seven players have scored more points prior to their 23rd birthday than Davis, who has totaled 5,276.
Davis, O’Neal and Dwight Howard are the only players over the past 30 years with 5,000 points and 500 blocks by their 23rd birthday.
Davis, O’Neal and Michael Jordan are the only players with a player efficiency rating of 25 or higher through their age-22 season (minimum 100 games), which is what Davis’ 2015-16 is considered. If eligible, his career 26.4 PER would trail only Jordan (27.91), LeBron James (27.59) and O’Neal (26.43) on Basketball-Reference’s all-time list.
He is one of five players to be named first team All-NBA in their age-21 season (2014-15) or younger. The others: Durant, James, Rick Barry and Tim Duncan.
His 30.81 PER in 2014-15 -- considered his age-21 season but finished when Davis was 22 -- ranks 11th ever in a single season, behind only Wilt Chamberlain, Jordan and James. Though each current and future Hall of Famer appears on the list three times or more, none crossed 30 before age 24.
And then there are the personal accomplishments. Davis made his first NBA postseason, signed a maximum extension with the Pelicans, became a legit MVP candidate and got a pet marmoset.
That might not top his year at 19 -- he won an NCAA championship, all but one of the seven college player of the year awards, a gold medal at the Olympics and was drafted No. 1 overall -- but it’s not bad for someone whose peers are counting the days left under their parents’ insurance.
“Yeah, I had a lot going on,” Davis said. “Like you said, contract, playoffs. A lot going on. That can happen any year. I could have a lot going on at 23.
"Just another year for me. Just another year.”
That’s the scary part: When you have the 11th-best season ever, how far does up go? The Pelicans clocked in at third in Zach Lowe’s preseason League Pass rankings with a simple explanation: “Anthony Davis is limitless.”
It hasn’t exactly been a ski lift to his summit since, with the Pelicans’ injury woes and adaptation to just his second NBA head coach pushing Davis one step back before any leap toward the league’s top pound-for-pound player. But with nights like Wednesday, or the 59 points and 20 rebounds he piled on the Pistons two weeks ago, that ascension doesn’t feel so far away anymore.
In the meantime, Davis has welcomed some of the spoils of his newfound stardom. He’s fast becoming the guy you’ll see over and over again during commercial breaks of national NBA games. He’s diving headfirst into first-person media. He will also make a guest spot in the latest “Barbershop” movie, set in his hometown of Chicago, poking fun at the eyebrow that seems to be his meal ticket in that realm.
“Yeah, just embracing it,” he said. “The opportunity doesn’t come around a lot for guys. When I get the opportunities I try to embrace them and have fun with it. It’s all gonna go by so fast. Everybody tells me, ‘Your career goes by fast. Just like that -- snap of a finger.’ So any time I get a chance to do anything, whether it’s a movie, commercial, appearance, whatever, I try to have fun and enjoy as much as possible.”
Unlike his lofty basketball pursuits, about which he has rarely if ever demurred, Davis is a bit more conservative when it comes to these sorts of roles.
“Nah. I mean ... of course, people know who I am. But I don’t feel like I’m a celebrity,” he said. “I don’t look at myself like that. Of course when you go out and people ask you for your autographs or pictures, it kind of puts in perspective how, I’ll say how big of a name you are. But I don’t go anywhere like, ‘I want front-row seats.’ That’s not me. ... I don’t really look at myself like that.
“[The movie] came to me. Or, my agency. But that’s because it was in Chicago, it has ties with Chicago and all that, so I think that was a big factor. But, even still. Being in a movie is pretty fun. I guess I don’t really see myself in that light. I guess because I’m so laid back and chill. If I was more outgoing or ... Hollywood, I guess. I don’t know. [Laughs.] That’s not me. I’m just real chill.”
After all, he is 23.