Sunday Anthony Davis became the first player to score 50 points in a game before turning 23 years old — just four years after playing the greatest season out of 52,129 player seasons in the all-time Value Add database. Sports Illustrated said Shaquille O’Neal is the only player in the last 30 years to match the performance.
Davis scored 59 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, a performance Sports Illustrated said only O’Neal (61, 23 in 2000) matched in the past 30 years.
What makes the performance even more impressive was that the closeness of the game (111-104 win for Davis’ Pelicans over the Pistons) made the Pistons try to stop him until the end. While Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point performance is incredible, it was in a 169-147 win in which it appears likely very little defense came at either end (there is no footage of that game).
Davis is one of only four players worth more than 12 points per game to his team (Kentucky 2012). What makes him stand out even further is that the other three are seniors — Davis pulled it off in his freshman season — meaning it is almost certain Davis would have played the three greatest college basketball seasons of the past 13 years if players still stayed for all four seasons.
Davis will not win the MVP this season. Stephen Curry, one of only four players to finish in the Value Add top five in two seasons, enjoying a historic season with Golden State.
However, it is quite possible the torch may eventually be passed from Curry (27 years old) to Davis (22) to Ben Simmons (19, top freshman this year). All three could join Bill Russell (last MVP in 1965), Chamberlain (1968), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1980), Moses Malone (1983), Larry Bird (1986), Magic Johnson (1990), Michael Jordan (1998) and LeBron James (2013) as the only players to win the NBA MVP at least three times.