Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Davis’ Performance Evokes Comparisons to Bill Russell
NEW ORLEANS — Of all the blocks, alley oop dunks and shots off the window that comprised Anthony Davis’s dazzling stat line against Louisville, his most athletic move didn’t even show up in the box score.
In the first half, Davis charged off the side of the court after a loose ball, jumped onto — and over — a press table between two reporters seated right next to me and their computers and landed safely on the floor.
Much to the relief of Kentucky coach John Calipari and probably half a dozen NBA GMs with the chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick.
And he didn’t even spill a drink.
Yes, just about everything went right for Davis, the consensus National Player of the Year, on a night when became just the second player since Danny Manning in 1988 to notch 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 blocks in a Final Four.
Davis tallied 18 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks and then garnered the ultimate praise from Louisville coach Rick Pitino.
“Anthony Davis is the No. 1 player picked in the draft,” Pitino said. “When you’re playing against Bill Russell at the pro level, you realize why the Celtics won 11 world championships.
“When you see this young man at the collegiate level, you realize why they’re so good. Not that their other players aren’t, but he’s so much of a factor.”
Davis, a former guard who shot up from 6-foot-3 to 6-10 during his junior year of high school, dribbled out the final seconds of the game before firing the ball up toward the roof of the dome, pulling out his mouthpiece and shouting, “This is my stage.”
“We’re from Kentucky,” Davis said later. “We built for this….We go out there to have fun. The emotions, I’m just glad to be here, national championship as a freshman.”
Davis was everywhere in this game. In the first half, he blocked Chane Behanan’s shot inside. He swatted Chris Smith’s shot from the perimeter.
“Well, Anthony Davis, he’s a great player,” Smith said. “He can change every shot.”
Davis beat Gorgui Dieng downcourt and deflected a ball that was thrown ahead for a Dieng fastbreak.
He banked in a 10-footer off the window.
And in the game’s final minutes, he threw down a sick one-handed alley-oop dunk off a pass from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
“I just threw it as high as I can,” Kidd-Gilchrist told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “‘Here, Ant.’ He got it.”
Said Davis: “I knew I could make plays down there. I was asking for the ball. My team needs me to play well just like I need my team to play well. I think that’s what we did tonight.”
Funny thing, John Calipari said when asked about the Bill Russell comparisons, is that Davis didn’t do much differently on this night — on the biggest stage — from what he’s been doing all season.
“He’s played like this all year,” Calipari said before turning to Davis. “You think it was better than the other games you played? It was kind of how he’s played all year, it’s how he’s been. He defers to his team. He’s a great teammate.”
Davis has one more game in his college career before David Stern announces him as the No. 1 pick in the June 28 NBA Draft at The Prudential Center.
Whether he turns out to be anything close to what Bill Russell was remains to be seen. That’s asking a whole lot.
But for now, basketball fans everywhere should simply appreciate what they are seeing.
Photo: Mike Miller
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.