Strange times call for strange stories — strange stories about strange games. It’s the beauty of the 82-game regular season: Sometimes things can happen in a game you’ll never see again. Every now and again, an incredible performance emerges from the unlikeliest of places. Here are five out-of-nowhere Grizzlies outings.
I completely forgot this happened. Absolutely zero memory of it. You want to know how bizarre this game was? It’s the only one in which the player himself uploaded his own highlight package to YouTube with the title “My Best NBA Game.” And it’s had fewer than 1,300 views in three years. Let’s bump those numbers up a little, huh? Have a look!
Jones looks like a superstar. He was on Day 8 of a 10-day contract, having previously played for Philadelphia and Denver. He played collegiately at Washington, so the chance to play Seattle held extra significance for Jones, who outplayed then-rookie Kevin Durant on the night. Can’t take that night away from him. Jones wasn’t even supposed to play, but starting small forward Rudy Gay had to miss the game due to flu-like symptoms. Gay was to be replaced by then-head coach Marc Iavaroni’s favorite bench player, Casey Jacobsen, but Jacobsen was a late scratch as well. So Jones started and played 40 minutes and set a standard he never reached again.
He signed an additional 10-day contract but was eventually released. Jones played for three other teams that season, but he never approached the 20-point mark in a game again. He ended up playing overseas, primarily in Italy, for the remainder of his professional career.
For sheer out-of-nowhere-ness, it’s hard to beat a near-triple-double.
2. Jevon Carter vs. Golden State, April 10, 2019
Statline: 32 points (8 of 12 from 3) in 26 minutes
This was the final game Carter played as a Grizzly. And what a way to go out, with a performance that completely defied all expectations about what Carter could do on the floor. It was the final game of last year’s regular season, and the Grizzlies were just days away from a massive overhaul, on the coaching staff and in the front office. Of course, no one on the floor knew that at the time. Instead, what was happening was a unique evening of basketball craziness. Before we even get to Carter, there was another wild statistical outburst in this game: Delon Wright finished with a third triple-double in a week … after having had only two double-doubles (and no triple-doubles) in the first 194 games of his career.
But even Wright’s triple-doubles couldn’t hold a candle to the outside onslaught from the unlikeliest of sources. Carter had played in 38 games in 2018-19 prior to the season finale and had hit a 3-pointer in only 13 of them. He was drafted as a defensive specialist, and he did that well. But on offense, uh, not so much. Going into that game, he had only 26 3s for the season and was shooting 29 percent from deep. He had never scored more than 15 points in a game and was shooting 30 percent from the field overall. If you were going to bet that one of the players on the floor that night would exceed 30 points, you’d surely have picked Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant. If you had asked people before the game which is likelier, Carter getting 30 points or Durant scoring 80, most would have said the latter. I would have. And I’d have been wrong.
Carter did it in just 26 minutes! And again, against Durant, who has somehow found himself on the court in Memphis for two incredibly strange games. Carter authored what is surely one of the most unlikely 30-point performances in NBA history, and considering he has still never scored more than 15 points in any other game, it’s probably never going to happen again.
3. Lorenzen Wright vs. Dallas, Nov. 4, 2001
Statline: 33 points, 26 rebounds
Still hard to believe Wright is no longer with us. And though his untimely death remains a tragedy, he left behind a legacy of outstanding on-court performances, none more jaw-dropping than this 33-point, 26-rebound outburst. It came in only the third game in Memphis Grizzlies history, with the team in the midst of what would turn out to be a franchise-opening eight-game losing streak. The opponent was the Dallas Mavericks, who were just starting to turn into the team that would be a playoff staple and eventual champion in the decade to come.
Wright had a field day inside, terrorizing Mavs bigs Shawn Bradley, Juwan Howard and Evan Eschmeyer with his energetic play. The Grizzlies shot the ball terribly, which helped Wright amass nine offensive rebounds and more than a few putbacks. And though the Grizzlies didn’t win the game, this was the first real signature NBA performance by a Memphis player — made even more special by the fact that it was the hometown kid, the former University of Memphis star doing it in the arena where he played college basketball.
Wright never had more points or more rebounds in any other game in his career. Since 1980, there have been only 24 games in which a player scored at least 30 points and had at least 25 rebounds, and one of those, surprisingly, belongs to Wright.
4. Tony Allen vs. L.A. Lakers, March 22, 2016
Statline: 27 points on 12 of 12 shooting
It was always going to be a special night in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant’s final season was winding down. It was a particularly notable night for Allen, though, as Bryant had always considered Allen the toughest defender he ever faced. The mutual respect between the two was evident throughout, and Allen managed to put together a historic game in tribute to Bryant.
No one expected Allen’s history-making performance to be on the offensive end, though. That night, he did something no one else in a Grizzlies uniform has ever done, not Ja Morant, not Pau or Marc Gasol, not Mike Conley, not Zach Randolph — no one. Of all people, it was Allen who went a perfect 12 of 12 from the field en route to a 27-point performance. No other player in franchise history has taken more than 10 shots in a game and made them all. It’s even more incredible when you consider that Allen made 10 or more shots in a game only three times in his tenure with his Grizzlies.
The best defensive player in the team’s history has his name in the record books for an offensive performance. And to do it on the final night he would ever play against Bryant made it extra special.
5. Stromile Swift vs. L.A. Lakers, March 22, 2007
Statline: six fouls in 5:34
This game has been much more widely known for a spectacular Kobe Bryant performance. Bryant was in the midst of an incredible scoring streak and arrived in Memphis having scored 115 points combined in his previous two games. He ended up with 60 against the Grizzlies — which stands as the single-game record at FedExForum — and the Lakers needed them all to pull out a 121-119 victory.
Also incredible: Many of the fans in attendance weren’t even watching him do it. Instead, they were focused on the Memphis Tigers game against Texas A&M in the Sweet 16. Yes, that’s right — as the Tigers game against the Aggies went down to the wire, the Grizzlies basketball operations staff elected to show the action live on the big screen while the Lakers and Grizzlies were playing. This led to a weird scene when Lamar Odom was shooting free throws and was distracted by rowdy cheering from the stands as the fans watched Memphis Tiger guard Antonio Anderson hit two clutch late free throws of his own. Lakers coach Phil Jackson stomped his way over to the scorer’s table, complaining loudly, and referee Bob Delaney ordered the Grizzlies to turn off the Tigers game.
And yet the most out-of-nowhere random performance was that of Swift, who managed the NBA’s fifth-fastest foul out. Swift picked up six fouls in just 5:34 of game action, earning himself a prime seat to watch all the other drama of the night unfold. Swift was never known for his basketball IQ, but this performance was ridiculous. No other Grizzlies player had ever fouled out in fewer than 10 minutes before, and none has since.