In terms of overall success, the history of professional basketball in New Orleans is not what any of us would call illustrious.
The New Orleans Jazz never had a winning record in its five year run before moving to Utah. And since the NBA returned to the city in 2002, the Hornets/Pelicans franchise has won just a single postseason series.
While that is the case, however, we’ve seen some transcendent players come through our region. “Pistol” Pete Maravich. Chris Paul. And now Anthony Davis, who has exploded back into the nation’s consciousness by putting together one of the truly dominating individual runs we’ve ever seen.
Davis posted 44 points, 17 rebounds, six steals and three blocks in what was thought to be a big performance in an otherwise inconsequential 138-128 victory over Brooklyn. The Pels had just lost DeMarcus Cousins to an Achilles injury and their season was almost universally thought destined short of making the playoffs, or at the very least for just a short stay once there.
Instead it was just the beginning. Davis piled up 38 points and 10 rebounds against Detroit. It was a line of 42-15 against the Lakers, then 45-17 over Miami. All three games were wins.
Milwaukee “held” Davis to 27-13 in a Sunday matinee victory, before the Brow exploded for 53-18 at home against Phoenix. Everyone probably had an inkling a road game at San Antonio would prove a daunting task for both Davis individually and his team, but he scored 26 and grabbed 15 rebounds in a 121-116 win, the team’s most impressive win since losing Cousins on Jan. 26.
New Orleans easily dispatched Dallas on Sunday and then the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday. That’s nine straight wins, Davis averaging 37.7 points, 14.6 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 2.8 blocks per game over that span. The Pelicans have moved into the top four in the Western Conference and are challenging to host a first round playoff series.
It’s the kind of stretch that very, very few players in NBA history could even approach putting together. While the Pelicans’ history is filled with instances of heartache and pulling the rug out from their fans, this memorable stretch is something that cannot be taken away: this is Anthony Davis leveling up, proving to the world that yes, he can be the central figure on a winning club and that, for weeks at a time, he can prove completely and utterly unstoppable.
I’ll be the first to admit, I can get lost in the idea of what we don’t have in sports fandom. I’ve always wanted to have that NBA team here that’s playing in huge playoff series in front of a packed house, because for me, there’s nothing quite like high-stakes basketball. That has been the rarest of birds here.
But having said that, I’ve also been blessed as a fan to see Chris Paul dominate the point guard position here in a way few others have ever done. And now here’s Davis, a nearly 7-foot big man with a seemingly impossible combination of skills, a player whose ceiling we can’t truly measure because he’s shown the capability to do virtually everything.
And he’s 24-years-old. He’s going to get better.
There are pro sports cities out there that have perhaps never seen true greatness go to work night in and night out. We’ve had Paul, we have Davis, and across the street from the Smoothie King Center, Drew Brees still plies his trade (and let’s get that contract done, Mickey Loomis). These guys represent the one percent of what they do.
And in Davis’ case, he’s just getting started.