LeBron James did not even need to know any details to be skeptical. While talk show hosts and casual fans stood in awe over Jack Taylor‘s record-setting 138-point game for Division III Grinnell College, the best basketball player on the planet played along while remaining realistically dubious.
“It’s unbelievable, honestly,” James said, according to ESPN. “I would like to see the game. I want to see the game.”
James’ reaction was played off as being impressed, as was the reaction of Kobe Bryant, who scored 81 points in a 2006 game, as though their “I’d like to see that” remarks were merely expressions of admiration. But James and Bryant, who have played quite a bit of basketball over the years, were being quite literal, because disbelief was the honest reaction of anybody who has watched more than a handful of organized basketball games in his or her lifetime.
Seriously, did you really believe a human being could score 138 points on the up-and-up? If so, how often have you sent your bank account number to that rich foreign uncle you never heard of who emailed you out of the blue about an inheritance? Be honest.
Comparing college basketball across divisions can be dangerous. Even at Grinnell’s D-III level, the quality of the programs varies from professional, well-run organizations to total circuses. But just to put Taylor’s scoring output in context, there were 18 Division I games played on Tuesday, when Grinnell faced that epic powerhouse, Faith Baptist Bible. Of those games, seven did not even feature 138 points scored by both teams combined.
Wilt Chamberlain did not get his 100 points against the Knicks on that night in Hershey, Pa., without some questionable gamesmanship, so some level of wackiness was to be expected from Taylor’s performance. Still, the depth of the foolishness purportedly orchestrated by Grinnell coach David Arseneault goes beyond normal bounds. Purposely allowing the opponent to score so your team can get the ball back more quickly is not real basketball. That is Harlem Globetrotters stuff, and at last check, Globetrotters records do not count.
This is why all records not associated solely with winning need to be taken with a grain of salt. No record better sums up the difference between Chamberlain and Bill Russell than the single-game scoring mark. Chamberlain had his “100”-written-on-a-piece-of-paper moment; Russell has 11 NBA championship rings. Rajon Rondo may want to keep this in mind while he pursues the record for consecutive games with double-digit assists.
In a matter of days, Taylor’s accomplishment went from being celebrated to questioned to myth-busted. Even Jeremy Lin would have been dizzied by that timeline of going from anonymity to hero to goat. But unlike Linsanity, there was no roller coaster of emotions toward Grinnell-gate for anyone who has ever watched, played or rationally thought about the game of basketball for any length of time.
The record is a bunch of hooey, but Taylor himself does not deserve any backlash. All he did was follow his coach’s instructions and keep hitting shots. If Taylor had had a sudden pang of conscience and intentionally stopped scoring, that would have been an even worse mockery of the competitive spirit of the game. If the blame must be laid anywhere, sling it onto Arseneault and let the 22-year-old sophomore be.
Yet not even Arseneault is as guilty as anyone who saw “138” in the box score and bought that load of goods. This record was bogus from the moment it was conceived, and it is no surprise it was quickly exposed as a farce.
Photo via Twitter/Jason Schwabe