Anthony Davis still has plenty more basketball to play.
But Sunday, the Pelicans’ 22-year old superstar forward played the game that will likely follow him around long after his ever-blossoming NBA career comes to an end.
Much like Wilt’s 100 or Kobe’s 81 or Jordan’s 63, folks will likely be talking about AD’s 59 and 20 for years to come.
“Remember that day AD went crazy against Detroit?” someone in New Orleans will surely ask years from now.
They’ll remember exactly where they were when Davis exploded in the Pelicans’ much needed 111-106 road victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.
At least those who were actually watching it will.
Most NBA fans were probably on their couch, watching LeBron, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook battle in a nationally televised game on ABC between Cleveland and Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, Davis was putting on a show for the ages on regional cable and trending worldwide on Twitter by the time the game ended.
He was Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett all rolled into one.
He is the youngest player to score 59 points in a game. Ever.
The 59 points are the most points scored in an NBA game this season, surpassing the 56 that Sacramento forward DeMarcus Cousins scored against Charlotte in January.
In fact, the 59 points is the most points scored in an NBA game since LeBron James scored 61 two seasons ago in March 2014.
But Davis’ big day wasn’t just about the points. It was also about the 20 rebounds, leaving him just one shy of tying his career mark in that category.
As his points and boards mounted up, sportswriters scrambled to put his historical day in perspective.
In the past 30 years, only Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Webber have recorded games with 50 or more points and 20 rebounds. Davis was still just a kid in Chicago back when O’Neal and Webber accomplished their feats in 2000 and 2001.
But here’s what makes AD’s day so special compared to those two.
One. Shaq’s 61-point, 23-rebound game came on his 28th birthday.
AD hasn’t even reached his 23rd birthday, so Sunday’s epic performance may just be scratching the surface for the guy who showed all afternoon why many think he is the future face of the league.
Two. Shaq’s big game came in a double-digit win. Webber’s 51-point, 26-rebound game came in a loss.
AD’s game came in a close win; a much-needed one against a solid Detroit team that, much like the Pelicans, is in desperation mode trying to scrap its way into the playoffs.
The Pelicans, trying to recover from a dismal start to the season, are 11th in the West and six games out of the all-important eighth place.
The Pistons are ninth in the East.
And while Sunday’s victory didn’t come against a heavyweight like the Spurs, the Warriors or the Cavaliers, it was still big. It was the Pelicans’ fourth win in the past five games, although none of those four wins came against teams with winning records. It came on the road, the Pelicans’ first road victory against an Eastern Conference team all season.
Most times, the Pelicans find a way to let winnable games like this one slip away.
This time, they didn’t.
Davis wasn’t going to let them. He shot an incredible 24-of-34 from the floor, including 2-of-2 from 3-point range. He also made 9-of-10 on free throws.
If he had made that 10th free throw, he would have had a 60-20 game, joining an exclusive club whose only members are Shaq and Wilt.
Instead, he had to settle for a stat line of 59 points, 20 rebounds and four assists. (AD, Shaq and Wilt are the only players to ever record 55 points and 20 rebounds in a game).
He had 40 points by the end of the third quarter, putting his career high of 43 (accomplished three times) well within reach.
AD saved his best for the fourth quarter when he scored 19 on his way to putting his name right beside what reads like a who’s who among NBA greats.
He became the second-youngest player in NBA history with a 50-point, 20-rebound game. Only Bob McAdoo did it at a younger age.
It was also the most points scored in the Palace of Auburn Hills, surpassing LeBron’s 48-point outburst in the 2007 playoffs.
AD also set a new franchise record, surpassing Jamal Mashburn’s old mark of 50 points in a game.
As incredible as his day was, though, it still wasn’t the most points scored by a professional basketball player in New Orleans.
Pistol Pete Maravich, playing for the New Orleans Jazz, scored 68 points against the New York Knicks in 1977.
But Davis still has plenty of time.
The most impressive number from Sunday?
He’s only 22.