What makes a basketball player great?
When many people think of basketball greatness, they often think of “killers” like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant—players who often coldly and ruthlessly won games based off what seemed to be their own raw talent and mentality.
Bryant in particular was a different breed. He was someone who not only wanted to beat you but also humiliate you in the process. As he said through a young kid in his “Musecage” on Kawhi Leonard, he wanted to destroy his competition not only physically, but spiritually. He wanted to destroy them so completely, so utterly, on both ends of the court that they would never want their loved ones to come watch them play ever again.
He was almost sociopathic in nature in how he approached the game of basketball. But it was what made him great. And even as a fan of an opposing team, you could just feel his greatness whenever he stepped on the court.
It was an aura, an unshakable sense of almost divine purpose that permeated him. It’s an aura of greatness that all of the greatest players in NBA history share.
It’s an aura that the Memphis Grizzlies and the rest of the NBA can already see flashes of in Jaren Jackson Jr.
Now make no mistake: Jackson is certainly no Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, or Kevin Garnett. Those players were merciless machines in a way that Jackson’s personality will likely never allow him to be.
He’s also not a unicorn like Kristaps Porzingis or Karl-Anthony Towns. No, he’s more of a freaking behemoth.
So who exactly is Jaren Jackson Jr., and what makes him so great at such a young age?
To put it simply, his greatness is found in his uniqueness. There is essentially no player like him in NBA history.
Of course, enough has already been said about his almost unprecedented versatility at the age of 19. He’s currently 5th in the NBA in blocks at 2.2 per game, and he’s shooting 35% from three. His per-36 minute numbers are also generally superior to both those of Anthony Davis and Kevin Garnett during their rookie years in their rookie campaigns (and he is months younger than both of them were).
He’s a player who not only will be able to dominate the game on both ends of the court, but he is also capable of it now. There have been times where he has looked like an immaculate monster on the defensive end of the court, such as when he blocked four shots in in just over a four-minute span against the New York Knicks. There have also been times where he has overwhelmed his opponents inside the paint offensively, such as when he scored an easy 27 points against the Sacramento Kings.