Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies should be one of the NBA season’s biggest success stories. After missing the first month of action recovering from injury, he came back with a vengeance and emerged as a frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year.

But over the weekend, Jackson became the subject of a social media conspiracy theory that briefly threatened his feel-good story. Reddit user “AdMassive6666” published a treatise on allegedly “fraudulent numbers,” arguing that a Grizzlies scorekeeper has been inflating Jackson’s defensive stats.

“In fewer minutes per game than other players (Jaren) Jackson repeatedly gets outlandish block numbers at home,” the Reddit user wrote.

Reddit post on Jaren Jackson Jr.’s stats

In a very lengthy Reddit post, AdMassive6666 offered a range of evidence for his or her theory, including detailed descriptions of the plays that resulted in Jackson being credited with a block.

He or she argued the gap between Jackson’s defensive performance during home and away games couldn’t be naturally occurring and that a Memphis scorekeeper must be engaged in fraud.

The post quickly racked up thousands of comments, many of which expressed support for the conspiracy theory.

Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (13) handles the ball against Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) in the first half of a game Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. | Brandon Dill, Associated Press

Within just a few hours, the Reddit post made enough of a stir that high-profile NBA analysts embarked on fact-finding missions. Folks like Kirk Goldsberry and Kevin O’Connor reviewed footage of Jackson’s defensive plays, eventually concluding that nothing scandalous was afoot.

“I watched every block by Jaren Jackson Jr. in slow motion from alternate angles. ... Only 3 of his 66 home blocks are incorrectly labeled, a completely insignificant amount,” O’Connor tweeted.

NBA experts debunk the Jaren Jackson Jr. theory

As O’Connor noted, camera angle matters when you’re trying to fact-check stats. Someone who only has access to the main NBA broadcast can’t understand the full extent of a scorekeeper’s work.

Other basketball experts who observed the fallout from the Reddit post pointed out that confusion about the NBA’s stat-keeping process likely also played a role.

Fans may not realize that team scorekeepers work in coordination with the league and that their decisions are double- (if not triple- and quadruple-) checked, said a former NBA scorekeeper to The Athletic.

“A lot of those cases, we would, by default, just take a quick second look. If it was close, we would take more of a look,” the former scorekeeper said.

An NBA spokesman offered a similar account of the stat-keeping process in a statement to NBC Sports about the controversial Reddit post.

“In order to ensure the integrity of our game statistics, auditors, independent of the statisticians on-site, review all plays and stats decisions in real-time during NBA games,” spokesman Tim Frank said. “If changes are necessary, they are made at that time or following a postgame review. All of the plays questioned in the post on Memphis games were scored consistently within the rules set forth by the NBA statisticians manual.”

Who was behind the Jaren Jackson Jr. Reddit post?

As a result of the pushback from NBA experts and the league, Reddit ultimately labeled the post about Jaren Jackson Jr.’s stats as “misleading.”

And Jackson did his part to silence the conspiracy theorists by putting up big numbers Sunday during his team’s 112-100 win against the Indiana Pacers.

Jackson played so well, in fact, that some NBA fans began questioning whether the Reddit post originated from within Grizzlies fandom and represented an attempt to get an even brighter spotlight on Jackson’s defensive strengths.

“The call is coming from inside Memphis,” joked Trey Kerby, one of the cohosts of the “No Dunks” podcast on Monday.

Karl Malone and John Stockton of the Utah Jazz tap hands following a good play against the New York Knicks, Tuesday, Nov.12, 2002 in New York. The Jazz won, 108-87. | Mark Lennihan, Associated Press

What does John Stockton have to do with Jaren Jackson Jr.?

Although the controversy surrounding Jaren Jackson Jr.’s stats was resolved quickly, it served as a reminder of how suspicious NBA fans can be about stats.

Several of this weekend’s social media posts about Jackson referenced older scandals, such as when Utah Jazz scorekeepers were accused of inflating John Stockton’s total number of assists.

“I don’t like saying never, but ain’t nobody catching that. I don’t know who the statisticians were, who used to do the stats in Utah, but ain’t nobody catching that,” said NBA star Chris Paul about Stockton’s numbers a few years ago. (He later walked back the comment, saying that he merely wanted to applaud Stockton’s durability, according to Fansided.)

Ben Anderson, the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports, tweeted that O’Connor should take on the Stockton drama in a future Twitter thread.

“Now do Stockton’s assists in Utah,” Anderson said in response to O’Connor’s posts about Jackson.