SB Nation

Ryan Nanni | June 12, 2014

SB Nation Reviews

Antonio and Dale Davis

SB Nation Reviews:

Antonio and Dale Davis

by Ryan Nanni
5.6 Style
6.5 Performance
6.05 Overall

Internet in the mid to late 1990s was a limited commodity. Units of usage time were accounted for and rationed, and your point of access was almost certainly a desktop computer, either yours or the library's. The arguments and questions we settle in seconds now with a smartphone were often left unanswered then. This is how I had a two year debate with a friend in high school over whether Dom DeLuise was dead or not (he wasn't, though he did pass away eight years after we graduated). We were simply too lazy to remember to go home and look it up.

So, if you were watching an Indiana Pacers game between 1993 and 1999 and heard Antonio and Dale Davis referred to as "the Davis Boys," you likely couldn't say for certain if the two were, in fact, brothers.

Antonio was born on October 31, 1968 in Oakland. Dale's birth in North Georgia followed about five months later. Barring some unusual dual surrogate situation, that means the two are not brothers in the strictest biological sense of the word. But you didn't know that back then, and even if you had, you'd have probably grouped the two tough Pacer forwards with the shared surname together. No reason to change that now.

Style 5.6

Dale and Antonio Davis were not the stars or the most attention-grabbing members of the 1990s Pacers; that was Reggie Miller. Neither was Indiana's key big man; that was Rik Smits. There is no Night Where Antonio Killed The Knicks or Game Where Dale Put Up 30 Against The Hawks. In the absence of memorable highlights, there are two other ways we can determine the style of a basketball player from this era.

The first is NBA Jam, but it is largely useless to us here. Dale never appeared in the series, and Antonio was only on the extended Pacers roster in Tournament Edition. He had absurdly inflated attributes, including a speed rating of eight and a three point rating of six. By comparison, he is as fast (according to the game) as Gary Payton and as deadly behind the arc as Tim Hardaway. Antonio Davis made two threes in his entire career. Let us reject this outrageously gauche and unrepresentative version of him and move on.

The second and more reliable option is to consult basketball cards.

An eBay search yielded 26 cards for Dale and 16 for Antonio as Pacers. Those cards can be subdivided based on what the Davis in question is doing on the front:

Davises_medium

If 90s You asked for a Dale Davis card, there was an almost 40% chance you'd get one where he wasn't really doing anything exciting. Establishing position is an important skill for a big man, but it is not particularly stylish, and it is certainly not something a child would have been excited to spend hard-earned allowance money to see in trading card form.

The odds improved quite a bit if you asked for an Antonio card, though you might end up with this.

(Dale: 5.2, Antonio: 6.0, Average: 5.6)

Performance 6.5

Your memory tells you the Davises were both hard hitting, board crashing forwards who did their work at both ends under the rim, and you are 25% correct. The player you are describing is Dale Davis for most of his Pacers tenure. Take Game 6 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals, where Dale contributed 19 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks in a series-extending win. He spent this game as the basketball version of a migratory bird, moving from the low post on defense to the low post on offense without ever considering going somewhere else on the court.

(In fairness, the Bulls decided to have Toni Kukoc guard Dale for long stretches of this game. Kukoc reacts like he is being asked to move a piece of furniture that is too heavy for him to lift and too wide for him to grip.)

This Dale Davis does not stray from the post because there is nothing of interest for him outside of it. His diet consists of field goal attempts near the hoop and tough defense in the lane. He cannot properly digest other basketball food. The proof of that is contained in this list of free throw percentages for individual players in the 1997-98 season:

Marcus Camby - .611
Chris Gatling - .600
Vin Baker - .591
Bo Outlaw - .575
Shaquille O'Neal - .527
Dale Davis - .465

I stopped the list there because nobody was worse at shooting free throws than Dale Davis that year. An assistant Pacers coach could actually have said, "Dale, we just need to get your free throw percentage to Bo Outlaw levels. That would really help the team a lot."

If Dale is a bird staying within his natural habitat, Antonio is a scavenger, moving anywhere on the court where he might be able to make an impact. He sets screens, passes the ball quickly, reacts to the double team well, and rarely stops moving on offense. On defense he's just as active, closing out on the perimeter and providing help defense when he can while remaining a presence in the lane. Antonio Davis only started 60 games in six seasons with Indiana, but, in all but one year, he finished second on the team in total rebounds. Watch a game early in Antonio's career or in his final season - you can tell these minutes mattered to him.

That was the distinction for years. Dale was the one who started and played like he wasn't going to lose the job. He did what was expected of him, and he did it damn well. Antonio was the one who came off the bench and played like he wanted to grab that starting gig more than anything in the world. But the statistical differences don't end up amounting to much. Dale is a little bit better at rebounding and blocking shots, and Antonio scores at a slightly better rate.

Then an interesting thing happened during the 1998 lockout: Dale decided to get better. He spent time with offensive coaches and raised his free throw percentage by a staggering fifteen points. The Pacers returned to the Eastern Conference Finals, but they had a new Dale on their side. The new Dale moved freely on offense rather than anchoring himself to the lane, and he found space that allowed him to catch and move to the basket in one fluid motion instead of backing someone down. The new Dale didn't let his assignment float away from him for long jumpers on defense, all without sacrificing his rebounding and shot blocking contributions. The new Dale kind of looked like Antonio.

(Dale: 6.6, Antonio: 6.4, Average: 6.5)

Overall 6.05

Antonio and Dale Davis don't have the same parents, and they weren't raised in the same household. But they played together, and they backed each other up. They fought over the same territory. They were very much alike, except when they weren't. They experienced successes and failures as distinct individuals. And when they went their separate ways, they still got asked about one another regularly, a pairing that circumstance could never fully break apart.

Hell, that sounds a lot like being brothers.

(Dale: 5.9, Antonio: 6.2, Average: 6.05)



Previously on SB Nation Reviews: Willie McGee | The Vinces | Michael Chang | Vince McMahon

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