I can still remember when O.J. Mayo was making headlines as a high school athlete. Often touted as the best player in his high school class, it was anticipated that O.J. would make a big, immediate splash in the NBA. However, he was ineligible to enter the draft at 19 because of the “one year out” rule in the 2005 CBA, so he joined the Trojans of USC for his obligatory year in college. This move was not without its controversy, as Mayo had a verbal commitment to Kansas State before opting to attend the University of Southern California. It was later revealed that O.J. had received gifts in exchange for his season at USC, and any subsequent wins were vacated. But that ripple didn’t have a chance to lap against O.J.’s feet, as he made the jump from college basketball to the NBA. Mayo was drafted 3rd by the Minnesota Timberwolves and was immediately shipped to Memphis in a deal for Kevin Love. It was now time to see what the young man could do.
O.J.’s rookie year was not as amazing as had been anticipated, though it is hard to sneeze at his nearly 20 points per game. Keep in mind, his rookie performance was phenomenal, but he had been heavily advertised as the next player to take the game by storm. This he was not, due greatly to the fact that he shared the court with Memphis front man, Rudy Gay. A star can’t shine its brightest in the light of another. The following season, the Grizzlies acquired Zach Randolph from the L.A. Clippers and Mayo saw his role diminish further. With All Star Center Marc Gasol coming into his own, the Grizzlies were becoming a team focused on dominating the paint; not something Mayo excelled at. With the addition of defensive specialist, Tony Allen, the year after that, O.J. faded into a bench role. You hate to see a talented player pushed into a corner, but, let’s face it, it happens. What shine he had left was reduced to a sparkle on a team where he didn’t fit. When his contract was up, the Grizzlies did not sign his qualifying offer and let him slip into unrestricted free agency.
This was probably the best thing to happen for O.J. Mayo. He was quickly seduced by the 2011 champion Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs were also fading, as they had, some would say, foolishly traded away many assets after attaining the title. Now here’s the last piece of the puzzle that brought Mayo to the spotlight; Mavericks Power Forward, Dirk Nowitzki opted for knee surgery just before the start of this season. O.J. has never played for a team where he was the true first option to score. O.J. is finally playing like the player he was said to be. He leads the Mavs in scoring and is currently the 8th leading scorer in the league as a whole. All while shooting an unprecedented 52.3% from the arc! He even tied his career high 40 points last Saturday; a feat unseen from Mayo since his rookie season. Dallas is lucky to have him, and he is lucky to have Dallas.
Of course, it will be interesting to see how things change when Nowitzki returns, but I think he’ll continue his success. It is hard to imagine a Memphis repeat at this stage of the game. Mayo has been truly fantastic. His bench days are over. Only 4 years into his NBA career, he has a long, prosperous road ahead of him, and it’s about time he got some love. His success may not have been immediate, but he’s making headlines once again. Do not underestimate this man. He is one of the quickest shooting guards in the NBA and he’s a threat to pull up and score at any time from any place. He’s all shined up and ready for stardom. Sit back and enjoy the glow.