Here’s a list of names that were once named NBA Summer League MVP in their respective careers:
Go over that list again. Done? Good. If you’re asking yourself, “Who’s Josh Selby?”, you’re probably not alone. That list is composed of stars and go-to guys, except for one Josh Selby, whose name sounds more like an indie country singer than starting point guard.
Selby, not a musician, is a 6’2” PG who can get buckets like Kyrie Irving. You must be saying, “Hold up. Are we comparing an unknown-like Josh Selby to NBA champion Kyrie Irving now? What has Selby done?” Nothing much, really.
But for a couple of days in the summer of 2012, Selby–armed with a sleeve and a headband in his No. 2 jersey–looked like he was on his way to becoming the next big thing. He was a rockstar. Does Irving have a Summer League MVP trophy right next to his globe on his shelf at home? No, he doesn’t. Selby does.
You may think Irving is catching strays here without reason, but check this out. A Summer League highlight reel featuring Selby and Lillard exists on YouTube. It runs for less than two minutes and has a bit of Selby’s long-range prowess and a lot of prehistoric Dame Time. Selby looked really good here, in the few seconds you see him. Too good, that he got to share video space–and co-MVP honors–with Lillard.
Selby was in the same 2011 draft class as Irving, but whereas Irving landed as the top overall pick, Selby fell to No. 49. The Memphis Grizzlies snatched him despite playing only 26 games in college. He had no Summer League experience in his rookie year, which showed when the season began. He only played 28 games that year, averaging 2.3 points per game. It’s as if he was waiting for summer to come to ball out.
When summer ‘12 came, he balled out, indeed.
Sophomore Selby averaged an astounding 24.2 points per game for the Grizzlies on 64 percent shooting from 3. He shot 3s with so much confidence and efficiency that it felt as if he was retroactively correcting the mistake of passing up on him 48 times in the draft. He was that good.
In those few Summer League showcases, Selby flexed his hops and splashed his way to another shot at the league. Give him the minutes, the spotlight, and the ball, and this is what he can do. Strip him of all of that, then what you get is his second (and last) season in the NBA. It lasted for only 10 games.
The Summer League is this small crevice in space and time—it plays out in its own universe and timeline, with minimal stakes for some, but at the same time, it could be everything for others.
It happens just as the NBA Finals magic is starting to wear off and teams are in a scramble to shape up for the next season, whether on paper or in the gym. It’s there to keep the NBA community busy during the offseason.
Josh Selby’s NBA career didn’t flourish despite dominating the 2011 Summer League. His basketball career thrived through and it took him to places around the world to compete at an elite level.
He’ll always have the title of co-MVP with an All-NBA player like Lillard. That’s something. For Josh Selby, it was everything.