He Went 17 Straight NBA Games Without Scoring a Point
Charles Jones carved out a lengthy NBA career despite almost never shooting the ball.
Over the course of NBA history, and perhaps more so than ever in today’s league of ultra-efficient offenses and unprecedented three-point wizardry, we have come to idolize the great scorers of the game — those with the ability to make defenders look silly, generate quality looks at will, and splash the ball into the net. After all, who wouldn’t be a fan of such hardwood artistry?
But as we stare, mouths agape at these mesmerizing displays of bucket-getting, it’s easy to forget that the game is so much deeper than a wild-west duel between the James Hardens and Damian Lillards of the world. There have been many players who have played significant roles on teams, and some that would even be considered stars, that were never dominant on offense at all.
Take Dennis Rodman, for example. Rodman led the NBA in rebounding seven consecutive seasons in the 90s. He made NBA All-Defensive teams eight times, won Defensive Player of the Year twice, was part of five NBA Championship teams, and made the Hall of Fame, all while averaging just 7.3 points per game for his career, crossing into double-digits in just one season.
In his three seasons with the Chicago Bulls, Rodman averaged more than 15 rebounds per game, all while taking less than five shots per game in almost 35 minutes of action. Rodman didn’t need to shoot the ball to be successful, but one NBA player active during the same time period took offensive evasion to another level entirely.
Now, I’m always going to love a player like Charles “Gadget” Jones. Originally from Arkansas, Jones played college ball at Division-II Albany State (Georgia) before being drafted 165th overall in the eighth round of the 1979 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns.
Waived before the season, Jones spent the next few years in the Continental Basketball Association and overseas before playing his first NBA game for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1984 at the age of 26. After bouncing around a few more teams, Jones signed with the Washington Bullets in February 1985, immediately crafting out a role on a team where he’d spend the next eight seasons and play a total of 595 games, including 408 starts.
Listed at 6'9" and 215 pounds, Jones played both power forward and center in what would become a 15-year NBA career. While never an impactful scorer (obviously more on this shortly), he was a solid rebounder and more importantly a great rim protector and enforcer, averaging 2.9 blocks per 36 minutes for his career and retiring with more fouls than points scored.
For as great as he was at blocking shots, Jones was even more impressive in how minimally he took them. Of players who appeared in at least 500 career games, Jones is the only one not to take at least five shots per 36 minutes played. In fact, he’s even under four.
Even dropping the qualification to 100 games, the only players in the same ballpark as Jones are Michael Ruffin (3.8 FGA/36 in 414 games) and Joel Anthony (4.0FGA/36 in 490 games).
When you start to look at individual seasons, it gets even more ridiculous. In seasons where a player recorded at least 500 minutes, Jones’ 1992–93 campaign with the Bullets holds the record for fewest field goal attempts per 36 minutes. Altogether, Jones holds four spots in the top 10.
In that 1992–93 season, Jones appeared in 67 games and took only 63 shots. With 1,206 minutes played, this means Jones shot the ball about once every 19 minutes he was on the floor. That season, the average team attempted 86 shots per game. That means the average player took 12.8 shots per 36 minutes. Again, Jones took 1.9.
But incredibly, that wasn’t Jones’ most impressive run of offensive invisibility. For that, we need to go to the 1995–96 season, Jones’ first full season with the Houston Rockets.
Jones had joined the team in time for the last three games of the 1994–95 regular season and went on to appear in 19 of Houston’s 22 playoff games during their title run in the 1995 playoffs, where he scored a grand total of 14 points and committed 55 fouls, 8.4 per 36 minutes.
On November 26, 1995, “Gadget” Jones recorded four points and grabbed five rebounds in 10 minutes of action in a two-point loss to the Detroit Pistons. He wouldn’t score again until the following February. Over the course of 17 straight games, Jones failed to register a single point. It’s the longest scoreless streak in NBA history.
At this point in his career, the 38-year old Jones was little more than a reserve player. In fact, in these 17 games, Jones only played 54 minutes. However, he still managed to miss four field goals and five free throws over the scoreless run.
With Jones’ career shooting percentages, the odds of him missing all nine shots were 1,692 to 1. Sure, he didn’t shoot much, but he was still very unlucky.
The 17-game streak marked the beginning of a 29-game run where Jones managed just four points. In total, Jones played 297 minutes across 46 games in the 1995–96 season and scored 16 points. Despite this offensive performance, he still remained a defensive force, blocking shots as effectively as he had his entire career.
Charles Jones only once finished a season with more made field goals than blocked shots, but he remains an excellent example that there is more to the game of basketball than scoring, and if you can play to your strengths and do a few things very well, you can stay in the league for a long time.
Only 10 players have ever seen action in an NBA game after their 41st birthday. One of them is, you guessed it — Charles Jones.
Connor Groel is currently enrolled in the Northwestern University MSJ Program at the Medill School of Journalism. He additionally holds a Bachelor’s degree in sport management from the University of Texas at Austin. Connor serves as editor of the Top Level Sports publication on Medium. His book, “Sports, Technology, and Madness,” is available now. You can follow Connor on Medium, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, and view his archives at toplevelsports.net.