With where Terrence Ross precariously sits today — stuck on a young and rebuilding Orlando Magic team, injured and out of action, and likely as trade bait to be dangled — it must be hard for him to fathom where he was eight years ago today.
In 2014 — specifically, Jan. 25, 2014 — Ross was a young, up-and-coming piece with the Toronto Raptors. Up to that point, Ross was known primarily as the winner of the 2013 NBA Dunk Contest and a potent yet wildly erratic scorer off the Raptors bench.
However, Ross would leave his indelible mark on the NBA on Jan. 25, 2014.
Terrence Ross set some NBA history in 2014 with his electrifying 51-point performance
A member of the Orlando Magic since 2017, Terrence Ross doesn’t remember many of the mundane specifics from Jan. 25, 2014. He’s played far too much basketball since then to remember things such as how cold it was that day in Toronto, what he had for a pregame meal or the music he listened to on his way to the arena that night.
But he does still remember how he felt after his pregame shooting routine that night. Shooters, especially ones like Ross, who can pile up points in rapid-fire bursts, always know when they are stroking the basketball a certain way. Ross still remembers how the ball felt leaving his hand that night, even though almost a decade has passed.
“It was just a typical day, and I don’t remember that much about it other than I was shooting really good in the pregame shootaround,” Ross recalled to OrlandoMagic.com. “That hot feeling just kind of snuck up on me in warmups. Then, after I made my first shot, I felt really good, and I just kept it going.
“I remember the crowd most of all. It was loud, and people were going crazy,” Ross added. “I felt like people were standing up the whole time, and every time I’d hit a shot, people would go nuts. I didn’t even realize how much (points) I had until the end of the third, and my teammates were like, `Bro, keep going, keep going, keep going!”
Fans and teammates were going nuts because the 6-foot-6 Ross poured in 51 points that cold and dreary January night in Toronto. Even though Toronto lost 126-118 to Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and the Los Angeles Clippers that night, Ross made 16 of 26 shots, 10 of 17 3-pointers, and nine of 10 free throws. As Ross would learn later, his only flaw was a missing a free throw with four seasons remaining that would have allowed him to set a new Raptors’ record instead of merely tying Vince Carter’s mark from several years earlier.
“Call the Toronto Fire Department! This man’s on fire!” Raptors TV color analyst Jack Armstrong screamed into his microphone that night.
Just 22 years old at the time, Ross saw his first shot of the night drop — always a significant factor for a shooter. He would go on to make first first-quarter 3-pointers. He had 23 points by halftime, and when he drilled a 29-footer with less than a second remaining in the third quarter, he had already scored a career-best 36 points.
Ross’s 50th and 51st points came from the free throw line as Raptors fans chanted his name. He savored every second of a performance that easily doubled his previous career high of 28 points.
Terrence Ross’ 51-point night with the Toronto Raptors in 2014 was a blessing and a curse
In addition to joining the NBA’s exclusive 50-point club, Terrence Ross also set some history on Jan. 25, 2014. He became the first player in league history to be averaging less than 10 points per game at the time of his 50-point performance.
That magical and memorable night also had a somewhat negative effect on Ross. It significantly raised expectations on the young and developing guard — sometimes to an absurd level. To that point, consistency had always been a major problem for Ross. Then-Raptors coach Dwane Casey remembered that as a time when Ross would play video games until the wee hours of the morning and then show up to practices and games exhausted. Ross and Casey recalled the two of them having several heart-to-heart meetings about the need for improved maturity from the shooting guard.
As it turned out, Ross was not only unable to duplicate his 51-point performance, he never even scored 30 points again for the Raptors. Toronto traded him to the Orlando Magic for power forward Serge Ibaka in February of 2017.
Deep down, Ross hated the perception that he was some sort of one-hit-wonder who could never match what he did on his career-best night.
“It was always like mixed reviews,” Ross said of the fallout following his 51-point night. “People always had their reviews about what that game did for me, but I think it just gave me the confidence that I could play this game (at the NBA level). After that night, I always had confidence in myself that I could do it.”
Eight years later, Ross could be dealt by the Orlando Magic at the NBA Trade Deadline
Terrence Ross finally put the ‘inconsistent’ knock to rest in the 2018-19 and ‘19-20 NBA seasons when he had some of his most sustained success. He helped the Orlando Magic end a seven-year drought of not making the playoffs by averaging a career-best 15.1 points in 2018-19. Ross, affectionately nicknamed “The Human Torch” because of his ability to heat up quickly and his love for Marvel Comics, became the first player in NBA history to hit at least 200 3-pointers (217) while not starting a game.
He followed that effort with another 177 3-pointers in 2019-20 and a career-best 15.6-point scoring average in 2020-21. However, last spring, the Magic blew up their roster by trading away Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and Aaron Gordon. Ross, meanwhile, was the last remaining veteran on a Magic squad full of baby-faced youngsters. Not even quasi-veterans Jonathan Isaac or Markelle Fultz have been around much because both of them are still rehabilitating major knee injuries.
Ross poured in a season-best 33 points in Boston on Jan. 2, and he had 32 on Jan. 9 — both Magic losses, of course. In the game against Washington, Ross conjured memories of his 51-point night when he scored 20 consecutive points during a second-half stretch. That tied him with Tracy McGrady in Magic history for the most consecutive points scored in a game.
Since that night, Ross has scored just 38 points in the past six games. He attempted four or fewer shots in a four-game stretch — an infrequent occurrence for someone who’s never been shy about pulling the trigger with his jumper. Now, he’s out with knee soreness and might never play for the Magic again with the NBA Trade Deadline just weeks away. Rumors abound that Ross could be a trade target of the Los Angeles Lakers, a squad that certainly could use a dead-eye 3-point shooter of his ilk.
Undoubtedly, Ross is in a far different place now than eight years ago. For one 2014 night, at least, Ross showed the basketball world his enormous talent as a scorer who can pile up record numbers of points when he gets it rolling. Regardless of what happens in the weeks, months, and years to come, Ross will always have Jan. 25, 2014, to remember.
“Really, that moment helped me grow into myself,” Ross recalled. “Everybody goes at their own pace, and I feel like I’m just now coming into my own as a player. That night is something I can always look back on and be proud of.”
Statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com.