In Defense of Kwame Brown

Kwame Brown on draft dayWhen sharks smell blood in the water, they don’t care if it is a dead fish or a human life, they convene to the scene for their bite of the prey of the day, without pity or conscience.

Humans, on the other hand, well, they do the same — especially on the Internet where people are allowed to interact with others from the safe perch of anonymity.

Nevertheless, I’d like to put out a quick defense of Kwame.

Don’t misunderstand me though, I’m not saying that as a player Kwame Brown earns his $8,287,500, but seriously, as a person, neither has he earned all the grief being piled on him either.

As far as I can tell, other than his hands, Kwame Brown basically has two problems:

1. Kwame, like others who were pampered as children for being star athletes, is a bit immature
2. Kwame simply isn’t what people hyped him to be

As for #1, immaturity is hardly uncommon in the NBA — or professional sports for that matter. However, Kwame got himself in trouble with both his employers and the law with his. Most recently it manifested itself in a melt down for being booed during a recent home game against the Suns. You hate to see someone react like that, but on the other hand, at least we know he cared what Lakers fans think.

As for #2, Kwame not being what he’s been hyped to be, I wonder how much of that is actually Kwame’s fault.

Think about it. Coby Karl and Kobe Bryant play for the same team, play the same position, and are even the same height. But if Coby Karl were to score 15 points next game, people would be delighted. On the other hand, if Kobe Bryant scored 15 points next game, people would be disappointed.

Obviously, it’s not a player’s performance that lets us down, it is the expectations.

Had Kwame Brown been drafted in the second round, and paid that kind of money throughout his career, who on earth would be worked up about his performance this year? Probably no one. Seriously, it isn’t Brown’s performance, it is Brown’s expectations that lets us down, and Brown didn’t set those.

Based on one pre-draft workout, and Kwame’s accomplishments so far (he was Glynn Academy all-time leading rebounder and shot-blocker, and their second all-time scorer, and was named to the 2001 McDonald’s All-American Team), the best basketball player of all time made Kwame Brown the first ever high school player taken as the first pick in the NBA draft.

How on EARTH could expectations be any higher?

It’s not like teenagers know exactly who they are and how far they’ll go in their careers at age 18. It is not fair to suppose Kwame himself had any idea who he was and how he’d compete in the NBA.

Michael Jordan, by drafting a high school player at #1, basically told the world that Kwame Brown was special — certainly better than the likes of Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Jason Richardson and Eddy Curry (Kwame’s draft class).

But it isn’t Kwame’s fault that Michael Jordan wasn’t as good a manager as he was a player.

And it isn’t Kwame’s fault that Mitch Kupchak, of the legendary Los Angeles Lakers, now praised for having the genius to recognize (and fight for) the potential of Andrew Bynum, traded future all star Caron Butler to get Kwame Brown.

Kwame is what he is, and we probably need to let go of the past and accept that.

Kwame had 7 turnovers against Steve Nash’s Suns the other night. That’s Kwame.

Kwame had 30 points and 19 rebounds against Chris Webber’s Sacramento Kings on March 17, 2004. That’s Kwame too.

(For perspective, Chris Kaman’s career high is 26 points, and Brad Miller’s career high is 19 rebounds.)

None of us, though, are as good as our best game, nor as bad as our worst. Who we are as a player lies in between, and the same is true of Kwame Brown.

Not long ago, Kwame averaged 12.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in the playoffs against the Suns, and was the Lakers best defensive Center. That is probably about as high as we should set our hopes and expectations for Kwame Brown.

Veteran sportswriter, Mike Kahn, calls Kwame a bust. However, it would be more accurate to say Kwame Brown hasn’t let us down as much as Michael Jordan, and to a lesser degree, Mitch Kupchak, did.

  1. emilyemily01-27-2008

    wow daddy good things now

  2. SportySporty05-02-2008

    MJ also cursed repeatedly at Kwame Brown when MJ returned from his second retirement and joined the wizards lineup. I’m surprised you didn’t mention that in your article.

    MJ was Kwame’s childhood hero. So MJ cursing at Kwame Brown really had to shatter his confidence as a rookie. Since that time, Kwame was never able to really recover mentally and even develop his confidence.

    Here’s the source:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=jackson/050505

  3. Tom7Tom705-02-2008

    Sporty, GREAT point. Thanks for the link to the article as well.

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