The rarest gem had undergone through the toughest fire and withstand it.
Kwame Brown picked up all the broken pieces, stitched and prolonged his career for 12 years. When many thought he was a lost cause, after being the first high school player to be drafted as the first overall pick way back in 2001. And end up being a bust.
Kwame grew up with his mom taking care of him and his seven siblings after they left his abusive father. With a lot of uncertainty and a golden opportunity to finally help his family, Kwame gambled and took the chance to forego college after committing to then coach Billy Donovan (now coach of OKC) in Florida. This was a 19-year-old momma’s boy who was left to do a grown man’s decision. Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant also made the same choice, but they were given less expectations and a leeway of room to grow. Being the top draft pick means little margin for error. Every eyes, every attention and wrong move is equivalent to a thousand folds.
After a series of workouts and one on one matchup with fellow high school draftees Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry. Kwame was a handpicked choice by Michael Jordan who was the president of basketball operations as well as the minority owner at that time. Days before the draft he told Doug Collins (Washington coach) “If you draft me, you’ll never regret it.”
Looking back 15 years ago, Kwame might have regretted that statement he made. He just added another bag of expectations right on his already burdened shoulders. Aside from being the no.1 overall pick, he had to earn Michael Jordan’s respect in return. We heard stories about how Michael would pick a part teammates on scrimmages. On how he prepares his team mentally throughout the summer. On Michael Leahy’s book, Jordan thought of toughen up Kwame by breaking him down and forcing him to stand up for himself. Kwame was on tears in front of the whole team when he constantly referred him as a “Flaming Faggot.” He was barely an adult and all the humiliation and emotional pain is just too much to take. He lost all those confidence left in him and instead of moving up, he was on survival mode most of the time.
Billy Donovan could have guided him if he pushes through college. Or if he was drafted later on the draft. But that’s just how fate is. Growing up without his abusive father, and looking up to Michael as his father figure, but turn out humiliated in the end was something not any number one pick player could have imagined going through. The emotional roller coaster was just enough not mentioning the high expectations people have set on him.
Anthony Bennett have just overtaken Kwame as the league’s number one bust draft. But we just have to marvel how Kwame managed to go through 12 seasons in spite all the insults and critics hurdled towards him.
He wasn’t an all-star, he wasn’t even the best role player of the team but one trait that have stood out.
Kwame was the rarest gem.