Kwame Brown: The Pros and Cons of Stature

Over the past week or so, there has been a great deal of kvetching from Kwame Brown about his legacy as a former professional basketball player as told by the American media. Since his career concluded in 2013, memories of his career are fading precipitously with each year.

            Brown entered the National Basketball Association directly from high school in 2001 and was selected by the Washington Wizards under then-team president Michael Jordan. His four-season tenure with Wizards was generally considered underwhelming by pundits. Nevertheless, his 6’11” 290-pound frame was too irresistible for other NBA franchises to resist resulting in Brown being signed by the Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats, Golden State Warriors, and Philadelphia 76ers in that order averaging 6.6 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game.

            Perhaps, some of the derision Brown has received post-career centers on those professional basketball players of comparable size (albeit different positions) as follows: Bill Russell – 6’10”, Hall of Fame, 15.1 ppg/22.5 rpg; Bill Walton – 6’11”, Hall of Fame, 13.3 ppg/10.5 rpg; Moses Malone – 6’10”, Hall of Fame, 20.6 ppg/12.2 rpg; Kevin McHale – 6’10”, Hall of Fame, 17.9 ppg/7.3 rpg; Kevin Garnett – 6’11”, Hall of Fame, 17.8 ppg/10 rpg; Tim Duncan – 6’11”, Hall of Fame, 19 ppg/10.8 rpg; and Kevin Durant – 6’10”, 27 ppg/7.1 rpg.

            While it is general consensus that the sport of basketball is a big man’s/woman’s game, NBA general managers’ willingness to sign Brown continually is a testament to their naiveté and arrogance because his game was not transcendent enough regardless of coaching or teammates. Unfortunately, Brown’s size ultimately made him a victim of all of the great expectations that many people had as a result.

            Brown’s lack of dominance in conjunction with the marginal careers of Eddy Curry, Korleone Young, et cetera made NBA executives uneasy about drafting players directly from high school because they were too inexperienced and usually physically incapable of the rigors of the NBA; everyone cannot exceed expectations under those circumstances like LeBron James who was a wunderkind.  

            Over the past few decades, there appears to be a growing level of enmity between athletes and the media, especially those media personalities who were never professional athletes themselves. Some athletes are often frustrated knowing that most reporters they encounter are not cognizant of the rigors of what it takes to stay in shape annually and maintain their position in their chosen sport under demanding coaches who constantly have their jobs on the line as well. In fairness, most media members’ idea of physical activity is a nice leisurely two-mile jog and a couple of repetitions on a few weight machines three to five times a week.

            Nonetheless, these factors do not make Brown a sympathetic figure over the years because “when someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” Since Brown was the first overall pick of the Round 1 of the 2001 NBA Draft, he was expected to produce. Brown cannot figuratively hypnotize the public into believing that his career was more than it was because those shadowy almost black and white images were too well chronicled for that disappointment to be erased.

Monday, May 31, 2021

The Janus-faced Nature of American Sports

While many in our society are in the process of preparing Bûche de Noël among other delicacies, contestations occurred moments following the announcement of this season’s College Football Playoff participants. The nature of these debates ranged from the legitimacy of Ohio State making it into the semifinals after only playing six games to the University of Cincinnati Bearcats not being granted ingress after finishing their undefeated season.

            Of course, the old familiar refrain of expanding the playoff field once the current contract ends began to dominate the discussion as being the panacea of all that ails the FBS. Naïve college football fans believe the ben trovato of additional teams added to the field will open the path for Coastal Carolina, Cincinnati, and others instead of the blue bloods that comprise programs from the Power Five conferences.

            The economic realities of the American system make ratings the essential component of the CFP. That being said, a matchup between Alabama and Cincinnati may lose its charm if the Crimson Tide scores 50 plus points against the Bearcats in a semifinal contest. In reality, Alabama just might score half of a hundred on any opponent regardless.

            When you have to depend upon sufficient advertisers to meet their financial obligations, it decreases the probability of non-traditional powers being selected for the playoffs if Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, or USC are in the mix. Teams nicknamed the Chanticleers, Bearcats, or Golden Hurricane do not have a certain je sais quoi like the typical heavyweights.

            In fairness, we cannot blame the CFP Committee solely for these inequities because of our duplicitous nature of talking inclusion until competition does not yield the kind of result that we desire. The Power Five conference teams will continue to vie for championship payouts that are necessary to help fund other sports that are struggling because of reduced budgets caused by the pandemic.

            Non-traditional football programs also have the deck stacked against them due to weaker schedules from the competition that they face in their conferences. Therefore, these types of programs will have to virtually be undefeated multiple seasons with the hope of defeating a Power Five team in their non-conference matchups during the regular season. Since rosters change annually and non-conference schedules are made years in advance, the odds are against the MAC, AAC, et cetera to sustain a level of excellence of this magnitude for this duration.

            Nonetheless, having a system that is equitable for most programs regardless of conference affiliation (or independent) is a plummy aspiration in American college football. It is just unfortunate that the financial structure is such that it makes inclusion a bit more challenging than some may want to admit.