Blog Entry

Kwame Brown and a question of confidence

Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:38 pm
By Matt Moore

The Washington Post brings us a tale from Kobe Bryant, who visited a college classroom and answered questions earlier this week. During the discussion, Kwame Brown came up and Bryant told the kind of story that is at once sad and mockable. It is not the quintessential Kwame Brown story (either Jordan's treatment of him or the infamous story about him buying new suits every day because he didn't know how to get dry cleaning done take the cake). But it's certainly up there. Video of Bryant relaying the story is available at the Post, but here are Jordan's words, courtesy of Michael Lee: 
“I got to say, it was tough doing it that year. I was playing with guys, God bless them — God bless them — but Kwame Brown. Smush Parker. We had one game right before…by the way, what I say here, I say directly to them, see what I’m saying, I don’t talk behind people’s back. Things that I say to you, I’m comfortable saying this to them and I’ve said this to them...But like, the game before we traded for Pau, were playing Detroit and I had like 40 points towards the end of the game. This is back when Detroit had Rasheed [Wallace], Chauncey [Billups] and those guys, so we had no business being in the game. So down the stretch of the game, they put in a box and one. So I’m surrounded by these players, Detroit players, and Kwame is under the basket, all by himself. Literally, like all by himself. So I pass him the ball, he bobbled it and it goes out of bounds.

“So we go back to the timeout and I’m [upset], right? He goes, ‘I was wide open.’ ‘Yeah, I know.’ This is how I’m talking to him, like, during the game. I said, ‘You’re going to be open again, Kwame, because Rasheed is just totally ignoring you.’ He said, ‘Well, if I’m open don’t throw it to me.’ I was like, ‘Huh?’ He said, ‘Don’t throw it to me.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ He said, well, ‘I’m nervous. If I catch it and he foul me, I won’t make the free throws.’ I said, ‘Hell no!’

“I go to Phil [Jackson], I say, ‘Hey Phil, take him out of the game.’ He’s like, ‘Nah, let him figure it out.’ So, we lose the game, I go the locker room, I’m steaming. Steaming. I’m furious. Then, finally I get a call, they said, ‘You know what, we got something that’s happening with Pau.’ I was like, ‘Alright. Cool.’…That’s what I had to deal with the whole year.”
via Kobe Bryant has a Kwame Brown story - Wizards Insider - The Washington Post.

This isn't really surprising if you understand the context. On the surface, yes, any professional athlete saying they don't want the ball is worth commentary. It's just not what you expect. If you're at this level, you should be able to handle that pass and score unguarded.

But that ignores context. Brown exists as a punchline, as an example of how the draft can fail you, of how prospects don't pan out. (It should be noted that Brown's 2010-2011 season with the Bobcats was actually pretty good. He wasn't great, but he was good enough to start for the Bobcats, which is an improvement.)  But Brown more accurately represents why the NBA so desperately needs to augment the D-League. Brown was forced into a hyper-stressful situation immediately upon being drafted, under the eye of the greates player in the history of the sport, who, let's be honest, is kind of a jerk even when he's not being hyper-competitive. Then he was traded to the Lakers and expected to be the go-to center for the second best shooting guard of all time, who also tends to err on the side of "all-out obsession with winning." Brown's confidence was shattered. He was drafted for his talent while his skills were never developed, they were just expected to blossom. And the result was a player who didn't want the moment. He was aware of his shortcomings, to a fault.

Arrogance is the most mocked attribute a player can have, even more so than a lack of talent. But it's that arrogance that allows players to make the attempt on the play they need to make. It's not whether that player can hit that shot, it's that he has the confidence to take it. Him hitting it is the responsibility of coaches and GMs to find the guy who can. But instead of wasting the millions on Kwame Brown and being bitter towards him, wouldn't it be better to work with him until he's able to contribute?

But instead we're just left with the punchline, feeling sorry for Kobe Bryant who had to suffer through that period with a player who didn't want the ball, marking the first time we've ever talked about Kobe Bryant NOT wanting a shot.  

Since: Apr 7, 2009
Posted on: October 10, 2011 4:15 pm

Kwame Brown and a question of confidence

HA...Hilarious!  What do expect from a guy named Kwame! LMBO!!!

Since: Apr 30, 2011
Posted on: October 8, 2011 8:23 am

Kwame Brown and a question of confidence

At least Kwame Brown didn't rape anyone.

Since: Nov 15, 2010
Posted on: October 7, 2011 7:40 pm

Kwame Brown and a question of confidence

I applaud Clyde's reputation as a great teammate - oh, and one of those guys that couldn't win.  

Face it, leadership style and communication style varies from situation-to-situation.  While Clyde could probably lift the spirits of a used car salesman, players like Kobe and MJ know how to win in the NBA.  It's not a sport where you can run and hide.  You're not just a number on special teams that throws a big block from time-to-time.  No - you're one of ten very recognizable players on the court.  And your job/responsibility/reason for being there is to perform no matter what.  

I'm not a big Kobe fan, but when you talk about the best players in the league, you start with him or Lebron.  I think it is great that he not holds his teammates accountable, and he performs night-in and night-out.

Since: Jan 23, 2007
Posted on: October 7, 2011 2:53 pm

Kwame Brown and a question of confidence

' If Kwame was open was Kobe's pass catchable?'

Kwame was WIDE open and the pass was not only catchable, but was a dead-eye dime.

The rest of your post is nonsense, quite frankly. Kobe draws the worst from his teammates?? Nothing could be further from the truth.

Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: October 7, 2011 2:10 pm

Kwame Brown and a question of confidence

There are two separate factors in play in this story. The first is that Kwame Brown has small hands and is awful with ball handling. How Jordan missed that to draft him #1 will remain an enduring mystery. But part of this story is Kwame bobbled the ball thrown by Kobe. The second part of this is Kobe, himslef. His anger and scorn towards inferior teammates is well known. If Kwame was open was Kobe's pass catchable? Or was his anger vented with the pass so that it was, for Kwame, uncatchable. The late great Red Auerbach used to say a good pass is one that is caught. Kobe reportedly ran off Shaq because Shaq got too much credit. So the result was he was relying on Kwame Brown. A contrast would be Clyde Drexler who reportedly lifted up his teammates and supported them even in failure while passing credit to them in success. Kobe has never been that way and remains scornful (even now of Pau) of his teammates, drawing from some their worst rather than their best.

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