JaVale McGee is the kind of talent the NBA sees once in a generation. It's not a Michael Jordan type of talent, or even a LeBron James type of talent. No, JaVale McGee's talent is being unequivocally interesting no matter what he's doing.
The 2012 NBA season will be remembered for a lot of things. It was the second lockout year in just over a decade, it was the year the San Antonio Spurs showed that age means nothing, and depending on who wins the NBA Championship, it could be remembered for something completely different.
However, I'm here to argue that 2012 isn't the year of the Spurs, LeBron, David Stern, Chris Paul or anyone else. No, this year should forever be known as The Year of JaVale.
It may seem that I'm coming out to directly make fun of JaVale McGee, but that's not the case. The story of McGee wouldn't be nearly as compelling if he were constantly a joke, it's compelling that he is such a violent roller-coaster ride.
So, in honor of The Year of JaVale, I've decided to go back and really examine the season that was, starting from day one.
For those of you who don't know, JaVale McGee is quite possibly the most entertaining basketball player in the NBA. He's become a walking, talking meme and has shown no signs of letting up at this point.
For his first three seasons in the NBA he was a budding young player, becoming a good young center in today's game.
Unfortunately, there's one thing holding JaVale McGee back: JaVale McGee.
McGee's brain gets in the way of his talents. He does things on the court that nobody else in the league can do, but that's both a good and a bad thing.
Off the court, McGee has an alter ego. It's not really that complicated of an alter ego, he just throws his left index finger up under his nose (on which he has a mustache tattooed) and speaks.
This is JaVale McGee.
There is no other way to start this off by looking at the one thing that makes JaVale as interesting as he is on a day-to-day basis.
He is, without a doubt, the most entertaining basketball player to follow on Twitter. McGee's tweets range to everything from his philosophical view on cartoons to inserting his alter ego, Pierre, into photos to queries about historical figures.
Above all, his random musings are the most important things to get out of his Twitter account, my favorite of which being: "Hungry as a grandmama mouse."
It has gotten to the point where whenever he tweets one of these thoughts I have to text a friend who will try to rationalize each McGee thought, which sometimes works and sometimes makes him seem crazier.
JaVale McGee started off a bit slow, but once he got going he didn't stop.
Our first stop on the Tour De JaVale comes in a game against the Knicks on Jan. 6.
With the team down by three points, the Wizards inbounded the ball with just under three seconds to go.
The Wizards scattered themselves about the three-point line, but JaVale McGee was wide open down low, waving his arms like he was trying to fly up to the hoop. Nobody was passing him the ball.
Why, you might ask? Well, JaVale was unaware that the team was down by three with only enough time left for one possession, so two easy points from him would have been useless.
Our next stop on the JaVale Rail comes 10 days later as the Houston Rockets came into town for an early-season matchup.
Early on in this game JaVale was working the paint as the Rockets crashed inside, a shot went awry and as McGee went after the rebound Chandler Parsons came harder and faster, leading to an emphatic dunk right on McGee's noggin.
However, the best part was yet to come. Parsons, still hanging on the rim to avoid falling on McGee, spun around on the rim at about the same rate that JaVale was rotating. The result was the most awkward two seconds of McGee's season (and that's saying something), which he spent buried in Parsons' crotch.
You would think one ridiculous play a night would be enough for McGee, but this is one of many nights that McGee would have multiple noteworthy plays.
This time we see McGee getting the pass off the fast break with nobody within 10 feet of him. Instead of just going to the hoop and putting down a nice dunk, McGee passed himself the ball off the backboard and then dunked it.
Now, McGee made the shot, but he was benched by Flip Saunders for the remainder of the game, which the Wizards would go on to lose.
The most entertaining part had to be JaVale's reaction in which he is quoted as saying: "Apparently, if you get a fast break and throw it off backboard in the third quarter and you’re 1-11, you’re not supposed to do stuff like that."
Them's the breaks, my man.
A few days of no news following his benching during the Rockets game and questions about McGee were raining down from every corner of the globe.
One reporter got a hold of JaVale's mom before the start of the Wizards game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and this was the point where we realized Pamela McGee was going to be around for a long time.
The former WNBA player was asked about her son to which she decided to go on a bit of a rant:
JaVale is a good kid. My son is special. He has gifts you can’t teach: hands, height and heart. If I’m the Wizards and I’m really trying to build a franchise, really committed to rebuilding and developing, I would nurture that talent. I would help a kid like JaVale the best I could.
That does seem to be mostly true, but what she said next is what really sent the blogging world into an uproar when speaking about his dunk off the backboard against the Rockets:
Look, JaVale does that to break up the monotony. Wouldn’t you if you were losing like this? He’s been here for four years and it’s been same ol’, same ol’. I don’t want him to get institutionalized to losing. My son is the future of the NBA. I don’t want him to be part of this culture of losing forever.
The most interesting part is that after Denver's series against the Lakers, it seems like Mrs. McGee may have been right. He left the culture of losing and contributed positively to a good team. Weird.
This is the play that everybody remembers from The Year of JaVale, and there's a reason behind it.
McGee, after a hook shot went bouncing off the front of the rim, assumed the Raptors had grabbed the rebound and were taking it back up the floor, so on down to the defensive end he went.
It was when he was two-thirds down the court, after John Wall had put the ball on his hip and looked in exasperation at JaVale, that he realized what he'd done wrong and ran back to the offensive end.
That offensive set ended with a failed alley-oop and JaVale hitting the floor, making him the last guy back on defense.
Feb. 22 against the Kings was another two-fer day for JaVale McGee.
I have to put on my Jackie Chiles hat to aptly describe what went on in this particular game. It was egregious, facetious, totally uncalled for.
Francisco Garcia drove to the lane and put up a little jump hook. JaVale then went up looooooong after the ball was on its arc downward toward the basket and swatted the ball into the stands. The crowed "oohed" in the worst way possible, a guy who looked like Randy Jackson caught the ball and the two commentators stumbled for any words to describe what they had just witnessed.
This was the embodiment of JaVale as a part of the Wizards in one 26 second clip.
Like I said, however, JaVale wasn't done with that one big swat in that game—he had what was possibly his most embarrassing play yet to come.
McGee got in position on the low block and called for the pass in what should have been the easiest situation possible for a man his size. You see, Isaiah Thomas, standing all of 5'9" on a good day, was there throwing a body on the seven-footer McGee.
The pass came in, but JaVale was unable to overpower or outmaneuver Thomas, leading to a flailing of his limbs and a pass sailing out of bounds.
JaVale McGee has some ridiculously long arms, like long enough to dunk on two baskets at once, as we found out at last year's dunk contest.
However, he found out his limits in a game against the San Antonio Spurs on March 12, another two-fer night for JaVale.
McGee went up for a dunk with both DeJuan Blair and Tim Duncan between him and the basket. Well, JaVale's arm windmilled downward along with the ball, but the ball slammed off the front of the rim and JaVale's fingertips just barely grazed the iron.
The culmination of that night against the Spurs, however, has to be what happened in the second quarter with the Spurs running away to a big lead.
The Wizards got the ball on the fast break with who else but our man JaVale leading the way. McGee was streaking ahead of everyone else, but he wasn't ready for the pass from John Wall, which ended up slamming into the side of JaVale's face.
In true JaVale McGee fashion, however, the Wizards ended up getting the ball back and tossing it down to McGee, who was all on his own under the basket for an easy dunk, just like Randy Wittman drew it up.
Assuming his mom had inflated his ego with all of those "future of the NBA" comments, JaVale McGee came out musing about his next contract a few days after he was mashed in the face by a basketball.
McGee, who will be a restricted free agent at the start of free agency, claimed that he was looking for a contract averaging $14 million per season.
Here's how ridiculous that number is: Not only is that $11 million more than he made this seasons, but it's also a salary that would make him one of the 30 highest-paid players in the NBA, plus it would give him a salary right around than the one that Marc Gasol signed for last offseason.
I guess you've got to have a high opinion of yourself.
Whether it was because they were weary of trying to re-sign him in the offseason with his huge contract speculation or just tired of his bone-headedness, the Washington Wizards traded JaVale McGee to the Denver Nuggets on March 15, just before the trade deadline.
Well, McGee, in preparation for the evening's game was, as usual, taking a nap.
So, in yet another perfect McGee moment, JaVale reportedly woke up, heard the news and asked when he was supposed to leave.
My favorite part about McGee going to Denver is the fact that he, as a man with asthma, would now be playing in the city with the thinnest air in the NBA.
Hell, maybe with less oxygen making it to his brain the little voice in his head that told him to do dumb things was unable to function.
It's understandable that when a guy comes to a new team the new team's head coach would do as much as possible to make him feel at home and welcome.
Whether it's the fact that McGee is has the arms long enough to attempt a sky hook that would look anything like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's or just to give the guy a bit of an ego boost, George Karl said this about the bumbling big man: “He plays a little bit like Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), but he’s a defensive Kareem more than an offensive Kareem.”
Mind you, this was before Karl saw McGee play a single game for the Nuggets, so he was going completely off observations from games with the Wizards when he wasn't exactly a shining beacon of competency.
Whether he feels better as a guy mining for gold rather than a conjurer of spells, something clicked when JaVale McGee became a Nugget, and it clicked right away.
In his first game with Denver, McGee was in the game late as a big body to get a rebound if one of Arron Afflalo's foul shots went awry.
Well, not only did McGee get the rebound, but he also waited until the ball left the cylinder while in midair and put the shot back down to put the Nuggets ahead of Detroit by a point.
When the shot went down, everybody on the court just looked at him in amazement as he casually jogged up the court like he'd done it a thousand times before.
There's no way he makes that play in Washington—this is a new JaVale.
With his second positive highlight in the course of a week, JaVale McGee is starting to look comfortable in Denver at this point.
Here we see McGee straight up pick Andrea Bargnani's pocket, dribble the ball three-quarters of the way down the court without tripping over himself or stopping to sign an autograph and buy some popcorn, finishing with a huge throwdown all over Jose Calderon.
It took more than two weeks, but Denver finally got a taste of just how bad JaVale McGee can be on occasion with what may be the worst minute of basketball in the history of the NBA. I say that having seen Ira Newble start on multiple occasions for the Cavaliers.
McGee starts off his 60-second suck-a-thon with a goaltend on Andris Biedrins' one-hander in the lane. He followed that up with a dunk that caromed off the back of the iron off a put-back on a missed jumper.
The highlight of this, uh, highlight comes on the Nuggets' fast break. McGee gets out ahead of the transitioning defense and gets the pass in the paint. He gathers his feet, dribbles along the baseline and then comes up looking for the turnaround layup, only to be greeted with a face full of Biedrins. Biedrins blocks McGee's shot and then, once again in true McGee fashion, has the ball hit him in the head and slide out of bounds.
In the sports world there are only a few reasons why Sports Illustrated writes up a three-page profile on you. Either you've done something completely out of the ordinary to get to the level you're at, you've become extremely successful in your field, or you've developed a cult of personality.
Interestingly enough, JaVale McGee is arguably the opposite of those three. He is the son of a former WNBA player, so although he had an interesting childhood he never did anything really spectacular to become a basketball player, he's definitely not at the extremely successful level, and if anything he has developed the opposite of a cult of personality.
In all, that might make him more interesting than most players in the league.
Still, with that SI profile, McGee had officially become a part of sports history, and his story was definitely an interesting one. If you've got a few minutes (which, if you're reading this, you obviously do) then I would suggest you check it out.
Just as JaVale Was starting to catch on as one of the most likable guys in the league, he went and nailed what may be the most likable guy in the league with an inadvertent elbow.
JaVale got his team two points, helping his team to the win, but systematically ended Kevin Love's season in the process.
The regular season came to a close (well, technically, it was Denver's second-to-last game, OKC's last) with Denver taking a trip to Oklahoma City.
JaVale McGee was doing what he's supposed to do, minding the paint and keeping guys out of his lane—until Kevin Durant came flying down the lane.
The league's leading scorer then took off from the middle of the lane and unloaded a thunderous dunk on McGee's attempt to block him, raining down jeers and derision from the OKC crowd amidst the excitement.
JaVale McGee's playoff debut went largely unnoticed, something that happens all too often to the absurdly talented big man, but he kicked things into gear moving forward.
His second game in the playoffs he showed off how he can have an off-night and still play well, putting up six blocks on the Lakers.
However, once the series shifted to Denver, JaVale took over. He put up his best numbers in a game for the Nuggets since coming over from Washington with 16 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
The real news from the game, however, was the re-emergence of Pam McGee, who spent 90 percent of the game arms folded and glaring directly at the court. It was frightening, to say the least, to see this large woman glowering at the court as her son played well.
As the Nuggets lost Game 4 and went down 3-1 to the Lakers, they needed someone to step up in order to extend the series.
It could have been Ty Lawson, it could have been Arron Afflalo, hell, it could have been Andre Miller—but JaVale McGee?
McGee tallied 24 points and 14 rebounds on the game on 9-of-12 shooting while holding Andrew Bynum to just 16 points.
At the best possible time, McGee had the game of his life, something that nobody but maybe Pamela and JaVale could have predicted before the game started.
Now, for his amazing game against the Lakers, the team gave him the game ball before they even walked off the court, that's how obvious it was that he won that game for the Nuggets.
After a short interview, Craig Sager tells McGee to "hold onto that game ball." McGee nods and saunters off toward the tunnel.
Just before he goes through the tunnel, he glances upward, winds up and chucks the ball into the stands. No explanation, no hanging around to see if whom he threw it to caught it, nothing.
After the game it came out that McGee had thrown the ball to his mom, who did in fact catch the ball.
The Denver Nuggets lost Game 7 to the Los Angeles Lakers last Saturday, and McGee's season went out like a lamb.
He had another bushel of blocks, but he didn't affect the game too feverishly in one way or another, but it was kind of the way you would picture him going out.
McGee continued his improvement on the floor, but he made "the leap" in terms of unbelievable moments on and off the court, both positive and negative.
Aside from looking like he could become a good center one of these days, he's also become the starting center and the captain of the NBA All-Meme Team.
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