You know, the more I think about it, I don't know if I've ever anticipated an amateur athlete's transition into a professional sports league like I'm awaiting Michael Beasley's into the NBA. Well, other than Reggie Bush. And LeBron - well, obviously LeBron. Oh, oh, and Kevin Dura-- well, you get the point. I was excited about those guys, and I'm very eager to see how this Beasley guy pans out.
You see, Beasley is the most gifted college power forward since Chris Webber, and is often compared to a young Derrick Coleman. Beasley is 6-10, he's left-handed, he has an NBA-ready body, he can score with his back to the basket or facing up, he's a very good three-point shooter, he can handle it, he led the nation in rebounding this season. I can't see him struggling with the game of basketball.
Of course, that's only half the battle. Coleman had all the tools to be a legend, but was lazy as hell and a complete misfit. Webber was arguably even more talented, and was a much better pro - 5-time All-Star, 2001 All-NBA 1st Team, still at 20 and 10 for his career - but he was one of the least clutch superstars of the past 20 years, and he was never quite as good as he could've/should've been. More than anything, he just seemed like an unlucky guy: starting with the timeout in '93 and culminating ten years later - when Chris blew out his knee in the second round of the '03 playoffs, just when it seemed that the Kings had the best team in the league and he was finally going to win the Big One and forever extricate himself from columns like this - Webber is without a doubt the most star-crossed athlete of my lifetime. Doomed from the very start.
(Notice how everything in the previous paragraph about Webber was written in the past tense, even though officially he's still on an NBA roster.)
In a similar vein, this article about Beasley from his senior year in high school makes him sound like the black version of Dennis the Menace: tagging, throwing sticks at teacher's houses, wearing pajamas to the school cafeteria, etc., and eventually getting kicked out of Oak Hill for his antics. Obviously he was young then, and he's still young; he'll mature with age, as we all do. And he's already shown signs - earlier this year, he was quoted as saying:
"I'm still a kid; I'm still irresponsible and I want to still be irresponsible sometimes. When I go to the NBA, that's over. My life is America's life. LeBron James gets a speeding ticket, the cop goes on with his day and LeBron is all over 'SportsCenter.' Britney Spears shaves her head, it's everywhere. You shave your hair, who cares? That's why I'm not sure I'm ready for the NBA.
"I mean, what's being famous anyway? It's a popularity contest. Don't get me wrong. I'm lucky. I love my life, but I just don't understand it. I brush my teeth with the same Crest. I use the same bar of soap. My house gets junky just like yours. I'm just a regular guy who can play basketball. I'm normal."
Those are the words of a well-grounded, level-headed, self-aware young man. While it may be immature for him to say that he still wants to be immature sometimes, it shows maturity that he realizes that he may not yet be mature enough for the NBA, if you follow me. By all accounts, he's been on his best behavior this year at K-State. And nobody ever said he was a bad kid, only that he makes bad decisions. He's never been in any real trouble. He doesn't have any priors, or anything like that (although immaturity can lead a person in that direction). So maybe he'll turn out just fine.
Or, maybe he won't.
And that's kind of the point: I don't know. Nobody does. That's why whenever there's a concern about a prospect, be it his character or his size or his fragility or whatever, it's called a question mark; there is no definitive solution yet, and there is no foolproof way to predict. Which is why Beasley is so intriguing to me. Will he prove to be a troublemaker, a talented but juvenile headache for every team he plays on, someone who generally drives everyone around him crazy? The WaPo piece also said that he stopped lifting weights because the gym wasn't warm enough and he didn't want to catch a cold. Will his skill-set dwarf his desire?
In other words, will he ultimately end up frustrating and pissing us off, like Coleman did?
In the end will he leave us disappointed, confused, and feeling a little sympathetic for him, like Webber did?
Or will he cash in on his vast potential, like those two never completely did?
That is the query. The answer lies in wait, just over the horizon.