Shannon Brown has become the antithesis of the player he was a year ago.
As a Los Angeles Laker, Brown became widely known for his spectacular and awe-inspiring dunks. His finishes in the open court were often majestic poetry in motion resulting in the kind of aerial acrobatics and power that make you contort your face and wonder, did I just see that?
Being gifted with a nearly 45-inch vertical will have that effect.
And while those moments were exciting for his teammates and the fans, they were less so for Brown. As the season went on, he became hesitant about the "dunker" label.
For him, it conjured up visions of being one-dimensional. There had been many before him, celebrated dunkers who quickly became an afterthought or worse.
This summer, rather than accept his lot in life, Brown decided to do something about it. Of course, had things gone differently he might never have had the chance.
Although Shannon Brown was a star at Michigan State, his start in NBA was less than kind.
Despite being a former first-round draft pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Brown has bounced around the league. When he proved to be little more than a human highlight film, the Cavs gave up on him.
They needed players who could spread the floor. At that time, Brown was hardly qualified. So he did what many players of his ilk do, become a journeyman.
Brown saw a brief stint with the Chicago Bulls and eventually landed with the Charlotte Bobcats. There, he found himself in a very familiar situation: riding the pine. However, it wouldn’t be long before his luck turned and an opportunity with the Los Angeles Lakers would change everything.
He might not look like it now, but Brown in fact was a throw-in, in the deal with the Bobcats for former Gonzaga star and first-round pick Adam Morrison—a player who isn’t even currently in the league. Brown stuck around, believed in himself and became a champion.
Still he wasn’t satisfied. The label was there…
After working tirelessly this summer, Brown’s development as a complete player was never more evident than on Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. Time after time he defended, made plays and rained three after three when the Lakers needed those baskets the most.
His numbers—21 points, 4-of-5 from the arc—are just the latest evidence of his improvement.
Perhaps his poor showing in the 2010 dunk contest was a blessing in disguise.
Brown needn’t go too far, however. I’ve noticed many times this season, when he has an opportunity for a beautiful flush, he’s instead elected to lay the ball in. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but let’s hope even as he continues to improve he doesn’t deprive us completely of his god-given abilities.
Nevertheless, should Brown’s development continue at this clip, the Lakers' arsenal of weapons will truly be scary come playoff time.
After the game, when sideline reporter John Ireland lauded Brown for being one of the most improved players in the NBA, he asked Shannon what that could be attributed to.
Brown replied, “Never stop trying to get better. I love this game. This is what I love to do. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to work at it, and that’s what I did.”
Athleticism is a thing of beauty, it’s one of the many reasons we watch and marvel at this game, but it is also fleeting.
By working tirelessly, Brown has become the complete player he envisioned while ensuring his services will be valued by the purple and gold now and long into the future.