Before the Wizards played the Celtics on Saturday night, the only time most people watching the game had ever heard the name Mustafa before was when watching The Lion King. But at the four minute, 26 second mark in the first quarter, all that changed.
Just a day before, Mustafa Shakur was playing for the NBA D-League's Rio Grande Valley Vipers and had never stepped into live action of a real NBA basketball game. On Friday, Shakur finally got the break he had longed for, when Kirk Hinrich injured his elbow.
Hinrich's injury meant the Wizards needed to send someone up from their D-League squad. Shakur seemed liked a logical choice as he had been averaging 16.7 points to go with five assists for the Vipers in 23 games. So Washington signed him to a 10 day contract, not knowing that he would end up being a major reason the Wizards upset the Celtics a day later.
The former University of Arizona star had played for multiple NBA franchises as well as overseas in Europe, but no one had given him the chance to step into live action in an NBA game until Saturday night against the Boston Celtics.
John Wall picked up two early fouls and things were already looking bad for the last place Wizards. Washington's head coach, Flip Saunders, then decided to put in the 26 year old guard originally from Philadelphia.
Shakur had a solid outing for the Wizards, scoring five points while leading the team with five assists. Not bad for a guy who was undrafted out of college and cut by the Sacramento Kings on the first day of the 2007-2008 season.
In Major League Baseball, it is very normal to hear about players who waited years until they finally played in the "show", but in the NBA, guys who aren't playing in the top league within their first season or two usually move on to Europe where they can make a decent salary while receiving solid playing time.
If Shakur had followed class of 2003 recruit LeBron James, who he played against in the McDonald's All-American Game, maybe Shakur would have had quicker success in the NBA. After all, he was a five star recruit out of a high school and was ranked higher on Rivals.com than Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza.
Instead, Shakur went to play for the Lute Olson coached Arizona Wildcats, where he only averaged 9.4 points per game in his freshman season. He decided to test the draft waters after his junior year but came back when he realized that his draft status was undesirable.
In his senior season at Arizona, Shakur averaged a career best 11.9 points on a team that had two future Houston Rockets in Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger.
Shakur, the once five star recruit, never got drafted and had to watch fellow teammates and friends sign million dollar contracts while he bounced around from team to team, country to country.
Somehow, Mustafa Shakur put all that aside and devoted his life to making a long anticipated NBA debut. On Sunday night, that opportunity came and Shakur made the most of it. Against one of the league's top teams, he played ten crucial minutes for the Wizards and may have been the difference between an amazing upset over the Celtics or the 30th loss of the season for Washington.
Although John Wall received almost all the credit for the win, and deservedly so, the Wizards couldn't have done it without Shakur. Hopefully Shakur proved himself enough to earn more than a 10 day contract, and possibly a better fitting jersey.
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