I was captivated within three seconds of watching Jamario Moon at the Armory in downtown Albany. I didn't think twice the first time I said, "He should be in the league."
He showcased his driving ability and his thunderous throw-downs, all with a smile bigger than the state of Alabama.
The moment he landed in Toronto I couldn't have been any happier. Sure, the Raptors sucked, but this is still showtime. I showed up to his second game in New Jersey, while he was still on the inactive list, with his jersey and got to meet up with him after the game.
It was the calm before the storm, and shortly after he somehow worked his way to the starting lineup. He averaged 8.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 1.4 BPG when he wasn't even expected to put a warm-up on.
Since then? A progressive spiral downwards, where the D-League is looking more appealing every time he hits the floor.
It's simple. When Moon was working his tail off to even make the Raptors, he played for the love of the game. He was playing because that was his dream: to suit up for an NBA team—a dream that he had worked seven incredibly hard years in the bush leagues to earn.
I remember talking to him before one game in Albany, and the thing that rang louder than anything was how humble this kid was. I brought him one of his trading cards that the Patroons had made to sign. Instead, he handed the card back to me, walked back to the locker room and handed me an entire pack of his cards and signed each one.
Mind you, this was all before a championship game.
You can see in his interviews in Toronto that he remained humble even while he was starting. It was all about the "Cinderella story." It was about the kid from Goodwater, Alabama who played in the most obscure cities around the country and finally made it.
He said, "If I'm dreaming, I hope somebody don't pinch me." It was that bashfulness and dedication that put him in the starting lineup.
The only logical reason for his utter disappearance is the money. Once he made the league, he learned quickly that it's similar to a fraternity. He didn't have to worry about not getting paid or how he and his wife were going to eat. He was hooked up with Joel Bell, a reputable agent who got him a $3 million deal in Cleveland. His focus or motivation has been lost in translation.
I'm not trying to belittle his effort either. I understand it's not easy to make it. It's not easy to maintain a starting role, especially on teams that were playoff material like the Raptors and Heat, but he did!
He did start for Miami when they made the playoffs, and he did have a start when the Raptors played Orlando in the first round. He was the first guy in Cleveland to fill the three spot when LeBron James left.
I'm still his biggest fan and his biggest critic, and I always will be, but I hope he finds his heart. Because when he hits the floor with a purpose, there's nothing else like it.