Last night I went to what amounted to the world’s most star-studded pickup game between players representing the Drew League and the Goodman League. The Drew League team, led by James Harden and Brandon Jennings avenged a prior loss to the Goodman League, 151-144. It was a lot of fun–Kevin Durant and John Wall both scored over fifty in a losing effort, and the free-flowing gameplay supplied the kind of highlight-reel plays that are rare even in NBA action.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about Michael Beasley. Michael Beasley. B-Easy. In a pickup game with 295 points scored, he fouled out–yes, fouled out–in the third quarter having scored four points, having scored none in the first half. I understand that scoring points is not the only measure of a basketball player. It’s not. But… 295 points, of which he scored four.
His performance was so bad. So, so bad. He was mockingly applauded the first time he scored, and laughed at when he fouled out.
I don’t mean to jump to conclusions, but his caliber of play led me to believe that he was most likely high. I don’t mean that in a “ha ha, he sucked so bad he was high” sort of way, I mean that in a “his physical coordination did not represent that of a professional athlete, so the only logical conclusion is that he was on some sort of drugs” way. And this is a problem.
Yes, I understand Beasley had something of a comeback year last season, and is still only 22 years old. But, I mean, Jesus Christ, people wanted the Bulls to take him over Derrick Rose? Really?
Whenever someone has a reputation as being a head case in sports, it’s usually good to recap where that reputation came from. With Michael Beasley, it starts in high school, or at high schools, rather. He went to six of them, most famously being kicked out of basketball powerhouse Oak Hill when he and classmate Ty Lawson engaged in a battle to sign as many things as they could, culminating in a certain “mb-easy” signing the principal’s car. On the one hand, Michael Beasley really didn’t need these high school administrator’s help to get to college or the NBA. Fine.
Beasley had an incident-free tenure at Kansas State. Why Kansas State? Not entirely clear, although the school’s hiring of his AAU coach probably had something to do with it, and it bears noting that his mother moved out to the area for work as well, which, you know, is one of those things that tends to happen for big recruits. There were criticisms to be raised about his game, but none about his character, per se.
He had something of a physical incident with a fan at a basketball game this summer.
A good rundown of Michael Beasley’s relationship with marijuana is here. Basically:
- In 2008, he was caught smoking with fellow NBA rookies Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur in 2008, at the Rookie Transition Program, which is designed to instruct players how to avoid things such as, I don’t know, setting off a fire alarm in a hotel room–just go on the balcony–and having embarrassing stories about your weed-smoking all over the papers.
- In 2009, he posted pictures of his new tattoos, with possible illicit substances nearby.
- He entered rehab that year, shortly after sending messages on Twitter reading “”Feelin like it’s not worth livin!!!!!!! I’m done” and “I feel like the whole world is against me I can’t win for losin.”
- He claimed to begin sobriety on 8/6/09.
- He was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, whose general manager was fined for saying, “He’s a very young and immature kid who smoked too much marijuana and has told me that he’s not smoking anymore, and I told him that I would trust him as long as that was the case.”
- On July 7, 2011 he was busted for marijuana possession.
I bring all of this up, not to mock (although originally, I must admit, I thought it’d be funny, but the more I read over this, the sadder it gets), but because Michael Beasley is an irresistible tragic figure. I don’t mean to get all “Drugs are bad, mkay,” but the issue isn’t so much that he smokes weed–this is the NBA, after all–but that he can’t or won’t keep from getting caught again and again.
As in life, everything is about context. Is it funny that he’s surprised how highly a video game thought of him, or warning sign of how he feels about himself, or nothing at all?
The point is, Michael Beasley does not seem like he’s enjoyed his time in the NBA. And because of that, he will never be what we want him to be (i.e. as good as someone with his natural talents would be were they completely dedicated to basketball), which is all the more likely to have a negative effect on Beasley’s psyche, which can only lead to more disappointment in his underachievement. He’s constantly reminded of how his childhood friend Kevin Durant has been a success where he has failed, and his new team basically drafted his doppelgänger to replace him. If this seems like a harsh reality for a 22-year-old who is already one of the hundred best in the entire world at his chosen profession, well, it is.