Mitch McGary didn’t declare for the NBA draft on his own terms.
Facing a year-long suspension by the NCAA for failing a single marijuana test, the then-Michigan center concluded – wisely – he should turn pro.
And it’s worked well for him.
McGary was drafted No. 21 by the Thunder. Not only is he making millions of dollars, he joined one of the NBA’s top teams. Depending on Scott Brooks’ Kendrick Perkins fascination, McGary might even have a chance to join Steven Adams in Oklahoma City’s center rotation.
Recently, McGary spoke with Vice Sports about his experience:
I get people on Twitter and Instagram still commenting and stuff saying, ‘Oh, You did drugs.’
Well, you know what? I did. Whatever. So what? I learned from it.
It was in college. They’ll understand when they’re in college – or after that. Whatever.
It happens, and hopefully some kids can learn from it. But just don’t get caught.
Good for McGary.
All along, he’s handled this well. Just because the NCAA has ridiculous rules – you can read about more about them here – doesn’t mean he should bow to his punishing overlords. I’m not defending what McGary did, but smoking weed is not out of line for a Michigan student (or even criminalized in Ann Arbor), and he shouldn’t have faced such draconian penalties.
But as McGary brushes off his incident, it’s important to remember not all the athletes who’ve gotten stuck in the NCAA’s bureaucracy can laugh about it. McGary is positioned to do so because he made it out unscathed, but others have their careers ended by this nonsense.
Remember that when Adam Silver proposes raising the age limit and giving the NCAA even more power.
Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.
Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful:
Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.
He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.
He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.
He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.
His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.
Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:
So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.
Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.
He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24
The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.
The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:
“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.
“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”
Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:
“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.
“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”
Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.
But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.
Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.
After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.
In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.
I bet this made George Hill happier.
The Kings still losing to the Raptors, 108-93, probably didn’t, though.