Kwame Brown and Michael Jordan are together again.
Bet you didn’t see that coming. But Brown has signed a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum to play for the Charlotte Bobcats next season, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. He had played the last two seasons with the Pistons.
Michael Jordan gets credit in most people’s thinking for ruining Kwame, the former No. 1 overall pick. That is true only in this sense — he drafted him No. 1. It was not the pressure and yelling of Jordan that did it.
Kwame was never ready to be taken that high, to have that kind of expectations placed upon him. Some guys were ready out of high school, guys like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett and LeBron James came in as much (or more) swagger than game. They loved the game, believed in themselves and wanted the challenge.
Kwame Brwon simply was not mentally built like that. He was not ready for the setbacks — where KG reacted to every setback by setting his jaw and fighting to overcoming it, Kwame wilted. That was not Jordan’s intense style, it was Kwame. He took it personally. Everyone had advice for him — from fatherly to screaming — that first year in the NBA and it overwhelmed.
He was not ready to be on his own. He didn’t even know how to take his suits to the dry cleaner — I’m not kidding. Read this great old article from the Washington Post about Brown’s rookie season (rediscovered by our own Matt Moore). Brown was a fantastic physical specimen who knew how to say the right things, but was not really ready. Isiah Thomas saw it where Michael Jordan did not.
Brown can still do a couple things well — he’s a good defensive rebounder, and if you ask him to play man-up defense on another big body (ala Yao Ming or Shaquille O’Neal) he can be surprisingly effective. On offense, there is not much. But Phil Jackson got the most out of him because he understood the limitations and used him within that. Larry Brown can do the same thing.
Just don’t blame Jordan for Kwame. Blame Kwame for the cake throwing all you want, however.