UCLA forward Shabazz Muhammad is the subject of an article by Ken Bensinger of the Los Angeles Times that has the college-basketball world buzzing, and the piece also raises several questions that will affect Muhammad’s NBA Draft stock.
Let’s start with the most tangible issue:
According to the UCLA men’s basketball media guide, he was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 13, 1993.
But a copy of Shabazz Nagee Muhammad’s birth certificate on file with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health shows that he was born at Long Beach Memorial Hospital exactly one year earlier, making him 20 years old — not 19 as widely reported.
How and when he lost a year of his life are unclear.
Asked about the discrepancy, [Ron] Holmes insisted his son was 19 and born in Nevada. “It must be a mistake,” he said.
Several minutes later, he changed his account, saying that his son is, in fact, 20 and was born in Long Beach.
NBA teams obviously prefer younger players, which is a big reason 22-year-old Damian Lillard slipped to No. 6 in last year’s draft. Advancing a year in age will be especially questioned for Muhammad, who excels at posting up less physically advanced players. Is he just taking advantage of playing younger competition, or will that skill translate to the NBA?
The questions don’t stop there.
Because his son suffered from a mild case of Tourette’s syndrome, which can cause tics and other problems, Holmes told him he had to work that much harder.
Professional sports teams are often wary of players who are different, and in light of the difficulties the Houston Rockets and Royce White have had with each other, NBA teams might be especially leery of drafting a player they perceive as having any similarities to White. White’s and Muhammad’s issues are not necessarily similar medically, but here, the perception matters more than the science.
And that leads to, perhaps, the biggest issue:
Holmes’ life mission, though, has been to raise his three children to be professional athletes.
“If you’re a doctor, your kid is going to med school. If you’re a lawyer, he’s going to law school,” Holmes said. “I was an athlete. That’s what I could do for my kids.”
Holmes has pinned most of his hopes on the middle child, Shabazz.
Does Shabazz love basketball?
NBA teams want players who work out at all hours, who push aside other aspects of their lives and devote themselves to the sport, who want to win more than they care about anything else. Most players who are drafted love basketball, because the only way to reach even that level of the sport is to already care deeply about it. Those who don’t typically fall behind much sooner in the weeding-out process.
But does Shabazz love basketball enough that he’ll continue to work hard at it, or is he just trying to please his father? If it’s the latter, there’s a much higher risk Shabazz loses his passion, and that could derail an NBA career.
Between now and the June 27 draft, NBA teams will have the opportunity to investigate Muhammad themselves, but Bensinger’s article reveals a lot about what they might find.