JaVale McGee thinks about how he's totally like a musical savant (Rocky Widner/ Getty).
Like all basketball blogs, Ball Don't Lie has covered its fair share of JaVale McGee stories this season, from the infamous sprint back on defense while his team had the ball to the world's most obvious goaltending violation to his game-winning putback in his first game as a Denver Nugget. Through that coverage, though, it's sometimes been easy to focus on the goofy antics and lose sight of the player as a whole, not to mention the young man himself.
Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated didn't miss that angle, however, and he's written a profile in the magazine to prove it. It's full of interesting tidbits, stories and opinions, so here's a brief rundown of the highlights:
1. JaVale's mother Pamela, one of the best women's basketball players of all time, had scheduled an abortion while pregnant with JaVale but changed her mind in the days before. She claims to have received signals from God and made her final decision not to have the procedure while in church.
2. While Pam suffered from breast cancer and a mastectomy operation in 1999, a pre-teen JaVale fixed her meals and stayed at her bedside.
3. As JaVale's coach and basketball mentor, Pamela used to hit him in the chest after mistakes and trained with him at 6 AM, boxing and jumping rope.
4. When scouting McGee at an AAU tournament, Nevada coach Mark Fox saw him score just two points and decided they had to sign him regardless.
5. At Nevada, an assistant coach "rejoiced" when he found out that JaVale knew his name.
6. JaVale's alter ego Pierre has a last name: McDunk. (Please note that Pierre is virtually indistinguishable from the man himself. The biggest difference is that, when in character, JaVale raises his mustache-tattooed finger over his mouth.)
7. McGee is asthmatic, which makes playing at Denver's high altitude particularly difficult.
8. Nuggets assistant Melvin Hunt: "He can do things nobody in this league can do. But there are some fundamental things that still seem so new. It's like a piano prodigy who never learned to play Chopsticks. He just went straight to Beethoven."
While the profile is fascinating, there are times when it seems like a joke, or at least that Jenkins is overrating McGee's abilities on the basketball court. Over his four NBA seasons, we've seen enough of his game to know that he likely won't ever make the most of his considerable natural abilities — the best we can hope for is that he reins in some of his worst tendencies and becomes a steady force at the defensive end and a decent player on offense.
Whatever he does on the court, though, Jenkins' piece proves that McGee himself is more than just a guy who does really weird stuff. His personality has grown over the course of many life experiences, from traveling around Europe with his mother as a child to working hard to become something more than a blog mainstay. He's an interesting guy with a background not usually seen in the NBA. Maybe it's time we look beyond the goofiness.