(In the vein of the highly esteemed David Shoemaker, AKA The Masked Man’s Deadspin column entitled “Dead Wrestler of the Week”, we here at MAMBINO are going to parse our way through the worst contracts the NBA has to offer. Part dedication to the great men who have swindled their way to big checks, part commemoration to GMs that should have been fired and part commentary on the ills of a capitalist society gone wrong, we’ll be here every week with a look at the L’s worst deals)
Contract: 2 years, $6 million
Signed by: Philadelphia 76ers
Salary this season: $3 million
2013 Slash Line: 1.9/3.4/0.4 in 22 games
If you’ve ever seen Kwame Brown in person, you’ll know this same, overwhelming feeling I’m about to describe. As your eyes wander through the pregame lay-up lines trying to find the former number one overall pick, you’ll easily spot this gargantuan human being. All of 7 feet, 270 pounds, Kwame is built like a Greek statue. Though he’s become less of a specimen into his early thirties, Brown is still chiseled from head to toe. Most 7 footers are these gangly human train wrecks that look more like a random consortium of misappropriated body parts than anything a x and y chromosome could make. However, Brown resembles more of an over-sized professional wrestler than a willow tree—a fully filled out 7 feet tall. His arms are like the longest, most intricately detailed black marble you’ve seen in your life, which seem to be at odds with the design of his lower body. His legs are like two distinguished tree trunks, perfect for boxing out and destroying any opposing rebounder or defender that dare come at him in the paint. The only knock on Kwame’s anatomy are his curiously small hands that would look more suitable on a man one or two feet his subordinate. Overall, I always leave an in-person Kwame Brown experience thinking “if I had seen this guy when he was 18 years old, there’d be no doubt in my mind he’d be a star.” In this case, The 20/20 Experience is more than just an album full of jams.
There’s no doubt that Kwame Brown deserves a spot in this illustrious post series. In fact, he might be the charter member of the Bad NBA Contract of the Week Hall of Fame. But what I’m trying to say is that as much as I’m about to eviscerate Brown and any foolish manager that would sign him…I probably would have made the same mistake. But maybe not four times over.
As familiar as it is to talk about Kwame Brown as one of the worst NBA Draft busts of all-time, it’s strange to talk about the man who selected him being the greatest player in NBA history. Michael Jordan had just been given basketball decision-making powers on behalf of the Washington Wizards, the organization hoping to harness whatever made MJ great on the court into front office glory. The experiment failed (and continues to fail) miserably. Jordan convinced the Wiz to take Georgia high school phenom Brown with the first pick (though in his defense, Brown’s fellow top-3 picks were prep big men Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler. Both didn’t reach their expected production until several years into their careers).
In his first four seasons, all with Washington, Kwame showed flashes of the talent that made him into such the number one pick. At the age of 20, his third year in the league and after two disappointing seasons, Brown averaged a shade under 11 points, 7.4 rebounds on .489 shooting and an improving acumen for using his Adonis-like frame for intimidating post defense. But like Kwame’s entire career, a short period of hope was followed by another period of damning disenchantment. He followed up what would turn out to be a career best season with a 7 ppg, 5 rpg year. Though it seemed like Brown had been a bust for an eternity after his fourth campaign, he was still just 23 years old with size and strength no one could teach. He was sign-and-traded to the Lakers in the offseason for All-Star Caron Butler amongst others, and many thought that a transition to a well-run franchise like the Lakers could help morph this toolsy prospect into having a Hall of Fame career. Little did they know, it was the first step into another Hall of Fame–the Bad NBA Contract of the Week Hall of Fame.
The Lakers had signed Kwame to his first awful deal, a three year, $27 million dollar pact. At the time, it wasn’t a terrible trade: the Lakers were rebuilding, and were in dire need to a big man to replace the recently traded Shaquille O’Neal. The Lakers were hopeful that Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant could help unlock the talent within the center, and harness the inner defensive beast he at least resembled. For a brief period, it felt as if the two NBA legends had gotten to him: Brown dominated in the 7th seeded Lakers near-upset over the 2nd seed Phoenix Suns, averaging 14 points, 7 boards on 52% shooting. Though not a world beater by any means, Kwame’s performance for those 7 games relative to his career felt like the Kraken had just risen at the sound of Liam Neeson’s majestic vocal tones.
By the middle of his second season with the Lakers, Jackson was already throwing barbs at the Charmin soft Brown, meowing at him in the dressing room and calling him a pussycat in public. Nothing great in Kwame’s career, it seems, can exist without a counter balance of well, absolute shit. Brown’s on-court game continued to change night to night, as he struggled to find consistency on either side of the ball, even degrading so far as to getting showered with as many boos as I’ve ever personally heard in STAPLES Center for any Laker (in our defense, Brown had 7 turnovers that night, as well as a disgraceful blown dunk attempt. In his defense, his tiny hands are like liiiiiiittle cement slabs. How can he be expected to catch things?). Off the court, Kwame sucked at life nearly as much as he did at basketball, including a bizarre incident where he stole a civilian stranger’s cake and threw it in the man’s face. This actually happened.
Going into his third season and 25th year of life, it was obvious that Kwame would never embrace his former destiny as a NBA star. At that point, most front office officials would have been fired up to see him as a legitimate rotation player. His best NBA quality at the time wasn’t any on-court quality—it was his $9 million dollar expiring contract. Brown was soon traded for Memphis Grizzlies forward/center Pau Gasol, in a move that would propel the Lakers to three straight Finals appearances and two championships. Thanks, Kwame!
Though Brown played in just 15 games with the Grizz and put up even worse numbers despite being on an awful team, some teams were still tantalized by his potential ability to, at the very least, stand underneath the rim and serve as some sort of deterrent for basketball professionals to score baskets in the paint. The Detroit Pistons believed that Kwame was capable of this relatively easy feat and handed Brown his second awful contract of his celebrated career: a 2 year, $8 million dollar deal. Let me explain this clearly: the Pistons were not expecting much from Brown. GM Joe Dumars released this statement when he was signed: “Kwame is a player that gives us depth at the center position and we feel that he will have the opportunity to grow within our system.” Brown had gone from the number one pick to a giant human that at best could serve as a suitable back-up and perhaps could improve over time. The bar was set incredibly low. All the dude had to do was be gigantic, make some easy lay-ups on fellow second stringers and keep his hands up when another big guy tried to score on him.
Needless to say, Kwame failed miserably at this staggeringly easy task. The walking Greek statue (a more appropriate description than ever before) proved unworthy of his very modest $4 million dollar salary, “playing” his way out of the team’s rotation and providing less and less production every passing month. Joe Dumars had set up Kwame to succeed in even the most modest circumstances. In turn, Kwame put on an even worse performance past Joe D’s wildest dreams. Or nightmares. Or night terrors. What’s worse than a night terror?
Just when it seemed Kwame was ready to wash out of the NBA, like a Smirnoff Ice in your fridge, he stuck around for longer. However, 2010-2011 wasn’t just a great year for Kwame: it was a great year for the NBA at-large. Why? Because the league signed Brown to his first-ever sensible contract. Of all teams, the Michael Jordan-owned Charlotte Bobcats took on the big man for the veteran’s minimum $1.3 million. Perhaps sensing that his NBA career was on the verge of extinction, Kwame used his tiny, Tyrannosaurus-like hands to provide more value than he was being paid for the first time ever. His averages that year? 8 points, 7 rebounds in 50 starts and 66 games for the Bobcats, his best season since 2006-2007 in LA. Still 28, Kwame’s (now fluke) year of solid production was enough to embolden another NBA team into giving him his third bad NBA contract. In the National Basketball Association, if you have any scent of pedigree on you, just have a brief spurt of solid play. GMs will be on you like 14 year-old boys at the sight of a training bra.
2011’s patsy? The Golden State Warriors, who offered a one-year $7 million dollar deal. The contract wasn’t terrible, as very few one-year pacts are considered bad. After all, the Warriors badly needed an inside presence to aid their porous perimeter defense in Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry and felt that a seemingly revitalized Kwame could provide some of that in tandem with fellow Bad NBA Contract of the Week alumn Andris Biedrins. Similar to his stint in the Motor City, the Warriors just needed Kwame to be a big person, rebound a little and get the ball out to his guards as quick as humanly possible. But with Kwame, we’re always talking about new levels of suck-tasm.
Brown played in just 9 games for Golden State, tearing his pectoral muscle just weeks into the season. He played well (for him) in his short stint in the Bay, providing 6 points and 6 rebounds in just 187 total minutes of court time. His only lasting contribution that season was his role as salary cap ballast, as the 29 year-old’s $7 million dollar salary was used in the deal for Andrew Bogut. Now in addition to perennially underachieving, the center was now approaching his thirties and had suffered the first significant injury of his career. He couldn’t be in line for the fourth bad NBA contract of his career, can he?
Enter the Philadelphia 76ers. Home to hooligan Phillies fans, our own Raw Librarian (case in point right there) and of course, underachieving basketball for much of the last 25 years. The Sixers somehow gave Kwame 2 years and $6 million, which is just twice the veteran’s minimum. This of course assumes that Kwame Brown is worth twice the production a veteran can minimally put out. Which he can’t. Because he sucks.
The Hall of Famer (remember which one) did not fail to impress in his career of failing to impress, playing in just 22 games for Philly and registering career lows in nearly every single significant statistical category. Sixers fans tired of him from the first month of his red, white and blue existence, as displayed by this article by Liberty Ballers only rivaled in smarm by this post you’re reading right now. Kwame holds a $3 million dollar player option for next year, which isn’t a bad contract by most quantifiable means, but certainly in the context that no matter what the expectation, Mr. Brown will somehow find a way to limbo under it.
Like Denzel Washington’s Oscar for Training Day, Kwame’s current contract certainly isn’t his worst, but rather simply his latest worst contract. He’s had an incredibly distinguished career of bad deals, an amazing and difficult feat considering his age (31) and disappointing stints nearly everywhere he’s gone. However, we couldn’t go on doing this post series without bringing up the most grievous offender of bad contracts in NBA history. For a lifetime of work, we salute you Kwame Brown.
Like this post? Check out our other Bad NBA Contracts of the Week: