The sad tale of a good kid

30 Aug

By Justin Young
National Hoops Report

I don’t know the Javaris Crittenton that was arrested by the Federal Bereau of Investigation at the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California this week.

That Javaris Crittenton was wanted for murder. He was on a Most Wanted poster. He allegedly shot a 22-year-old mother of four from a car. He was on the run. His mugshot was posted on every major media outlet in America.

The reports of the crime he was connected too are heart-breaking, sad and confusing.

I don’t know that guy.

I’m not sure I want to know that guy.

The Javaris Crittenton I remember is a humble kid, grateful for the opportunities he had been blessed with.

I remember the 14-year-old kid that was dripping in sweat at a June AAU tournament at the old Atlanta Westlake High School. He just finished playing in a game at the 17 and under division. He was amazing. I introduced myself to him after talking to the late Wallace Prather, one of the founding fathers of the Atlanta Celtics.

“He’s next,” Prather told me, peering over the top of his gold rimmed glasses like he always did when he was speaking truths.

Prather was never wrong and he was absolutely right about Crittenton.

Over time, Crittenton developed into the player that Prather thought he was going to be. He was a two-time state champion. I was there for both of those victories. He credited God, his coach, his team, his family and then, after some coaxing, answered questions about his own play.

Crittenton played for a God-fearing man in Courtney Brooks, a man I’d let my kids play for, at Southwest Atlanta Christian. He had a strong male figure in his corner in Hulio Smith of the Atlanta Celtics. His mother and younger sister were always courtside for his high school games. They blended in.

Crittenton, by all accounts, was a model citizen. He was a 3.5 grade point average student. He was respected amongst his peers. He was respectful to the adults that helped push him along the way.

I’ve covered a lot of players over the last decade and Crittenton is a top 10 player when it came to winning games in the clutch. He always found a way to win.

Crittenton grew up in the ripple effect of Dwight Howard, Randolph Morris and Josh Smith – the three-headed monster of the greatest collection of prep players the city of Atlanta will ever see. Crittenton played with those guys as a young kid. He enjoyed the ride.

He saw the NBA scouts come to the summer games. When general managers rolled through the tiny Southwest Atlanta Christian gym to see Howard, there was number 1 running the show. There were times he probably thought the scouts where there for him, not Howard.

Kids dream.

Mentally, Crittenton lived as a NBA player long before he ever moved the tassel on his graduation cap at SACA. Maybe we all saw that. Who knows?

Paul Hewitt and Peter Zaharis joined me in Portland for the Nike Global Challenge earlier this year. We recounted their days coaching at Georgia Tech. I asked them about all of their pro players and about what made them different than the rest of the guys.

Both said it was difficult to coach Crittenton, at times, because of his attitude and one foot in college and one foot in the NBA mentality. Both coaches, however, never questioned Crittenton’s desire to win. No one could.

That’s why the Lakers probably drafted him 19th overall in 2007. I was there that night. He was gracious and grateful. He was as excited as that 14 year old kid I met five years prior.

When it came time to make the move to Los Angeles, Crittenton was ready to go. Then reality hit. He made it to the land of Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson.

He didn’t last long. Twenty-two games to be exact. Kobe wasn’t a fan. Neither was Jackson. The reason? Attitude. Crittenton was quickly shipped off to Memphis.

The downward spiral began here.

A quick stop in Memphis lasted all of 35 games before he was shipped off to Washington. We all know how that ended.

A stint in China and the NBA Development League were his next stops.

Then the news of him pulling a trigger and hoping to hit a man he believed to be the culprit of a jewelry robbery came next. Investigators say Crittenton pointed a weapon, pulled a trigger and killed a young mother. That single act changed the pattern of life for generations of families.

The Javaris Crittenton that sits alone in a jail cell in Los Angeles is a stranger to me.

I don’t know him.

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One Response to “The sad tale of a good kid”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Point Forward » Posts Court Vision: The latest around the league « - August 31, 2011

    […] have to make any more trips to Minnesota before getting either a job offer or a rejection • More reflections on Javaris Crittenton from someone who has monitored his career for nearly a […]

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