Editor's note: This column was originally published on May 5, 2005.
When he looks at Tyson Chandler, you have to wonder what he sees?
What he thinks? Wonder what travels through his mind? The image is mirror, but he has to see the the exact opposite. Same age, same profession, same young man different life.
It has been four years since they were introduced to the world through a draft that would change the history of basketball. The directions they've taken are opposite of the paths they've both walked in that time. One picked first, one picked second. For the first time in their infant and often maligned careers, they would play past game 82. By fate, they would see each other starting with game 83. By game 87, Kwame Brown would no longer be a part of the NBA experience.
Sticks and stones can break bones, but words ... words can evaporate manhood.
His nails stay manicured. His hair braided so tight on the regular that you can always see the color differentiation from his scalp to his skin. His suits and style all "Kevin Hill." Rollie/yellow. Over the years his eyes have grown dark, as if they've sunken deeper into his conscious, not just his face. If you walk past him, brush up next to him, it's as if you can hear his soundtrack playing inside of him. "Nobody knows the troubles I seen. Nobody knows ..."
Nobody knows why Kwame Brown was suspended by Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards for the remainder of the games they'll play this season, maybe for the rest of the games the Wizards play for life. Underneath the surface comments made by the president of operations, the chances of Kwame's ever returning to play ball in D.C. are as slim as GWBush's getting re-elected. "We had some philosophical differences," Grunfeld said. "We [the organization] are going to do things in a certain way and these players [those remaining on the roster] are committed to that. Those are the types of players we want around us." The graffiti on the wall in Krylons that this is much more profound than the "stomach virus" that Brown claimed kept him from attending practice after only playing four minutes in Game 3 of the series against the Bulls, kept him from showing up at all for Game 4.
There was an apparent argument before Sunday's practice between Brown and head coach Eddie Jordan. There was an apparent 10-minute meeting between him, Jordan and Grunfeld where a conclusion was reached that Brown's removal from the team would be in the best interest of the future. There are apparent emotional, psychological barriers that Brown has never overcome. There was Gilbert Arenas' 16-footer at the buzzer that made this story less relevant than it actually is.
But it's the stones that we must romance in order to get to the bottom of why the first high school player to ever be drafted No. 1 never panned out. The stones that don't hold the weight of the words tossed at him by his hero one year into his era. Sticks and stones can paralyze the most immortal of men, but these words they stripped Kwame Brown of ever having a chance to be or find himself as a basketball player and as a person.
"Flaming ... " That was the first word. One of life's other "f" words followed. It came in succession. It came from Michael Jordan's mouth. The words never reached Kwame Brown's ears, they went straight to his heart.
In Jordan's quest to build the next him while he was in charge and out of retirement in D.C., he broke Kwame Brown down to the very last compound. Emotionally and psychologically killed his spirit. And even though Magic Johnson used the same approach with Paul Pierce in L.A. during the summer pick-up runs at UCLA when Pierce was a 19-year old freshman at Kansas, Jordan's "technique" backfired. To the depth that those words rest at the epicenter of why the Wizards asked Brown to leave.