Even as "Ring On Fire" aired on USA and as Gary Smith recreated Emile Griffith's life of being called a "maricon." The words that sticked and stoned Brown were more figurative, not literal. It was a question of his manhood that was being called out, a question of his desire to play the game he was put on this earth to play. The NBA is a man's game and after watching Kwame Brown "un-man" Tyson Chandler in a one-on-one workout prior to that 2001 draft, Michael Jordan was sure that he had his man. And with the first first pick the Bullets have ever had, they picked him. No questions asked, history was being made.

But Kwame's background wasn't like those who were considered his peers. His apparently consisted of beatings from his father that would make him internalize everything, let anything that bothered him eat away at him from the inside. Nobody knows. The mean streak he needed to turn into the player the Wizards drafted was locked away, never to come out. There was that emotional and psychological barrier that he carried with him that never affected his play. Until those two words tested his manhood. It came out in career numbers of seven points and five rebounds. It came in a DUI arrest in 2003. It came in his not tolerating anything else from anyone inside the Wizards organization.

See, there's a difference in being called a "flaming faggot" by Jordan as the Washington Post's Michael Leahy has reported and just being labeled a punk. Kwame wasn't about to be perceived as both.

Maybe he's doing this on purpose, this suspension. Getting himself out of having someone else make his situation worse than what it had become.

It's a contract year for Kwame. The minute the Wizards lose their last game he becomes a restricted free agent. After being shown that he was going to be Darko'd for the rest of the series while Tyson was going to shine like Rasheed, maybe Kwame Brown decided that the only way to control his future was to eliminate his present. What's more valuable in the free agent market: a 7-foot, 23-year-old player that had a bunch of DNPs in the playoffs or a 7-foot, 23-year-old player who goes into meetings with GMs and coaches and explains to them that "just like Jermaine O'Neal in Portland" he was never given a fair chance and wasn't about to get one, so he did what he had to do?

Michael Jordan, Kwame Brown
Jordan may be retired again, but Kwame still hears his voice.

Maybe he's much smarter than the IQ scores that impressed everyone when he came in the league.

Maybe of all the things he picked up from Michael Jordan, being calculating and doing whatever he has do to control his own destiny could be his best inheritance.

Or maybe I'm just coming up with theories trying to protect a kid whom Charles Barkley described as "a tragic mistake" because I feel he never had a chance in D.C. and he never will.

Sticks and stones, yo. Sticks and stones.

Al Sharpton has this saying. He says if someone comes in your office and knocks you out of your chair there's nothing you can do about it. But if that person comes back an hour later and you are still lying on the floor it's no longer that person's fault that you are on the floor. Staying there is all on you. He uses this scenario to discuss apathy in groups of people, races of people, generations of people, life.

Can this be applied to the treatment of a 19-year old kid who came into the game wanting to ball?

All Kwame wanted to do was learn. Possibly contribute early, but learn. He came to D.C. with no expectations, but with expectations placed on him. Even Slam magazine, in an issue done before he played his first game, blessed Kwame with a five-page spread when it gave Earl Monroe only three.



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