Orlando Ramirez- of USA TODAY Sports
Internet foolishness long behind him, JaVale McGee is poised to be a big part of the Lakers success this season.
Former UCLA coach John Wooden once advised to be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
Powerful words but, with all due respect to Coach Wooden, he was never featured on TNT’s Shaqtin’ A Fool.
JaVale McGee signed with the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason and in doing so, teamed up with LeBron James in his quest to restore the glory of one of sport’s most storied franchises.
Los Angeles will look to McGee to leverage his size and athleticism to anchor its defense and finish at the rim on offense. McGee has the skillset to do just that and as a two-time champion with the Golden State Warriors, he brings a pedigree to his new team.
But reputation, and the internet, is a powerful thing.
The aforementioned Shaqtin’ is a weekly segment hosted by Shaquille O’Neal. In it, Shaq gives his Top 5 miscues from around the league – think Inside the NBA meets America’s Funniest Home Videos.
The segment, though immensely popular, began to take a turn at McGee’s expense. In short order he went from being a featured player to series regular to the star of the show. The constant mocking became less fun. Then it just seemed mean.
The tension finally boiled over to a Twitter beef between McGee and O’Neal that eventually subsided thanks in part to some intervention from O’Neal’s mother.
McGee acknowledges the TNT segment bothered him because it painted a picture that was not reality.
In a recent interview with Sam Alipour for ESPN The Magazine, McGee said, “I feel like people think that I have mental lapses and I'm injury-prone, which isn't true. You just don't know me. You're watching TNT and think it's real.”
McGee has moved past Shaqtin’. After contributing on two title runs with Golden State, he looking to bring that same success to the Lakers. An admitted “weirdo”, McGee harkens back to the great Jerry Lucas who was a talented player but, by his own admission, was just a wee bit off center (Lucas and Knicks teammate Bill Bradley communicated in a completely fabricated language on the court during their time together. I would pay money for McGee and Lance Stephenson to do the same this season).
Whatever his quirks, McGee is comfortable in his own skin. The Lakers are hoping that comfort translates to McGee’s best season thus far. The early returns are positive, as a slimmed down, athletic McGee looks like a new era center straight out of central casting.