Before the Golden State Warriors signed him, JaVale McGee was a big joke. The 7-foot center had spent his career collecting alley-oops, losing track of his defensive assignments, and committing all manner of horrifying blunders. McGee played well enough for the Nuggets in one playoff series to earn himself a $44 million contract, but anything productive he managed to do for his team seemed to come in between inexplicable on-court fuckups and a pattern of performatively zany antics off the court that signaled a sort of aloof softness which NBA jackals ripped him for over and over again.
McGee languished on the Mavericks for a spell, and despite his impressive physical frame, it didn’t look like his career would ever right itself. Maybe it was the constant bullying from Shaq, or maybe he was the latest in a long line of guys who got pushed into the NBA because they were tall and it was simply an appropriate vocation.
When McGee joined the best team in the NBA, it looked like an odd cultural fit. The Warriors demand defensive discipline and McGee is a famous goaltending addict. However, he ended up excelling in his limited minutes at the backup center spot, playing the most games he has since the 2012-13 season and shooting the highest field goal percentage of his career. The Warriors didn’t ask him to do too much, but they used his rare combination of height and athleticism properly and fed him ample dunk opportunities (41.7 percent of his shots were dunks, the highest such percentage of his career).
What really made JaVale’s season special wasn’t that he dazzled with his best statistical year (which, on a per-minute basis, it was), but rather that he maintained a regular role on the greatest team in the NBA. He would still make the odd bonkers play, yet he was in control and was trusted by megastars like Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. He even lashed out at Shaq for picking on him.
After a steady playoff performance, McGee is an NBA champion. There’s nothing Shaq or any other trollish yappers can say to take that away. He might not have done much in the Finals, but a ring is a ring:
At this rate, Nick Young will be next.