As a part of its on-going quest to assemble a roster capable of an 0-82 season, the Philadelphia 76ers cut ties Monday with a must-watch player who’s capable of doing something GIF-worthy every time he touches the ball. He is the most entertaining player in the NBA and if your team is in the playoff hunt, you want him signed immediately. He is Javale McGee and he’s about to make one unsuspecting fanbase very happy. First, to fend off the haters, let’s establish that entertaining doesn’t mean good. In this case, it means quite the opposite. McGee is gawky and graceless. He makes questionable decisions on and off the basketball court. But these are the things make him must see TV. Over the course of seven years in the league, he’s become the Baryshnikov of boneheaded plays and the player most likely to appear on "Shaqtin' A Fool," the Big Saget’s blooper reel on NBA TV. No one would argue that McGee is on the same planet as Steph Curry, LeBron, Kevin Durant or James Harden. Dude’s clearly on a planet of his own.
And not just because he’s an unrepentant goofus. In a league whose stars talk like politicians and behave like hall monitors, McGee is legitimately interesting. He’ll celebrate a big block by pretending the autograph the ball, kiss an old lady seated courtside and make a YouTube video with a bunch of intentionally corny pickup lines. He’ll show you how to grocery shop like a boss and how to never take a day off. As McGee tells it, this always-on public persona is premeditated, a dadaist interpretation of how the modern male athlete is supposed to behave. And no, he’s not stupid. Just ask him. “Once people meet me, they feel dumb themselves,” he said in 2013.
But that was probably joke, McGee exaggerating his “actually a smart guy” persona just like he exaggerates his “totally a dumb guy” persona. The true McGee seems to lie somewhere in between. He’s not the Mensa member some of his teammates would have you believe and he’s not the pea-brained klutz Shaq and Charles Barkley think he is. Yes, he has a reputation for making dumb plays, but most of the derision directed at McGee comes from fans and commentators who are clutching their pearls so tight, they’re turning to dust.
McGee’s crime? He has too much fun. One of the most repeated stories used to illustrate his ridiculous behavior concerns a night in 2011 when he recorded his first and only triple double. With his Wizards getting blown out in the fourth quarter, McGee, who already had double digit blocks and rebounds, need to hit 10 points to hit the milestone. So chucked up a few awful shots, missing them of course. Finally, he stuffed in a two handed jam, giving him 11 points, a triple double and, because he did a pull up on the rim, a technical foul. Cue the grandmas. “That’s a bad triple double,” Kevin McHale said on TV. “Poor judgement,” the New York Times said. And for what? Having the temerity to make a blowout in mid-March interesting? Playing selfishly in a league designed for selfish play? It’s nonsense.
In 2012 Javale McGee signed a $44 million contract. NBA front offices, even bad ones, don’t hand deals like that to players whose only talent in landing on SportsCenter's “Not Top 10.” In 23 games for the Nuggets and Sixers this year, McGee has averaged 14.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes. Give him half that as a backup on a contender and he can be an important cog on a team that makes a deep run. Great for him, but even better for the fans. We all need McGee on a team that gets run out on TNT, ESPN and ABC once a week. We need to see his antics as they happen on our TV screens, not an hour later on Vine. We need Javale McGee.