Last night, your Denver Nuggets beat the Chicago Bulls for their twelfth straight win -- and the person who locked up the victory, by blocking an in-bounds pass with less than a second left, was none other than JaVale McGee, who is quickly becoming one of Denver's (and the NBA's) most popular players.
In an attempt to shed light on the Nuggets' intriguing (and eccentric) rising star, we have compiled a top ten idiot's guide to understanding JaVale McGee. Begin the countdown below.
10. He makes a lot of silly plays McGee's ball-handling skills are great -- for a center. But that doesn't mean he should try to run the break when he grabs a rebound. Shaq had this problem, too; it's the grass-is-greener syndrome. Small guys want to be taller. Big guys want to be more agile. McGee has made such a name for himself as a bonehead; he appears nearly every week on Shaq's feature, Shaqtin' a Fool (though, to be fair, just including him has become a joke in and of itself). McGee still has a tendency to goaltend, do too much on offense or too little on defense.
9. He's shooting 100 percent from three-point range this year He's only shot one so far, but damned if he didn't sink it, and right at the buzzer in a big game against the Clippers. JaVale was actually a decent three-point shooter in college at the University of Nevada. His high school coach believed that JaVale was primed to be a (huge) small forward due to his coordination and shooting ability. He's a long way from being a serviceable NBA three-point shooter, but he should be able to develop a decent mid-range jumper that would enhance other aspects of his game tremendously.
8. He is basketball's Ochocinco: He loves to celebrate Equally as entertaining but infinitely less frustrating than McGee's on-court snafus are his unusual celebrations after big plays. After his huge alley-oop over Hamed Haddadi on Monday against the Suns, he took a bow as if to say, "Ah, thank you." Following his three pointer, he mixed up an invisible pot of gumbo and licked his fingers. His most memorable celebration was after serving himself a dunk off the backboard, Kobe-style, in a game against the Rockets: McGee held a finger above his upper lip, revealing a little swirly mustache tattooed (yes, tattooed) there. The mustache belongs to his alter-ego, Pierre.
7. He has a French alter-ego named Pierre He uses the Pierre pseudonym to retweet himself -- but from his regular Twitter account, strangely enough. Apparently, Pierre is much more smooth and suave than McGee. When boneheaded plays are made, it's probably McGee and not Pierre. After all, Frenchman are always sexy. If you haven't subscribed to McGee's twitter, by the way, @JaValeMcGee34 is highly recommended.
6. His mother is as awesome as he is As an Olympic gold medalist, NCAA All-American, back-to-back NCAA champion and WNBA player, mother McGee was a basketball force in her own right. Retired in her career, but not in her demeanor, Pam McGee demonstrated insatiable enthusiasm during McGee's coming-out party in the playoffs last year against the Lakers. She's a frequent target for cameras and courtside interviews for her unbridled intensity and humor.
5. He wants to be a filmmaker JaVale's ability to entertain could provide career opportunities beyond the basketball court. As a child, he recorded Blair Witch Project rip-offs with his aunt's video camera. He wanted to go to USC like his mother because of its prestigious film school, but decided against it because they would have redshirted him for a year.
4. He's an athletic freak For a seven-footer, JaVale has remarkable fluidity, and he runs the court exceptionally well. His coordination allows him to do things no human his size should be able to do, like handle the ball as well as he does. At seven-feet, six-inches, his wingspan is the longest in the NBA, and this allows him to block and bother shots as well as anybody. His length and leaping ability, equally uncommon for a person his size, also allow him to rebound and finish plays, especially by dunking, at the rim. McGee's only athletic shortcoming is that he isn't as strong as the average NBA center, which especially limits him on the defensive end, where maintaining position is key. According to his mother, though, the men in the McGee family grow late, so JaVale could become even more physically dominating.
3. His fundamentals need work As is the case with most physically dominating players, McGee has been able to rely mostly on his natural talent to be productive, but that doesn't fly in the pros, where most every player is incredibly gifted. JaVale gives up too much ground when defending off-ball in the post; he falls for too many pump fakes, and he doesn't battle for position early to get rebounds. In the past, he could make up for these deficiencies with his size, quickness and leaping ability, but to become an NBA star, he needs to improve in all these areas.
2. He has asthma The most finely tuned athletes in the world struggle to gather oxygen at a mile high, so the fact that JaVale has elevated his game coming from Washington is a testament to his hard work, especially given Denver's high-demand, constant-running game plan. At times, he can still be caught wheezing, hands on knees after a particularly long, non-stop series of possessions. But for the most part, he seems to have his condition under control. Hopefully, he can keep it up with the additional playing time he is bound to receive once his defense improves.
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1. He's been mentored by Hakeem Olajuwan... ...and he has shown glimpses of his own Dream Shake and potentially dominating hook shot. With McGee's length and agility, a consistent hook shot and polished post game would make him virtually unguardable on the offensive end. Olajuwan has tutored superstars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, who have all expanded their offensive games as a result of the extra coaching. With luck, a little bit of that magic can rub off on McGee, too.