Ask any professional athlete what the most important part of competition is, and they’ll probably tell you, “winning.” Take a strong, competitive personality like Michael Jordan or Tom Brady who are driven to win time and time again. But if you were to ask those same athletes what the second most important thing is, they might tell you it’s “achievement.”
For some athletes, achievement means getting better at their sport. For others, it means chasing stats, awards, and accolades. There’s a time and place for everything though. You can’t chase personal statistics at the expense of your team. Just ask JaVale McGee.
Javale McGee chases a triple-double
In the world of basketball, a triple-double is a prime example of personal achievement, a statistic that players across the league are continually chasing after. For those unfamiliar, a triple-double is when a player puts up double digits numbers in three different stats over the course of a single game.
Usually, those stats are a mix of points, rebounds, assists, blocks, or steals. Players like Jordan, Magic Johnson, and most prominently LeBron James, have put up numerous triple-doubles across their hallowed careers. In fact, James has managed to rack up a triple-double against every NBA team.
Getting at least one triple-double is a matter of honor and personal respect. So is winning though. On March 15th, 2011 McGee, still playing for the Washington Wizards at the time, went after his first triple-double.
McGee managed to rack up 11 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 blocks, before drawing an excessive celebration foul for doing a pull-up on the rim.
Context matters though. If you watch a replay of the game, you can see Javale McGee visibly celebrating, jumping around, and hugging his teammates. The problem is that the Wizards were losing the game badly, down 20 points at the time, and you can lay a significant portion of the blame at McGee’s feet.
During the broadcast, sportscaster Kevin McHale said, “Terrible… That’s a bad triple-double!” The problem was, McGee found himself stuck at nine points. It took him almost four minutes of game time, including a missed free throw attempt, to pull down that final point, all while missing shots left and right.
There were at least nine points he himself sacrificed during that four-minute interval. It boggles to think what could have been if McGee had just run plays and focused on rudimentary teamwork.
The rest of his career
Javale McGee is by no means a bad player, he’s just a different kind of player. The 2011 triple-double attempt was still pretty early in his career. He played more impulsively back then and lost sight of the team’s overall goal that fateful night.
McGee was drafted by the Washington Wizards in the first round of the 2008 draft. He played college ball for Nevada at center and put up solid numbers, averaging 14 points a game and seven rebounds.
“Solid and respectable” is the best way to describe the gigantic seven-foot-tall center. His stats haven’t been bad, but they haven’t been anything exceptional either, averaging just shy of eight points per game across 11 seasons.
His inconsistent overall performance has gotten him moved around the league from team to team. After his stint with the Wizards, he spent three years on the Denver Nuggets followed by a mere six games with the Philadelphia 76ers.
He then landed on the Dallas Mavericks for just under a season before a tibia injury benched him. Javale McGee did spend two years with the Golden State Warriors, contributing to their 2017 championship run. He now plays for the LA Lakers.
While “mediocre” might be too strong a word, his overall career has fallen somewhere in the middle. He’s never quite reached the heights of other great centers, but he’s not a bad player either. Just a different kind of player. Perhaps that “terrible” triple-double back in 2011 foretold of his overall career.