Let not one game an entire career impression make, right?
Last night Mrs. Pistols and I went to watch the much-ballyhooed superfreak swingman for #14 (in the country) Dallas Lincoln take on the second place team in his district. I didn’t know what to expect going in I guess. I knew LeBryan was the most hyped recruit OSU has had since Gerald Green decided (momentarily) to take his talents up I-35, but I didn’t know much else.
We got to the gym early enough to catch the painful end of the girls version of this game, a 30-point blowout that caused Mrs. Pistols to croon, “oh this is so sad for everyone.” “Whatever, this isn’t why we’re here,” I assured her.
The buzzer sounded, the court cleared, and LB Nash (as the PA announcer referred to him) came waltzing out with his purple-clad teammates. He’s much less caricature than I imagined, than he seems in his YouTube videos. A wispy mohawk-afro makes him appear a touch taller than his 6’7” listing and his build cannot be described in comparison to his peers. His teammates (and opponents) are all gangly, rail-thin kids, LeBryan is built like a 30-year old man.
Unfortunately that’s where the grown-up analogies must stop, for most everything else about him was neither mature nor adult-like.
From the moment he stepped on the floor to run through layup lines I could sense there was something off about him. I didn’t know what it was though. Is he smaller than I thought? Maybe. Is he a worse shooter than we need? Probably. I should be engulfed by his persona, should I not? I wasn’t.
He and his teammates ran through some dramatic, contrived, LeBron-esque photo shoot to conclude pre-game introductions and I still couldn’t put my finger on what it was about him that didn’t resonate.
LeBryan took over the game immediately but not because he asserted himself to be great. You get the feeling that LeBryan dominates games not because he is dominant, but rather because he is LeBryan. His points come easy, he barely jumps for rebounds, it’s as if he’s holding something back so he won’t offend anyone playing against him.
I was a bit disappointed to watch him linger around the three-point arc for most of the first quarter, I’d come to see a show and it felt like the first eight minutes were played by the JV as an opening for the main event, nothing really happened. He got going in the second though. A massive in-traffic dunk on a fast break, like a freight train blowing through a brick wall, the physical violence was deafening. He followed that up with a nasty Eurostep lefty dunk after which he threw a forearm shiver at his defender’s neck on the way back down the court. I looked at the ref, LeBryan looked at the ref, the ref just looked at the ball. LeBryan asserts his LeBryan-ness on everyone I suppose.
As the half drew to a close and Lincoln started opening it up, LeBryan started talking. He started affirming ESPN’s notion that “the only thing potentially standing in the way of Nash achieving great heights is Nash himself.” He cursed at teammates, sneered at referees, and glared at opponents. At one point I tweeted that watching him was like watching a homeless man’s LeBron crossed with Ron Artest, but in the worst possible way.
He picked up a technical near the end of the half (he should have had about three others), and I finally realized what it is about him that’s so disconcerting. There are two things actually. The first is that he’s spacey. His mind wanders like Artest’s in a way that makes you wonder whether he’s bored with playing basketball. The second, and more disturbing, is that he looked legitimately scared for most of the game. Obviously he wasn’t scared of his opponents and surely he wasn’t afraid of the stage (it wasn’t a big one). I thought, “why do his eyes keep darting around the gym like he’s terrified 500 people are going to converge on him all at once?” Then I understood.
LeBryan Nash is scared of LeBryan Nash. He knows how good he is, how good he can be, and he seems terrified by it. That’s why he screams at teammates and confronts referees, so the obligation may fall on someone else. It’s tough to blame him sitting here in front of my computer either. I’m a 25-year old writer with a good job and a stable (if not adventurous) future. He’s an 18-year old kid with the weight of an entire community, nay, an entire generation on his shoulders. He is the future of his family, few people know how to handle a situation like that.
Remember that scene in Coach Carter when Cruz quotes Marianne Williamson, “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
That’s how I feel about LeBryan.
Granted, I’ve only seen one game, and he did end up with 29 points, but I didn’t love what I saw. Eddie Sutton would eat this kid alive the first time he gave one of those half-cocked snarls at one of his upperclassmen. And I hope Travis Ford does the same. His talent is limitless and his future something you can build brackets upon. But LB needs to understand the path to greatness is not paved by external crusades of frustration and revulsion. No, it is paved when one learns to internalize all the fear and distaste of the world and produce something that no one else can possibly produce.
The pieces are there, it’s up to him to put the puzzle together.