During my sophomore year lacrosse tryouts, I played well enough for my coach to offer me two choices: I could play on the varsity team and ride the bench, or I could play junior varsity and be a captain.
In the end, I decided to be the big fish in a little pond and suited up for junior varsity. I regret nothing, as I was the captain, started every game, and won an award at the end of the season.
Michael Beasley faced a similar decision this offseason. He was waived after contributing little to the Heat’s unsuccessful title run last season. He secured a training camp spot with the Memphis Grizzlies to support their decrepit wings, Tayshaun Prince and Vince Carter.
If Beasley made the team — a big if –, he would spend the season riding the pine, sporting his signature gloominess.
Then an intriguing offer floated his way; he could play a season for the Shanghai Sharks. The Sharks are owned by brontosaurus of a human being Yao Ming. Their roster already features one former NBA player, Delonte West, a Cavaliers guard and rumored seducer of LeBron’s mom.
In Memphis, Beasley would have to work his tail off just to crack the roster. In Shanghai, he’ll be among the best in the league just by showing up.
What separates Beasley’s dilemma from my own is salary. In the NBA, Beasley would likely play for the veteran’s minimum (a paltry $1,145,685). But, it is easy to assume Ming would pay this reefer-loving forward dump trucks of cash.
The Chinese Basketball Association has made it clear it will pay through the nose for NBA talent, and the money made is tax-free.
The list of NBA players who have brought their talents to the Far East is long and star-studded. Stephon Marbury threw up silly stat lines and expanded his “Starbury” brand in this burgeoning basketball fanbase after America grew tired of him.
Playing basketball in China is not only lucrative, but also offers NBA players a chance to be the best on their team again. Until they are drafted, most NBA players dominate their competition.
With the AAU and the “one and done” college trend, many players drag their otherwise mediocre teams to championships using their star power alone. When these lower level superstars reach the NBA, their hero ball tactics don’t work against the best in the world.
In order to carve out a spot in the league, these former alpha dogs must adjust their playing style.
Beasley has yet to figure out how to assimilate onto a team. He sports a decent career average of 13 points and five rebounds, but his stints in Miami, Minnesota and Phoenix have fallen far short of his number two overall draft slot potential. Blame it on conditioning, conduct or commitment, but Beasley simply has not found his NBA home.
This trip to China will be a lucrative, confidence-boosting move. He will be among the elite players in the CBA. His teammates will rely on him heavily, and he will be adored by thousands of fans. In short, this trip will mirror his experience playing for Kansas State — except he’ll be making millions.
However, things get really interesting when Beasley’s contract expires. Beasley is far from being a washed-up husk of his former self like The Panda’s Friend. After this season, he will be a 26-year-old free agent.
He is still theoretically in the prime of his athletic career. If he shines in Shanghai, throwing up stuffed stat sheets every night, wouldn’t at least one NBA team give him a shot?
Beasley’s Chinese excursion may not be the end of his professional career. He could recalibrate, discover a new basketball identity and return stateside a wealthier, more confident version of himself. Perhaps, he just needs a step back, before his great leap forward.
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