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Kwame Brown: The Rise and Fall of an NBA Prospect
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Kwame Brown, the first player to be drafted number one overall straight out of high school, spent 12 seasons in the NBA after being selected by the Washington Wizards in 2001. Despite his high draft position, Brown's performance led many analysts to label him as one of the biggest busts in NBA history.

Early Life in Georgia

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Kwame Brown was born on March 10, 1982, in Charleston, South Carolina. He attended Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Georgia, where he established himself as a dominant high school basketball player. Brown finished his prep career as Glynn Academy's all-time leader in rebounds (1,235) and blocked shots (605), while also ranking second in scoring with 1,539 points. As a senior, he averaged 20.1 points, 13.3 rebounds, 5.8 blocks, 3 assists, and 2 steals per game, leading his team to the state semifinals. Brown earned numerous accolades, including being named Georgia's "High School Player of the Year," a McDonald's All-American, and a Parade All-American. His impressive high school achievements made him the top-rated player in his class and a highly sought-after prospect heading into the 2001 NBA Draft.
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Draft Day: The First High Schooler Picked First Overall

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On June 27, 2001, Kwame Brown made history by becoming the first player to be selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft straight out of high school. The Washington Wizards, led by team president Michael Jordan, chose Brown with the top pick, hoping he would develop into a franchise cornerstone. Brown's selection marked a significant milestone, as he was the first of only three players to be drafted first overall directly from high school before the NBA implemented age restrictions in 2005, with the others being LeBron James (2003) and Dwight Howard (2004).
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Early Struggles in Washington

washingtonpost.com
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Kwame Brown's tenure with the Washington Wizards was marked by inconsistency and unfulfilled expectations. Originally committed to play for the University of Florida, Brown instead declared for the 2001 NBA Draft, where the Wizards selected him first overall. Despite reported confidence from Brown during pre-draft workouts, his rookie season was underwhelming, averaging just 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Over the next two seasons, Brown showed improvement, increasing his averages to 7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in his second year, and posting career-highs of 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in his third season, including a 30-point, 19-rebound performance against the Sacramento Kings. However, after rejecting a five-year, $30 million contract extension, Brown's fourth season was marred by injuries, limiting him to 42 games and 7.0 points per game. Late in the season, Brown's relationship with the Wizards deteriorated, as he feuded with teammate Gilbert Arenas, other players, and head coach Eddie Jordan.
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Controversial Trade to the Lakers

In 2008, the Los Angeles Lakers were involved in a controversial trade attempt to acquire Kwame Brown from the Memphis Grizzlies. The proposed deal would have sent Brown to the Lakers in exchange for a package centered around young center Andrew Bynum. However, the trade was met with criticism from some Lakers fans and media members who felt that giving up Bynum, a promising young talent, for Brown, who had struggled to live up to expectations, was a mistake. There were concerns about Brown's work ethic, consistency, and fit alongside Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Ultimately, the trade did not materialize, and Brown finished the season with the Grizzlies before signing with the Detroit Pistons as a free agent in the offseason. The Lakers' decision to pass on the trade proved to be wise, as Bynum developed into an All-Star center and played a key role in the team's back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. The failed trade attempt highlighted the perception of Brown as a disappointing former top pick and the skepticism surrounding his ability to contribute to a championship-caliber team like the Lakers. It also demonstrated the value placed on young, high-potential players like Bynum, even in comparison to more experienced but less consistent veterans like Brown.
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Professional Career Summary

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Here is a summary of Kwame Brown's professional basketball career:
  • Washington Wizards (2001-2005): Brown was drafted 1st overall by the Wizards in 2001. His rookie season was disappointing, averaging just 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. He showed improvement over the next two seasons, posting career-highs of 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in 2003-04. However, injuries limited him to 42 games in 2004-05 and he feuded with teammates and coaches.
  • Los Angeles Lakers (2005-2008): Brown was traded to the Lakers in 2005. He initially struggled but became the starting center in 2006 after an injury to Chris Mihm, raising his averages to 12.3 points and 9.1 rebounds. However, he lost the starting job to Andrew Bynum the following season.
  • Memphis Grizzlies (2008): Brown was traded to Memphis in 2008 as part of the deal for Pau Gasol. The Grizzlies chose not to re-sign him after the season.
  • Detroit Pistons (2008-2010): Brown signed a two-year, $8 million contract with Detroit in 2008.
  • Charlotte Bobcats (2010-2011): Brown signed a one-year deal with Charlotte in 2010.
  • Golden State Warriors (2011-2012): Brown signed a one-year, $7 million contract with Golden State in 2011.
  • Philadelphia 76ers (2012-2013): Brown was traded to Milwaukee in 2012 but never played for the Bucks. He then signed a two-year deal with Philadelphia but was waived in 2013 before appearing in a game for them.
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Career Stats Breakdown

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Here is a table summarizing Kwame Brown's regular season statistics over his 12-year NBA career:
CategoryTotalPer Game
Games Played607-
Games Started281-
Minutes Played13,38922.1
Field Goals Made1,5182.5
Field Goals Attempted3,0885.1
Field Goal Percentage49.2%49.2%
Free Throws Made9981.6
Free Throws Attempted1,7502.9
Free Throw Percentage57.0%57.0%
Offensive Rebounds1,0851.8
Defensive Rebounds2,2483.7
Total Rebounds3,3335.5
Assists5540.9
Steals3240.5
Blocks3760.6
Turnovers1,3852.3
Personal Fouls1,7712.9
Points4,0356.6
Over his 607 regular season games, Brown averaged 6.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.6 blocks in 22.1 minutes per game. He shot 49.2% from the field and 57.0% from the free throw line for his career. His most productive season came in 2003-04 with the Washington Wizards, when he averaged career-highs of 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
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Notable Teammates and Coaches

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Here are some of Kwame Brown's most notable teammates and coaches during his NBA career:
  • Washington Wizards (2001-2005):
    • Teammates: Richard Hamilton, Brendan Haywood, Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Larry Hughes
    • Coaches: Doug Collins, Eddie Jordan
  • Los Angeles Lakers (2005-2008):
    • Teammates: Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol
    • Coach: Phil Jackson
  • Detroit Pistons (2008-2010):
    • Teammates: Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, Allen Iverson
    • Coaches: Michael Curry, John Kuester
  • Charlotte Bobcats (2010-2011):
    • Teammates: Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, D.J. Augustin
    • Coach: Paul Silas
  • Golden State Warriors (2011-2012):
    • Teammates: Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, David Lee
    • Coach: Mark Jackson
  • Philadelphia 76ers (2012-2013):
    • Teammates: Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young
    • Coach: Doug Collins
Brown played with several All-Star caliber players like Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas, and Stephen Curry over his career. He was also coached by respected names like Phil Jackson, Doug Collins, and Eddie Jordan. However, he struggled to find consistent success and a long-term fit with any of these teams and teammates.
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Post-NBA Career

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After retiring from the NBA, Kwame Brown attempted a comeback in 2017 by joining the BIG3, a 3-on-3 basketball league featuring former NBA players. Brown was selected fifth overall in the inaugural BIG3 draft by the 3 Headed Monsters. The team made it to the championship game but ultimately lost to Trilogy 51-46. Off the court, Brown faced various legal and financial challenges. In 2003, he was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated near his hometown of Brunswick, Georgia. In 2007, Brown was arrested in Georgia again and charged with disorderly conduct and interference with a law enforcement officer after an incident in which the driver of a car he was a passenger in was arrested for driving drunk with a suspended license. In 2018, Brown filed a lawsuit against financial firm Merrill Lynch, alleging they stole $17.4 million from him by forging his signature on various documents that allowed a financial adviser to make investments and trades without his approval. When Brown requested information about his investments in 2017, he was told he had no money with Merrill Lynch, according to the complaint. Over his NBA career, Brown had earned nearly $64 million in salary.
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Arrests for DUI, Marijuana

Kwame Brown faced several legal issues during and after his NBA career: In August 2003, Brown was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated near his hometown of Brunswick, Georgia. Police reported his blood alcohol content was almost twice the legal limit. In October 2007, Brown was arrested in Georgia and charged with disorderly conduct and interference with a law enforcement officer after an incident in which the driver of a car he was a passenger in was arrested for driving drunk with a suspended license. On March 31, 2019, Brown was arrested again in Georgia and charged with felony possession of edible marijuana products and misdemeanor possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. These legal troubles, along with inconsistent play on the court, contributed to the perception of Brown as a disappointing draft bust who failed to live up to the lofty expectations set for him as a former No. 1 overall pick. The arrests brought negative attention to Brown and the teams he played for during his NBA career.
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Closing thoughts

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Here are some closing thoughts on Kwame Brown's NBA career: Despite being drafted first overall straight out of high school, Kwame Brown never lived up to the lofty expectations placed upon him. His best season came in 2003-04 with the Washington Wizards, when the 6-foot-11, 240-pound center averaged 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. However, he was unable to build upon that campaign and become the dominant force many projected. Brown's NBA journey was marked by inconsistency, as he struggled to carve out a long-term role and bounced around between seven teams over his 12-year career. His inability to live up to his draft position has led many to label him as one of the biggest busts in NBA history. Some believe Brown's potential was left untapped due to a lack of development and maturity coming into the league at such a young age. Standing 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, he possessed the physical tools to be an imposing defensive presence, but never put it all together. In the end, Brown settled into a journeyman role, playing for the Lakers, Grizzlies, Pistons, Bobcats, Warriors and 76ers after his stint with the Wizards. He finished his NBA career with modest averages of 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds over 607 games. While he showed flashes of promise, especially early in his career, Brown will be remembered more for failing to meet the immense hype that accompanied him as a preps-to-pros prodigy selected first overall. His story serves as a cautionary tale about the challenges of projecting the trajectory of young, unproven talent.
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