Jamal Crawford, a native of Seattle, does not forget his roots, and he shows gratitude to the people and the city that helped forge him into the dedicated athlete he is today. He returns year after year to his hometown to participate in a Pro-Am Basketball league that he had a hand in creating. This league, which started over a decade ago, provides a playing platform for local players aspiring to progress from amatuer status to professional. This year the name has been changed to the “Crawsover Pro-Am League” and Jamal has made it so admission is free for everyone.
He arrived late for the championship game. But of course, the players and the fans all waited patiently for the star of the hour. The reason for his tardiness was the characteristic grid-lock traffic that makes Seattle, Seattle. At a quarter past 2, Jamal strode languidly into the gym fully suited up in his team’s’ white jersey with three stripes placed on the shorts and torso, red, yellow and blue. The championship game took place in Seattle Pacific University’s Royal Brougham Pavillion, Jamal’s team versus the Kitsap Admirals. He took three warm up shots, tops, and then the game began. It took Crawford a few minutes to get into a groove, clanging several contested jumpers off the rim. Once he found his rhythm the game was a wrap. He brought part of the grid-lock traffic with him into the gym and played lockdown defense, hustling for the entirety of the game. Even though it was a low stakes game, he still played his heart out and his intense love for the sport showed. He lead his team to a large margin victory, putting on a show for the fans, and capping off an exciting showcase of basketball.
I recall one time seeing him drive up to the basketball courts I frequented as a teenager, and being in awe. Not only in awe at his car, which looked like it was fresh out of an episode of Xzhibit’s “Pimp My Ride”, I think it was a Chrysler 300, painted blood red with glints of silver specks shining on the surface. The rims of this car went up past my waist at the time. I watched Jamal emerge from the driver’s seat and make his way over to the Greenlake Park Courts, a featured location in the popular video game NBA Street Vol.2. I admired this man, and still do, not only because of his performance on the court, but also because of how much he cares about his community and the positive role model he continues to be for young children.
I’ve lost track of the hours I spent trying to successfully do the “Shake ‘N Bake”, his signature move. To this day I’m still unable to pull it off. The amount of coordination this move takes makes it truly incredible. For those unfamiliar, the move is a combination of dribbles and a jump stop that, when used by Jamal and only Jamal, leaves a defender lurching like their feet are on a sheet of ice. First, the move is mostly used on fast breaks, where the attention of a double teaming defender is unlikely. As Jamal approaches the lone defender at top speed, he quickly dribbles behind his back and then back again, as if he is a diversionary magician hiding a ball from the viewer. Then, with the defender caught off guard and unsure of which direction the ball is going, Jamal gathers the ball in his hand and swings it around his back, transferring it to his other hand while hop-stepping towards the basket. All of this in the blink of an eye. Unguardable.
I started paying attention to the NBA at a time when Jamal Crawford was playing for the New York Knicks in 2006. He quickly became one of my favorite players. I watched him hone his skills and grow into the most celebrated 6th man to ever play in the NBA. He has earned the 6th man of the year award three times in his career, the most of any player, first in 2010 with the Atlanta Hawks, and then two more times with the Los Angeles Clippers. Another noteworthy accolade the slender slasher has picked up is the impressive feat of scoring 50+ points in a game on four different NBA teams. I was excited when he was picked up by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2011 who were coached by long time Pacific Northwest resident Nate McMillan, but his stay was short lived. This season was interrupted by the infamous lockout and the team chose to let him go at it’s end.
Jamal has enjoyed a long and fruitful career in the NBA, no doubt due to his careful preservation of his body with religious stretches, workouts, and strict diet. It is a joy to watch him play. His fearless style, silky smooth jump shot, and lightning quick handles have inspired countless young ballers, including myself, to practice their game with dedication in the hopes of moving up to the next level. And if those hoop dreams don’t quite pan out as we hoped they would, we’ll apply the fierce work ethic we’ve harnessed to other areas of our lives and transfer the passion we had for progression into another field. It is remarkable that even this past season at the age of 37 he was able to give the Clippers a instant dose of scoring and momentum coming off the bench. Last season, he logged 82 games played, and boasted a 3-point percentage of 36%, better than than his career average. Entering his 18th season in the NBA, he will settle into a new home in the state of Utah, joining the Jazz and the talented likes of Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague, Karl Anthony-Towns, and Gorgui Dieng, among others, respectively. He’s joining a team that will be hurting for scorers and they will expect him to step into a producing role right away. If Jamal’s extensive journeyman type career is any indication, and I am sure that it is, he will adapt and persevere on a new team and bring a drive that his new teammates will look up to and appreciate.
Jamal Crawford makes basketball fans in the Pacific Northwest proud. If the environment of the area has produced such a superstar, it lends hope to future generations about their prospects of making waves in this wet northwest corner of the United States.