It’s totally understandable if you’d moved the name “Kwame Brown” to the archival part of your memory along with your college address, the zip code of your parents’ house, or the old door code of a building you long since moved from. I had as well, until this week, and I promise you that you’re not ready for what’s going on.
Brown, now 39 years old and almost a decade removed from playing in the NBA, is back in the headlines again after a beef started from a podcast. It’s led to people unpacking Brown’s online life, which is full of old stories and conspiracy theories.
It all kicked off because of a podcast.
The “All The Smoke” podcast is a long-running show hosted by former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson. Last week Gilbert Arenas was on the show on as a guest, and he began sharing stories from his time as the star of the Wizards in the early 2000s.
Brown’s name came up during a section discussing how Arenas helped turn the woeful early ‘00s Washington Wizards into a contender. Now, to be fair, Arenas began by seeming extremely sympathetic to Brown’s entry into the NBA, highlighting how difficult it was to be entering the league as a teenager, being drafted by Michael Jordan who had unrealistic demands of Brown as a rookie, even bullying him in front of teammates, and pointing out that Brown had the tools to be great, even comparing him to Anthony Davis — but circumstance got in the way.
However, in making his point, Arenas used two phrases that served as a flash point for this beef. He called Brown a “man child,” as well as a “show pony.” Two terms that were innocuous enough considering the conversation, but seemed extremely disrespectful considering the conversation launched off with Stephen Jackson clowning on Brown, mockingly saying he was “the best No. 1 pick of all time,” then immediately laughing at his own statement.
Then Brown responded ...
A few days later Brown listened to the podcast, and he exploded. Taking to his Instagram account to drop a tirade aimed not only at Arenas, but Jackson too. The two minute clip was full of insults hurled at the two, but also a promise: That he would take the time to set the record straight.
Brown did just that on YouTube, and the world was not ready. Much of his ire wasn’t directed at Arenas, but rather Jackson — who seemed to be poking fun at him the most on the podcast. The video, which was over an hour, unloaded.
“It’s okay to have an opinion, but it’s another thing to do what you guys are doing and then be in my face. Stephen Jackson — we was teammates and I seen you crying every time Charles Oakley ‘bout to slap the s*** out you, so I know you.”
He went on to call Jackson an embarrassment, and said that he “quit on the team” when Jackson and Brown were playing together in Charlotte. Brown also took exception to Arenas, not so much the direct phrases he used this time, but rather the softness of tone, and acting like he defended Brown when they were teammates on the Wizards.
“[Gilbert] he’s a little boy on the inside. He ain’t no man. He was at a draft camp, he was in our pre-draft camp and they asked him “What are your goals after basketball?” and he said “I wanna be a motherf***** pimp.” This boy had a child’s mind. So that’s why the guns, and all the dumb s***. He’d been doing dumb s*** the entire time.”
Brown also went in on Barnes for goading Jackson into talking trash using some pretty off-color racial remarks about him “not being black enough to hang with the black folks, but too dark to kick it with the whites.”
Whether or not the trio from the podcast deserved the response from Brown, he took offense at them talking about him at all, and had enough.
Brown’s history with the NBA is complicated
Perhaps the most interesting footnote of Brown’s response came early, when he rejected the widely-held assertion that he was drafted to be the face of the Wizards, and move the team on from the Michael Jordan era. On the contrary, Brown asserts that Washington had a trade in place on draft night to trade Brown to the Chicago Bulls for Elton Brand.
At the time Brand was becoming a true superstar. A double-double forward averaging over 20 points, but woefully unhappy in Chicago. Brown says that Brand was viewed by Jordan as the missing piece in No. 23 getting one final playoff run, but the deal was nixed at the last second by then-owner Abe Pollin, who was concerned the team was making too many trades, and was reluctant to send away Kwame Brown. The Bulls would later go on to trade Brand to the Los Angeles Clippers for No. 2 overall pick Tyson Chandler.
This revelation, if true, casts Brown’s arrival in Washington in a very different light. Instead of simply not living up to Jordan’s impossible expectations of becoming the face of the franchise, Brown was a scapegoat for the legend’s frustrations with the organization.
Over the years there have been claims, and counter claims about Jordan’s actions towards Brown. Some ex-Wizards players say that nothing happened between the two other than Brown being unable to live up to Jordan’s goals for the young player. Others detail ridicule and humiliation bordering on abuse, with Jordan routinely inviting players over to his house only to mock Brown in front of his team, break down his confidence, and even use homophobic slurs to berate Brown.
Whatever the result, there remain people on both sides of the fence who believe Brown just never had it, and those who think he had the potential to be a transcendent player, but was destroyed by Jordan’s actions.
To his credit, Brown went on to have a long NBA career. Whether it was a case of his youth, or just team, after team thinking they could finally unlock the potential he flashed in high school, Brown would go on to play 12 years in the NBA for various teams, often serving as a rotational center.
Brown is living his life, but it’s a little odd
Through all this we learned a lot more about Kwame Brown. At 39 years old he’s taken his NBA money, channeled it into various businesses, and seems to be doing well for himself. Really, retiring in your early 30s a multi-millionaire is the American Dream, and aside from constantly being made fun of for being a NBA Draft bust, in general Brown seems happy.
That said, this whole fiasco took people deep down the rabbit hole of Brown’s YouTube channel.
Before the 2020 election he defended Donald Trump, saying black people were “brainwashed,” while admitting he’d never met the then-President.
He made his own toilet paper out of t-shirts.
He went on a near two hour rant about his perceptions of media propaganda.
And said the Black Lives Matter movement was “playing the race card” in a drawn out video in which he also defended police, saying that black people were “already on guard when the police come” because of the media.
The beef is still going
Barnes and Jackson, hosts of the “All The Smoke” podcast have tried to make amends. Jackson released his own video, saying he has “nothing but love” for Brown, while Barnes denies any wrongdoing.
That hasn’t been enough to squash it. Brown is still releasing more YouTube videos, still directed at the players who dissed him, and expanding to media personalities, NBA writers, and anyone who’s discussed this latest situation.
Nobody has any idea when this will all end, but at the very least Brown picked up a few thousand more YouTube subscribers — and maybe that was the goal of this all along.