0

Sad to see Crittenton’s long, hard fall

The Associated Press
Former NBA basketball player Javaris Crittenton (right) appears Superior Court Wednesday morning,in Los Angeles, for an extradition hearing with his attorney Brian Steel. Crittenton waived California extradition proceedings and will be returned to Georgia in connection with his arrest in a murder case in Atlanta.

The Associated Press Former NBA basketball player Javaris Crittenton (right) appears Superior Court Wednesday morning,in Los Angeles, for an extradition hearing with his attorney Brian Steel. Crittenton waived California extradition proceedings and will be returned to Georgia in connection with his arrest in a murder case in Atlanta.

After six days and countless news reports, I still don’t want to believe it.

When I was first told that former NBA player Javaris Crittenton was wanted for murder, it seemed like someone was playing a joke. Then, a quick Google search late Friday night confirmed what I wasn’t prepared to see.

The Atlanta Police Department had issued a warrant for his arrest. According to the police, Crittenton fatally shot a 22-year-old mother of four on Aug. 19. Police say the woman wasn’t the target, but he was trying to retaliate against a man who accompanied her, a man he believed robbed him in April.

No, this couldn’t be the same Javaris Crittenton that I enjoyed covering for four years as he blossomed into an All-America high school player. Not the Javaris Crittenton that I named Mr. Georgia Basketball in 2006.

This is not the same Crittenton, who was as pleasant a high school youngster as you would meet. During his basketball career at Southwest Atlanta Christian we had many enjoyable conversations.

My first time seeing Crittenton was in the Class A state championship game in Macon in 2004. As Dwight Howard, now the NBA mega star, was leading SACA to the championship, Crittenton was equally as impressive.

He was a 6-foot-5 point guard with an unorthodox shot. But he was big, strong and athletic. It wasn’t until after the game that I realized he was just a freshman.

He was a poised and mature kid on and off the court. He answered you “yes, sir” and “no, sir.” Raised by a single mom and his grandmother, Crittenton didn’t fit the part of a kid raised in a not-so-pleasant part of Atlanta.

He could quote Bible verses and sported a 3.5 grade-point average that afforded him an opportunity for a free education at Georgia Tech. His life seemed to have the making of one of those happy-ending fairy tales.

But after only one season at Tech, the fairy tale seemed to be a little shaky.

Against the wishes and advice of the Georgia Tech coaching staff, Crittenton entered the NBA draft. Taken with the 19th pick by the Los Angeles Lakers, Crittenton realized his dream of an NBA career.

By all accounts, he wasn’t ready to join his former high school teammate Howard in the professional ranks.

Twenty-two games into his NBA career, the Lakers had a change of mind and dealt him to Memphis, which then shipped him to Washington.

It was in Washington that big troubles began. He was suspended for the remainder of the 2008-09 for a gun-related incident in the Wizards’ locker room.

Stints in China and the NBA Development League would follow.

Nobody that you talked to would ever question Crittenton’s work ethic. He was as driven an athlete as I’ve ever covered. He wanted to win. He had to win.

He took a below-average SACA team to a state championship his senior season. Crittenton worked hard to get to the NBA, but in the end, he let foolish decisions derail that dream.

This was not how his life was supposed to go. He had drive and determination. As a freshman playing AAU basketball, he didn’t back down to LeBron James in a meaningless summer basketball game.

Crittenton never backed down from anyone or anything.

Maybe in the end, that was the problem.

Derrick Mahone reports on sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at dmahone@news-daily.com.