Once his career is over, how will Michael Beasley's NBA story finally be told? Up to now, it has been poorly-written, filled with mindless self-absorption and lacking in accountability. A tale of a lost and wandering hero.
But Beasley has been given, yet again, a chance to find himself. Nothing is guaranteed and a roster spot is far from a given. To earn his way, it will take more than talent. For this chapter, perhaps his final one, to become one of redemption, Michael Beasley must control his own destiny and write it himself.
With Great Power Comes No Responsibility
Outside of a grass field or a hardwood floor, the life of a young athlete is often haphazard and free of consequence. As a basketball prodigy, Beasley embraced that lack of constraint to stereotypical perfection. His life was certainly difficult, filled with the pratfalls of inner-city adolescence that can just as easily breed success in either sports or crime. A single mother struggling to raise three children. A wayward son in desperate need of a father figure and a sense of discipline. Conditions like these could have hardened Beasley, built a wall that simultaneously isolated and motivated him toward greatness. But instead of bitterness, he developed the role of the carefree joker. Instead of a wall, Michael somehow erected a funhouse mirror.
In hindsight, it would be too easy to say that this was a conscious decision, especially when nearly every action in Michael's emotionally-stunted adulthood seems thoughtless and irresponsible. It seems more likely that as a prankster, Beasley could just shut out the pain of a broken family, of moving to a new home every two years.
"I don't mean any harm," said Beasley in a rare moment of introspection in a 2007 Sports Illustrated story, "I just like to have fun."
"Fun" was the umbrella that covered all types of playful - and even illegal - behaviors. Skipping classes, writing his initials on school property; even once, putting a dead rat in a teacher's desk drawer. And, even as "fun" forced Beasley into seven different schools in five years, it was his skills on the court that kept him free of the burden of responsibility.
The string of second chances led him to schools all along the east coast, from as far south as Bradenton, Florida, all the way up to Wilson, Virginia. And still, Michael kept working on his game, on keeping it lighthearted and on lacking accountability. His tenure at Kansas State University, during which Beasley achieved the statistical excellence that would propel him into the NBA, stands as a tribute to shirked responsibilities.
As a member of an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team based in Washington, D.C., Michael met one of the many ersatz father figures that guided him on his basketball journey. Dalonté Hill, an assistant coach for the D.C. Assault AAU team that has produced other NBA players such as Jeff Green, Keith Bogans and DerMarr Johnson, was hired as an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. But Hill was then hired as an associate head coach at Kansas State, under the assumption that his connection to the D.C. Assault team would attract some of the finest AAU players in the country. The assumption proved correct as, immediately upon Hill's hiring, Beasley committed to attend KSU.
"Loyalty means everything to me," said Beasley of the decision, free of irony. Then, in a move that surprised no one, the mercurial Beasley declared his eligibility for the 2008 NBA Draft after just one year. As a KSU Wildcat, Michael averaged over 26 points and nearly 13 rebounds per game.
There and Back Again
A rebuilding Miami Heat team selected Beasley 2nd overall in the 2008 Draft. For Heat President Pat Riley, a man with a notorious distrust of rookies and a career built on shaping a culture of strict professionalism, the Beasley selection seemed doomed from the start. In fact, Michael was involved in a police incident that stemmed from a fire alarm being discharged in a hotel room during an NBA Rookie Training Program. The incident took place weeks before the season even began.
And so it goes with Beasley's NBA career, five years that have led from Miami to Minnesota to Phoenix and now back to Miami. It is a well-documented history of failed potential, broken promises, brushes with the law and, glaringly, failure to accept the consequences of his actions.
Among the many lowlights of Michael's NBA journey are numerous fines, a reported stint in a Houston rehab clinic, a stop by Minneapolis police for a speeding violation that led to the discovery of marijuana possession, the assault of a heckling fan during a New York City streetball tournament, an alleged sexual assault and, most recently, an arrest by Scottsdale, Arizona police for suspicion of marijuana possession.
In the month since he re-signed with the Heat, he has said and done all the right things, displaying that culpability that has endeared many fallen stars to an all-too-forgiving fanbase. As Beasley himself said to the Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick, "This time around, I'm just going to try to be more part of the team and more part of the community and more part of Miami Heat culture. And it takes effort."
Michael Beasley is still only 24 years old, a young man thrust at an early age into a world where talent always trumped everything else. He's been used and cast off by teachers, coaches, family members and acquaintances. Maybe Beasley was more troubled than trickster, building a wall of laughter to hide the pain.
The tears of a clown, perhaps
As Michael looks at his life's story with newfound maturity, maybe he will take the first step of his journey toward NBA redemption where it all began.
A fresh start, like a blank page, that he realizes he can finally write in his own words.