JaVale McGee is a good dude

JaVale McGee has had an up and down season. He often has up and down games. Almost every time he steps on the floor McGee does amazing things followed by lackluster mental lapses. Sometimes players like McGee — who’s play on the floor fluctuates so wildly and frustrates his coaches — make bad decisions off the floor as well. But McGee is not that type of guy.

Over the last several days the above photo has been making the rounds on Twitter, often with humorous commentary attached. While I’ll fully admit that there’s an element of comedy involved in seeing a giant photo of JaVale’s face on any motor vehicle, there’s also a large portion of this story that’s being overlooked. Because although it’s hard to glance at the above photo and be moved by JaVale’s ruminating countenance (given how goofy he is in real life), the fact is, his face is on that van for a reason, one he likely doesn’t get enough credit for.

This van is parked somewhere in Flint, Mich. Though many people may not be aware, JaVale McGee is actually from Flint. His mother was born there and raised JaVale there as well. As you can see, the van’s logo on the passenger door says, “Do The Right Thing Youth Center.” That’s the same organization JaVale McGee has spent countless hours lecturing and coaching underprivileged, poverty-stricken children about the values of school, learning and simply doing the right thing, so to speak.

“JaVale is a big asset to the city of Flint, period,” says Robbie Brown, founder of the Do The Right Thing Youth Center. “He comes back all the time and helps out with the kids at the old schools he used to go to. JaVale heard us making a lot of noise in the city of Flint and came back and gracefully helped us.”

According to Brown, JaVale has had a big hand in helping the Youth Center create its own AAU basketball team, which allows inner city youth to play in competitive tournaments across the country all while making stops at educational facilities like museums, colleges and court rooms along the way. JaVale’s also established his own customized system of standards for children of the Youth Center which aids them in achieving goals both inside and outside the classroom.

“He created the five lifelines to where the kids have to live up to certain guidelines in order to play on a team, in order to get a jersey, in order to get some shoes — all these things matter to JaVale,” says Brown. “He gets these kids when they’re in school and out of school. When they don’t turn in homework you get a lifeline taken away from you. If you’re not working hard at practice you get a lifeline taken away from you. And you get a total of five and at the end of the year he rewards everyone, especially those who have the most lifelines remaining.”

In addition to his work in Flint at the Youth Center, as well as in other areas of the city, JaVale also hosts an annual turkey giveaway in San Bernardino, Calif., where the city’s Boys and Girls Club feeds over 1,000 families and disabled veterans during Thanksgiving.

Moral of the story: JaVale will likely continue to make very questionable decisions on the floor. He’ll likely continue to get under Karl’s skin and his minutes will likely continue to stay limited until he becomes more cerebral with his approach to the game. And you can make fun of him all you want for that. And Shaquille O’Neal can feature him on Shaqtin’ a Fool from here till eternity. But next time you want to make fun of JaVale for having his photo on the side of a youth services van, just remember how many vehicles your photo is plastered on thanks to all the philanthropic strides you’ve made in your hometown.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.

Latest posts by Kalen Deremo (see all)

  • AaronCAPS

    JaValle McGee still isn’t worth 11 million a year, especially when Koufos (Our Better Center) is only getting 3 Million a year.

    • Charliemyboy

      What a shallow response. Let basketball bigger than money if you have the heart.

    • Mark

      Wow here’s an article talking about all the great things Javale does off the basketball court and you say that. Koufos has already reached his potential, he’s as good as he’s going to get which is good,but Javale is so athletic he has the potential to be one of the best big men in the league. The 11 million is worth it in my opinion because of his upside.
      AaronCAPS you are shallow, and learn how to spell. It’s Javale

  • Steve

    Nice article…thanks for sharing.

    Ps…McGee is worth the $ and is at 50% use of his potential. He is only going to get better and better. KK is at100% now.

    • Zorba

      How can you say that kk has reached 100% of his potential?
      It’s as if I assumed by your statement that you’re 100% idiot…

      • zorba’s an idiot

        What do you think KK is capable of beyond being a big body, hustle plays and converting gimmes? He is as close to maxed out as possible, where as Javalee has the potential to become an allstar center. I’m all for keeping both at their current prices

        • Zorba

          I don’t reply to borderline trolls…

      • Steve

        Dude…take a pill….All I am saying is that KK is NOT going to improve that much more. He is using his physical gift as much as he can. However, he will NEVER become a dominate center. He just does not have the length, hops, touch etc…

        Javelle is a freak. He could become one of the best all time. Not saying he will but the dude can do things now that are WAAAAAY above KK.

        • Zorba

          Well, you said “he is at 100%” and this means he can’t improve…
          But kk has been working hard since his knee injury last year and is the most improved player on the roster. He is only 24 and he has still much to learn…

          • Mark

            Zorba you’re the troll. KK is not going to get much better, McGee has the potential to be great. You seriously don’t know anything at all. Please stop commenting on anything related to basketball, or just anything in general.

            • Zorba

              Your comments say everything about you…

            • JB

              I’m confused how somebody can say McGee is going to get better and Koufos is not. They both are young and both should still improve. Sure McGee probably has a higher ceiling, but that doesn’t mean that Koufos isn’t going to improve.

  • Jeff

    Who’s the last sentence aimed at? Are people on twitter making fun of Javale’s charity? I’m not on twitter.

    • Kalen

      Well, it’s not aimed specifically at anybody or any faction. It was more of a statement, hopefully to get people to realize that McGee isn’t just some goofball who makes regular appearances on Shaqtin’ a Fool, but a guy who actually cares about helping other people. I think McGee kind of has a stigma about him right now. I’m just not sure how fair it is.

      • Charliemyboy

        Shaq should be embarrassed; just a big ego on an overgrown ass, crying for attention, far over the hill.

  • Cephus

    He’s doing more then most for that I applaud him. Big men take a while to develop. Is he trying his best ? I’m not smart enough to know. If Karl is happy with him, so am I. The moment Kevin Garnett retires, however, is the time to hire him as the Nuggets big man specialist to ‘ coach im’ up’.

  • steve

    Nice job Kalen. Love to read more stories like this. He could go out and spend his time and money like Robert Swift or Allen Iverson or Antoine Walker did…Instead he’s going back to his roots and helping out where he can. Good for him. I want GOOD people on my favorite teams. It doesn’t always work that way but it appears Mcgee has his head on straight. Go Nugs!

    • jim


  • amlowlife

    Good column. Loves me some McGee. I think he has some incredible potential and was worth the $$$ risk.

    One thing about the write-up I don’t quite agree with though is “…and his minutes will likely continue to stay limited until he becomes more cerebral with his approach to the game.”

    From accounts I’ve read, JaVale is one of the smartest and MOST cerebral players on the Nuggets roster. He needs to have the “Karl basics” drilled into him–over and over and over–and to NOT think about anything else when he’s on the court–turn off the thinkpad, dude!–and do habit and routine over cerebral.

  • A.D.

    I love Faried and McGee as much as the next fan, BUT I don’t know how deep in the playoffs we’ll go if we don’t make adjustments to the front-court. A signing/trade for a higher caliber big-man, preferably one that can slide between the 4 and 5. One of the two mentioned above can start their very likely campaign for 6th man of the year

  • trank

    thanks for this.

    javale is be goofy and creative and may not have the concentration he needs in the game at times (maybe the asthma causes an oxygen droo?) but many of the adjectives thrown his way by so-called nuggets fans in the past are basically from jerks and idiots.

    order and creativity don’t often go together and javale is clearly quite creative- i’ll take that over order any day. on the nuggets he has the opportunity to play with a team that plays more freelance than most teams and once george’s basics sink in and become instinctive he’s going to get better and better.

    absorbing those basics, applying them in different situations, and avoiding the mistakes they might prevent is not a function of IQ – it’s mostly memory and repetition that comes easier for some players than others.

    i’ll bet the there are plenty of natural athletes way better than many in the NBA that never made it because they couldn’t learn their coaches anal game plans.

    javale could be 6’8″ with a good 3 point shot and he’d probably never make it.

  • bigelowsmalls

    Seeing the way he cheers his teammates while he is on the bench is worth the $ he gets. I think we might have the best group of guys in the NBA and hope they all stick around awhile!!

  • Henry

    I’m a huge fan of JaVale McGee. I like his many off-the-court actions better than his basketball play, but I still have great hope he’ll become a more consistent contributor on the court.

    That said, he made a mistake by allowing his photo to be used like this. That’s for NBA and player promotion FOR PROFIT. His work in other arenas should be much more toned down and not focused on his own visage.

  • theo

    Nice piece Kalen. I like everything I’ve seen of the guy off the court. Actually, I really like this team, period. Maybe the most enjoyable and easiest team to pull for of any I’ve followed over the years in the NBA. Seem like a bunch of ‘good dudes.’ On the court and in locker room, great chemistry–they genuinely seem more like a family and really appear to enjoy each other’s success. McGee often is the first guy jumping off the bench cheering when Koufos makes a play, for example. Nice to see. Coaches and players have done a good job creating a positive atmosphere.

  • NugzNazty

    That was maybe the best defense on Tim Duncan I’ve ever seen.

    • JB

      I guess you weren’t around in 2007 when Nene made Duncan work in the playoffs. I remember Duncan even said that was one of the toughest and most physical series he ever played in. Bummer that we didn’t have a bench that year.

  • Perfnugget

    Great post Kalen, I think some readers here missed the point however.

  • JB

    Good story, I remember Melo did a lot of work with the community when he was here too, and even back in Baltimore. Same with Camby and K-Mart.