Antawn Jamison is the antithesis of the NBA’s pathologically inclined, neither shameful nor shocking, just a refined professional who completes his business with a determined bearing.
Jamison is not sexy or fashionable or a candidate to have a coarse reality show. He is just good people, solid to the core, who has no compulsion to thump his chest or break out in song and dance after making a big shot.
Alas, the ESPN screamers and the hyperventilating sorts have no interest in extolling the virtues of Jamison and his sturdy kind in the NBA. They prefer to dwell on the weird and the dysfunctional and the hopelessly bent.
Yet the out of breath and the NBA would do well to note the unpretentious manner of Jamison. The NBA could educate the rookies in orientation by putting together a tape of Jamison and saying, “This is how you play the game. This is how you conduct yourself.”
Jamison is cool without trying to be cool. He is real enough not to lecture others on what keeping it real is all about. He seemingly recognizes the joy of being paid to play a game.
Jamison is not the most physically or athletically gifted athlete. But he carries a high basketball IQ, his hand-eye coordination is impeccable, his hands are made out of Velcro and he routinely accumulates 20 points and 10 rebounds a game.
All too often we celebrate the wrong things in professional sports, mostly because the uncensored mouths and mentally obtuse draw viewers and sell newspapers. Jamison’s sun rises from the east, which is never compelling. Instead, we are obsessed with those whose sun never rises, which is understandable to a point but overdone in the 24/7 media marketplace.
Jamison has a lot of old school in him. He rarely dunks the ball. You almost expect him to show up to a game in John Stockton’s short shorts. Jamison is content to let his performances provide the narrative.
It is said you can best measure a person’s character in adverse times because it is easy to be a great guy, a great teammate, if a team is winning and a player is posting impressive numbers on a consistent basis.
The quality of Jamison’s character was challenged in December, when he led the team in air balls and apparently misplaced his shooting touch with the luggage. You could see the look of doubt and frustration on his face. And he was tormented by the notion that he was letting the team down.
His nadir was a two-game benching earlier this month. Yet he did not express a word of discontent about it. He absorbed the blow to his psyche with dignity. He mostly sat on the bench and watched as the Wizards refocused their energies on the defensive end of the floor.
Defense is Jamison’s curse and always will be. He is not strong enough to be a power forward, and he is not quick enough to be a small forward. He is a player with no genuine position on defense, no matter how much effort he puts there.
As desultory as Jamison was in December, he has corrected himself in January. He is having an All-Star month, although it has come too late to impress the voters.
Of all things, Jamison is connecting on 54 percent of his 3-point attempts this month.
And the funk in his game is right again, as he befuddles the opposition with an assortment of runners, floaters and Houdini-like contortions that end in an impossibly conceived flip shot that slips through the cylinder.
He hit a career-high five 3-pointers against the Bobcats and did not allow it to lead to an extraneous act of self-importance. He is forever a paragon of understatement. No mental deconstruction is necessary with him.
Jamison embodies the best attributes of the game in play and temperament. He is a pro’s pro, a worthy paradigm.