Cardboard Bullets: Don MacLean, the basketball player
The Wizards’ season is over. And while there will certainly be reflections on said season to come, sometimes you gotta look way back on the franchise’s history via the basketball cards I collected when my fandom was being cultivated by the early 90s Washington Bullets.
One Summer Don MacLean worked so hard that his game improved with increased confidence. Well, at least that’s what this fake headline Upper Deck card says after he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 1993-94, his second season in the league.
After being drafted out of UCLA by the Detroit Pistons with the 19th overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft, MacLean was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Clippers with William Bedford for Olden Polynice and two second round picks. But MacLean didn’t stay in his Los Angeles hometown for long. In early October he was sent back East, again with Bedford, to the Washington Bullets for John “Hot Plate” Williams. Bedford was immediately waived by the Bullets while MacLean spent the first three years of his career in DC.
People used to call MacLean a gym rat. In November of 2000 as a member of the Miami Heat, MacLean became the first player to be suspended under the NBA’s steroid policy, which was in its second season of testing. As a result, Charles Barkley famously said, “I’ve seen Don MacLean naked, and he doesn’t use steroids.” The two never played together, but were both in the 1999 Houston Rockets training camp.
To be fair, accounts hold that MacLean was always a hard worker. Of course, those same accounts also hold that MacLean was an obnoxious John McEnroe type of character on the court. What accounts? “MacLean Deluxe,” which was written by Sports Illustrated’s Curry Kirkpatrick in February 1992 while MacLean was still at UCLA, comes recommended.
Speaking of UCLA, MacLean spent four years as a Bruin and was coached by Jim Harrick. In 1990, MacLean’s name surfaced in an NCAA inquiry because Harrick purportedly visited the player’s home during the recruiting dead period. Harrick was cleared of any wrongdoing.
But of course, between the sketchiness of getting Lamar Odom to play at Rhode Island and all that went on at the University of Georgia, not mentioning a resignation from UCLA under suspect circumstances, Harrick was proven to be an extremely dirty college basketball coach, or at least very bad at not getting caught.
All things considered, between ‘roids and NCAA violations, I guess if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’ … or however the saying goes. MacLean recently completed his eight year as a UCLA basketball radio analyst and according to Wikipedia, Harrick is a basketball analyst for Fox Sports Net’s west coast operations, although I couldn’t find a link to confirm.
Keep scrolling past the pic for some interesting facts.
Interesting Fact #1:
When MacLean won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award in 93-94, he was sandwiched, in alternate seasons, by two other Bullets who also won the award — Pervis Ellison in ’91-92 and Gheorghe Muresan in ’95-96.
With three winners of the award since it was first handed out in ’85-86, the Washington franchise is tied with the Indiana Pacers for second most recipients. The Orlando Magic franchise has four MIPs in their history.
Gilbert Arenas was MIP in ’02-03 as a Golden State Warrior.
Interesting Fact #2:
As a junior in 1991, in a hotly contested Pac-10 Conference match-up between UCLA and Arizona which was eventually lost by the Bruins in overtime, MacLean committed an unfortunate gaffe with just under five minutes left in regulation, drawing a technical foul which was a reflection of his John McEnroe-esque character.
After teammate Mitchell Butler (who was also MacLean’s teammate with the Bullets) dunked on Arizona’s Brian Williams, giving the Bruins a 77-75 lead, MacLean grabbed the made shot and threw a two-handed chest-pass at Williams’ crotch while he was still on the floor. He was assessed a technical foul.
You may know Brian Williams as Bison Dele, the former NBAer who abruptly retired at age 30 and later went missing in the South Pacific, possibly murdered, along with two others, by his brother.
And now more Don MacLean cards.
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