AUBURN HILLS — Shannon Brown left Maywood, Illinois, with the valued Illinois Mr. Basketball title when he arrived in East Lansing to play for Michigan State University and coach Tom Izzo.
By the time the McDonald’s All-American had left the Spartans at the end of the 2005-06 season he and former Detroit Crockett High star Maurice Ager had helped lead MSU to the 2004-05 Final Four. And in his last season as a Spartan he averaged over 17 points per game, earning All-Big Ten honors.
The future looked very bright as he was drafted in the first round with the 25th pick of the 2006 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. But he was in for a rude awaking. Brown appeared in only 23 games (five starts) in his debut season and was hampered by an injury to his shin.
Cleveland assigned Brown to the NBA Development League’s Albuquerque Thunderbirds in March 2007. Brown returned to the NBA Development League, this time with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in January 2008 and so it went for him in his short and uneventful stay in Cleveland.
Before he could drink an NBA cup of tea in February 2008, he was traded to the Chicago Bulls as part of a three-team deal. Just before the start of the 2008-09 NBA season he signed a one-year contract with the Charlotte Bobcats.
“I took for granted how much work it took to be successful in this league,” Brown said. “After having some success at Michigan State I thought I could come in this league and become a good player right away. I’ve learned that that you have to put the work in beyond what you thought you were doing.”
Putting the work in and a fortuitous trade has rejuvenated the former Michigan State star. When he heard that he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in February of 2009, he knew he was being given another change that he could not let get away.
“I just thanked God for the opportunity I had been given by the Lakers,” Brown said, “and I was determined to do everything coach (Phil) Jackson asked me to do.”
Showing patience, but continuing to work hard in practice, at first Jackson had to feel Brown out and he initially saw limited playing time. But towards the end of the season, Brown began to gain Jackson’s confidence and he earned more playtime throughout the end of the season and in the Lakers’ 2009 championship run that ended with a victory over the Orlando Magic.
Getting a taste of victory and taking advantage of his opportunity, Brown went to work in the off season and came into the 2010-11 campaign with a renewed sense of determination.
“Coach Jackson did not tell me he had increased plans for me,” Brown recalled. “I’ve never had an NBA coach tell me that. I’ve had to work for everything I’ve got. I looked around and said I’m going to be ready to step my game up even more.”
That he has done as he dropped four threes and scored 21 points against Milwaukee the game before the Lakers contested the Pistons. It is safe to say he is firmly in the Lakers rotation now.
As a Laker he has produced a career high 27 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double. He now has won two championship rings in both 2009 and 2010. The Lakers have signed him for two years and $4.2 million. The league has taken notice as he reportedly has one of the highest vertical leaps in the league (verified at 44.5 inches) and as a result was selected to compete in the Sprite Slam Dunk Competition at Dallas in the 2010 All-Star weekend.
“Man I love having Shannon on this team,” Bryant said. “He has all the physical tools, but more importantly he has the work ethic. He is my man and we talk all the time about our games and what both of us can do to get even better.”
Said Brown: “Playing with Kobe and for Coach Jackson is unbelievable. Getting that first title was like a blur from how my first years were in this league. That is why I think the second title was more special for me, because I was with the team all year and I contributed to our victory over Boston.”
Leland Stein can be reached at email@example.com.