In this weekly series, we revisit players who were once valuable contributors and maybe even well known during their NBA careers, but have since quietly disappeared from the league. The kind of players who make you go “Oh yeah! I remember that guy”.
This week, we will cover a player who had literally 15 minutes of fame – Leon Powe.
After Leon Powe scored 21 points in 15 minutes off the bench against the Lakers in Game 2 of the 2008 NBA finals, I remember listening to a lot of interviews where people (including Phil Jackson) just weren’t sure how to pronounce his last name. That’s how little known he was. Those 15 amazing minutes he played in Game 2 would be his literal 15 minutes of fame, as he struggled with injuries and eventually bounced out of the league a few seasons after.
The 6’8 Powe is one of those what I like to call “Screen-run PFs.” These guy have no post game, are undersized, can’t shoot from beyond 3 ft, and are just “meh” on defense. Their offense is comprised of only two things: setting lots of screens and running the floor, though I guess bringing energy is also something. Think players like Mitch McGary, Kenneth Faried, Dwight Powell, Thomas Robinson, and Montrezl Harrell. Look at the shot chart of Powe’s Game 2 and Faried’s 2015-16 season to see what I mean.
I always thought these guys were the most replaceable guys in the NBA. After all, they are either screening, or hovering just outside the paint – nothing that really requires innate skill. Looking at stats for a sample of “Screen-run PFs”, I estimate that 90% of their shots come within 10ft, 70% take no dribbles before shooting, and 75% of their FGM are assisted.
Since what they do doesn’t require much skill, these “Screen-run PFs” add value through hustle. I find that the most successful “Screen-you” guys are the ones who have fully accepted their role and stick to hustling every night (like Kenneth Faried). Other guys like Thomas Robinson couldn’t or haven’t accepted what they are and still try to do awkward post moves or dribble more than once.
Anyway, back to Mr. Powe.
The Mentor and Businessman
After retiring from the NBA in 2014, Leon Powe joined the Boston Celtics’s front office in Community Outreach/Player Development where he still works.
Powe is one of the good guys. His father left him when he was 2 years old, he lived homeless for a while after his house burned down when he was 7 years old, and his mother died while he was still in high school.
Despite his situation, Powe never gave up. He started with a 1.83 GPA freshman year in high school, making in academically ineligible to play. He started getting up at 5 a.m to get extra help and on weekends he played against college players in the Bay Area. By senior year, his GPA was 3.8 and he was playing in the same McDonalds All American game as Lebron James. Hard work can do wonders.
“We were in competition. There was a time when we joined forces together. But it was always a competition between me and him. Unfortunately, I got some injuries. That’s why I talk about perseverance. Stuff happens. Life happens. Then you’ve got to see how you are going to bounce back and how you are going to deal with it.” – Leon Powe
Anything is Powe-ssible
On June 8th, 2008, Leon Powe forever etched himself into Boston sports history. In a game featuring Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Pau Gasol, and Kobe Bryant, all anyone heard was the chant of “Leon Powe, Leon Powe, Leon Powe.” Like many others players who have similar stories, it’s refreshing to see someone like Powe who worked so hard achieve his dream.
Leon Powe. Not in the league anymore, but not #forgotten.
Check out our last #ForgottenFridays coverage of Jason Kapono!