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Jamal Crawford: Last of the Ballers

“Shut me down? Shut me down!?!”

Jamal Crawford stares at the sideline, incredulous. It is August on the outskirts of Seattle. In a few months Crawford will debut for the Timberwolves, his seventh team in 18 NBA seasons, expected to do what he’s always done—get irrationally hot irrationally fast. But for now, on a summer Sunday night, in a half-empty college gym that smells of hot dogs and sweat, he is playing for pride. Still, this is his turf—his pro-am, in fact, the appropriately named Crawsover. And some guy on the opposing bench has the temerity to suggest that Crawford can be locked up because, why? He’s too old? Washed up? If this were 20 years ago, it would be on. Back then Crawford lived to embarrass defenders. Didn’t matter who, where or when. Blow past you, and Crawford might instead pull it back out so he could cross you over a second time. No one was off limits. When he was a 16-year-old at Rainier Beach High, the SuperSonics invited him to an open run, even though he looked 13 and weighed a buck-forty. Jamal? He dribbled down in transition, saw Detlef Schrempf—three-time NBA All-Star Detlef Schrempf, pride of Seattle Detlef Schrempf—and, well, “I can’t even articulate what he did,” Sonics assistant Steve Gordon later told the San Jose Mercury News. “He basically broke Detlef’s feet at half court. We thought Detlef was hurt.”

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