It is an incredibly busy day in sports. Richard Sherman is expected to be released today. Steph Curry is expected to miss at least the next two games with a sprained ankle. Duke-UNC meet tonight in the ACC semifinal. Dallas Keuchel took a mini-run at the Cubs. There are a ton of places to start, but I’m not starting with any of those. I’m starting with a guy who hasn’t played in the NBA in 10 years – Steven D’Shawn Francis. Aka Stevie Franchise. Because yesterday he dropped a Player’s Tribune piece that wasn’t good, it was incredible. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever read.
This is not an exaggeration. It’s not hyperbole. Straight up. One of the best things I have ever read. It’s one of my favorite pieces ever. Right when you think there’s no way a Stevie Franchise piece could ever live up to the hype, it completely smashed it. In fact, I loved it so much, I’m this close to reading the entire thing on the air. And if I did, I guarantee, none of you would change the station. Better yet, if you were driving, you’d pull over. Or wouldn’t get out of the car when you reached your destination. You’d cancel meetings. You’d cancel meals. It’s that good.
The title of the piece is “I Got a Story To Tell”…hell yes he does! He’s got stories for days. Some of the best stories ever to go to print. And all you need is the first two sentences to know he’s about to get ice: “I remember the exact moment when I realized NBA legends weren’t BLEEP. My man Sam Cassell took me out the night before my very first NBA game.”
And then he proceeds to tell the story of Cassell, who was with the Bucks at the time, taking him out for a night on the town before the Bucks faced Stevie’s Rockets. They’re hanging until 5am, having a great time,… and Cassell is acting like he’s taking Franchise under his wing, telling him how it is, what to look out for and what it will take to be successful in the NBA. And then Cassell just throws a switch. And starts talking junk. Mad junk. About how he’s going to just destroy Franchise later that night on the floor. They finally leave and Francis “We walk out of this club and the sun is up. I gotta be at the arena in like five hours. I’m not even drunk. I’m not nothing!”
Sam proceeds to drop 35 on Stevie that night: just kills the guy and Francise realizes he got played… badly…. quote and “I’m a punk rookie on a team with Charles Barkley and Hakeem the Dream Olajuwon. These dudes are in the huddle looking at me like I’m not shit. Rudy T is looking at me like, “We traded 15 mother-bleepers to Vancouver for this?” Dude got played badly by Cassell who kept all night on the premise that he was helping him when in reality he was setting him up to destroy him that night on the floor.
And that’s just the first story. And a tiny one at that. There are the stories of him rolling with Hakeem Olajuwon and Dream buying him 10 cashmere suits because “you walk around dressed like a bus driver.” The night Franchise lit up Gary Payton as a rookie. And the fact that just four years before he was doing that, he was selling drugs. And that he got his first job at 10 years old as a phone boy, waiting for a payphone to ring and then hooking people up drugs or women or whatever they wanted. And how he and some friends took the roof off that phone booth he started treating it like a basketball hoop.
Quick – what are the Franchise’s high school basketball stats? He really doesn’t have any. He played a total of two high school games. Somehow, an AAU coach convinced him to play junior college ball and he parlayed that into a spot at Maryland. Well, parlayed isn’t exactly how Stevie puts it. He went up against Shawn Marion in the JUCO ranks and “I murdered him. I got a quadruple double on his ass.” And to this day, admits he still asks Marion, where’s the vhs. You still have it, where is it Shawn?!
Then he goes to Maryland. Then, as the second pick in the draft, went to Vancouver. Think about that: this cat played no high school basketball, ends up at Juco, transfers to Maryland was the second pick in the nba. Just a few years after being on a street corner selling crack. One of the craziest stories ever. So he’s taken second and goes to Vancouver. Well, not exactly: I know people in Vancouver are still pissed off at me for forcing a trade out of there. I damn near cried when I got taken by the Grizzlies at No. 2. I was not about to go up to freezing-ass Canada, so far away from my family, when they were about to move the franchise anyway. I’m sorry but … actually, I’m really not even sorry.
He ends up in Houston. He hangs with Dream and Chuck, then becomes best friends with Yao. And then “they traded my ass to Orlando for Tracy McGrady.” And as he said, “It’s not even worth talking about those Magic years, and it’s definitely not worth talking about those Knicks years.”
Yes, his career went downhill from there. He went from being a 3-time All-Star averaging 20 a night to playing in China pretty quickly. You want to crack him for only playing nine years in the league? The fact that he played nine minutes is amazing. The guy barely played high school ball and still made it to the NBA. And then in recent years, his life came off the tracks. He owns that too, saying his stepfather died, he lost basketball, he lost his identity, and then he got lost in the bottle. But he wants to be clear about that, because the internet came up for him, lighting him for doing crack. Something he vehemently denies, saying he sold crack, but never once did crack and that it broke his heart to know his grandmother and kids would read that he did.
He seems honest. He doesn’t glorify dealing drugs. In fact, he shows how horrendous that life was. He doesn’t blame anyone for anything. He’s not bitter. In fact, he seems pretty positive. And I’m damn positive that it’s one of the best things I’ve ever read. I don’t want it to end. I know a lot of you aren’t big into the whole reading thing, but clear some time and read this. It’s one of my favorite columns here.
Again, given the legend of Steve Franchise, when I sat down to read that, I thought to myself, there’s no way this piece will ever be as good as I want it to be. But it was actually ten times better.