June 09, 2008
When I went to bed last night, I left my phone on the charger. When I woke up I had been barraged with text messages, emails, and BlackBerry messages. They all had a common theme.
"Effin' Leon Powe is KILLLLLIN!"
"Yo, Dude! Did you play with Leon Powe? I'm in a little debate."
"Good story on your boy Powe. Even had a bit of Too Much in it."
"When the Celtics come to L.A., can you ask Leon for some tickets for me?"
"Just saw you in one of the Powe halftime clips getting ready to rebound his shot. Did Powe steal the zero from you? Is that his homage to the movement?"
"Tell your boy to stop dominating the Lakers man. We're making him look like an All-Star point guard now, too. And you know it's cuz he's number '0'. He's channeling his inner Rod Benson."
I got all of these and more. The guy who sent the last message got excited when the Lakers made a late run and sent me:
"So you're saying there's a chance!!! It's cuz they took Powe out, man."
It would appear that Leon has gotten so popular, that people are now excited to talk about him. In some cases, people feel like they are closer to "The Show" when they are closer to "Too Much." I guess it's understandable. People don't really know what Leon is capable of, but of course, I do.
Leon and I have battled each other, our teammates, and our opponents for years. Every summer we go back to Cal and play on opposite teams for pick-up. It's usually a Rod Benson-Richard Midgley-Ryan Anderson-led team versus a Leon Powe-Ayinde Ubaka-Devon Hardin-squad. As you would expect, my team wins nearly every time. I'm kidding. We go back and forth. Regardless, I know Leon's game maybe better than other human on earth, and as a result, I've wondered when he was going to break out.
I've heard some NBA analysts utter the words "Leon Powe" like it's a confusing question. Leon Powe? Yes, Leon "The Show" Powe. He gets buckets. Forget his big time rebounding, great hands, and solid motor. The man gets buckets. I know he only averaged about eight points during the season and under six in the playoffs. He gets buckets. If the NBA kept track of BPM (buckets per minute) I'm certain he would be near the top of the list. Just ask him, he'll tell you himself. Surprised he shot more free throws than the Lakers? I'm not. I've seen him MAKE more free throws than any other Pac-10 team ATTEMPTED in a season.
I clearly remember one pre-game meeting we had at Cal. We used to have these pretty long meetings where we would go over each player on the other team and over how we would play different situations. On this day, Coach Braun (now at Rice) and coach Pasternack (now at U of New Orleans) had gone over the other team for nearly 30 minutes before deciding to quiz some of us on the game plan. Since Leon was the man, they started with him.
"So, Leon, what's the game plan?"
Leon's answer was quick, clear, and concise. In fact, it was probably the only answer someone gave to a question during my four years at Cal that I remember.
"Get buckets," Leon answered confidently.
Coach Braun made a face that would fit Charlie Brown's "good grief." Boom. That was it. We all laughed a little bit, but when the bright lights turned on, guess who went out and got buckets? Leon Powe. In Game 2 of the NBA Finals, guess who went out and got buckets? Leon Powe. Boston is a team that shares the ball and makes individual sacrifices, so I can see how he could kind of fit in. But it was still a matter of time before he did what he does best.
It was an especially great night for Leon to drop 21 because ABC played the story of his childhood and how much he has overcome at half. I've heard it a thousand times. What they don't tell you is that he is so humble and so nice when he has every reason to not be. He actually gave me his last packet of Kool-Aid when we were roommates my senior year. His last one. It wasn't red either. I think it was a Strawberry-Kiwi twister. That's love.
They don't tell you that when I started my D-League career in Austin, I wasn't allowed to choose the jersey number that I'd worn for years. I was forced to wear number 4 because back then the Toros were the affiliate for the Spurs and the Celtics. Guess who had just decided to wear number zero? Leon Powe. I let it fly because he is a card-carrying member of the Boom Tho movement.
They don't tell you how hard he works either. I called him before Game 6 of the first round against the Hawks. He congratulated me on my season and I returned the favor, but the talk quickly turned into a talk about how hard it is to get into the league and how hard it is to succeed. He made it very clear that every minute he sees on the court is the direct result of a ridiculous amount of hard work and sacrifice. Leon, the guy who was once rated the #2 high school prospect behind LeBron James, told me that it has been hard. He told me that in this business, there are no handouts. It is exactly that mentality that has led Leon, and more importantly the Boston Celtics, to the next level.
I've seen Leon score 40 points in a Pac-10 tournament game. I've sat in a post game interview next to him while he, with a straight face, said that he broke out of a slump because he got new shoes. I've unfortunately seen him dance. (I say that because I think it's something not everyone should see.) I've seen him play an entire season with an ACL that was weaker than silly string and still average a double-double. I guess in a couple days I could be seeing Leon do something else. I could be watching him hoist an NBA Championship trophy. Then nobody will call him "Pow" instead of "Powe."
Rod Benson is a Cal grad who plays for the D-League's Dakota Wizards. He also blogs one or two times a week on Ball Don't Lie. Read his archive, pay a visit to TooMuchRodBenson.com and always support the Boom Tho movement.