Well, who says life is fair? Where is that written? Life isn't always fair.
— The grandfather from The Princess Bride (1987).
I’ve probably written about Steven Spieth too much. I’ve written about him for my school’s paper, and I’ve written about him here. In fact, this article that I pitched to our benevolent leader Russ was my way of sticking my foot in the door and getting a gig at this site in the first place.
After all, Spieth is probably the most famous basketball player to ever come out of my school. Partially because he is a five-tool hustle player who started all four years and is a member of the 1,000-point club at Brown, and partially because his brother is incredibly famous, rich and good at golf.
But today I bring him up not for who he is, but for what he represents: a basketball career that scratched the surface of the NBA. A career that will likely be unjustly and unceremoniously halted just below the highest level.
He played for the Dallas Mavericks, his hometown team, and the shame of it all is that he, as well as most other Summer Leaguers, don’t get much of a chance. And rather than throwing the pre-rookies into the fire of pseudo-NBA action, most of these guys are relegated to waving towels and standing up dramatically when Dennis Smith Jr. jams on somebody.
Here’s how Spieth’s Summer League went.
Game one: 91-75 win over the Bulls (the reigning Summer League champs, mind you)
The only number that mattered was four. He played four minutes. Everything else was a goose egg. No shots attempted, no boards, no assists, no blocks, no turnovers, no steals. Zilch. Nothing. Even his plus-minus was zero. But I can’t blame him, four minutes isn’t enough time to do much of anything — on the basketball court or otherwise. We’ll call it a scratch.
Game two: 88-77 win over the Suns
That’s more like it Stevie. Two points and a defensive rebound in three minutes played. 0-for-1 from the floor. Not bad. Three minutes is the blink of an eye.
Game three: 78-73 win over the Heat
Hustle Player. Three boards, one steal and one block in six minutes played. Gritty. Second highest plus-minus on the team. Lunch pail guy. Utility player. Get the man a wrench.
Game four: 83-76 win over the Kings
DNP - Coach’s Decision. Two steps forward one step back. It’s okay we’ll get ‘em next time.
Game five: 91-74 win over the Celtics
Dropped five points on Bill Simmons’s head on an efficient two-for-three from the field, including a bucket from beyond the arc. He added three boards, two assists and a steal. The only problem is it took him 18 minutes to do it. Still, he did well! He only turned the ball over once, and it was the first time he saw real action.
He even played well enough that the Mavs tweeted about it:
Those are good passes! Those are NBA passes! Give him a chance!
Game six: 98-108 loss to the Lakers
The Lakers, led by the son of the Big Baller himself, bested the undefeated Mavericks, thereby ending their Summer League run. Spieth (DNP-Coach’s Decision) didn’t even get to doff his longsleeve shooting shirt in the process.
So that’s it. There it is. The extent (probably) of Steven Spieth’s NBA career summed up in 300 words or so.
Life isn’t fair.
Life isn’t fair because a 6’8’’ basketball player who can play four positions only gets 31 minutes over a week-and-a-half to define his future. He hardly had time to show his face before the Vaudeville Hook came from beyond the curtain to yank him off.
The world is indifferent. The earth yet turns.
I don’t know anything compared to an NBA scout. But I’m here to vouch for the unknown. Evaluators are not prophets; they are not clairvoyant. They have missed on prospects, and will miss again. So many NBA careers were propelled forward by a brief meteoric hot streak, in a workout or elsewhere. There are likely innumerable players who could be serviceable, if not above-average contributors in the NBA if they were just given a chance to develop in the League. But many of these players have faded away overseas or in the G-League, haunted by thoughts of what could have been.
And Steven Spieth will probably be one of these players. Not because he didn’t deserve it. Not because he wasn’t good enough. But because life isn’t fair.