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What did Vernon Maxwell feel the Spurs wanted him to be? “A cornball a** n***a”


Vernon Maxwell is as transparent as they come - whatever he feels and thinks, you will know about it. From sharing the fact that Hakeem might have been calm and respectful, but Akeem was “a fool” and slapped him for spitting on the floor, to his online antics with Utah. An acquired taste, a guy like Mad Max was a great basketball player if he was in the right environment - and according to Max, San Antonio wasn’t it.

The Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs are the model organization everyone else is measured against. It’s not just winning 50 games every season for 18 years that teams and fanbases covet. The Spurs run a tight ship. From the front office to the coaching staff, they are equally respected and admired by fans and people who work in the league. You won’t read about goats in the office or hear about their owner making absurd team-building decisions.

The Spurs’ ethos is, similarly to the Patriots they are often compared to, a no-nonsense, professional, militaristic way of doing things. “Show up, and do your job.” If they could control it, the Spurs would like everyone to have one public appearance each year - when they win the title, and that’s it. As a player, getting the Spurs seal of approval means you’re getting at least a few more chances in the NBA. But for some, the price for that isn’t worth it. Where we hear “success,” they hear “boooooring.” Particularly if it’s your first stop in the NBA.

At first, it was rough, because I was in San Antonio and they wanted me to be somebody I didn't feel I was comfortable being. They wanted me to be somebody else and I couldn't be that guy. I got in a couple of things my first year in San Antonio.....I like to be out partying, I like to have fun, and I got in a couple of scuffles.

Vernon Maxwell, The Right Time with Bomani Jones

Max understood the NBA is a business, but the first time anyone gets traded, it hurts. Especially if you get traded for $30.000. Back in those days, you could trade players for cash, but 30k is an amount that lets you know “they really wanted to get rid of me bad.” So what was so hard about adapting to the Spurs culture? Who did they want Maxwell to be?

Cornball a** n***a; I'll just say it. They wanted me to be a cornball a**, I couldn't be that n***a. They wanted me to stay at home. I mean, I'm twenty-moth******ing-three years old, why the hell am I doing to be staying at the house for? I'm a millionaire, I'm gonna be out in these streets. They wanted me to be some white-collar guy, change my image.

Vernon Maxwell, The Right Time with Bomani Jones

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Maxwell made sure to stress he loves the city and that Larry Brown and Gregg Popovich were “great to me.” But he just couldn’t fit in, and it got to a point where the Spurs were happy with $30.000 just to get Maxwell of the team. Fortunately for him, there are organizations in the NBA that don’t mind a late night out here or there.

The Rockets

Vernon was moving to Houston, understanding the message the Spurs sent when they traded him for only 30k. So he was understandably concerned about his reputation and future in the Association. His first conversation with Don Chaney let him know Houston might be only 220 miles from San Antonio, but it was a whole different universe.

Don Chaney was a blessing in disguise; he understood me. He was like, ‘Max, don’t worry about what happened in San Antonio, I’m gonna let your a** go. I just need you to come in and play some ball, be who you are.’ That’s when I took off.

Vernon Maxwell, The Right Time with Bomani Jones

Maxwell could finally be who he was, and it wasn’t getting in the way of his status on the team and opportunity to play the game. His story is what NBA agents point to when someone asks them why they get 3% of their clients’ contracts. Especially at the beginning of someone’s career, agents aren’t there just to get you max dollars and promotion deals. Getting drafted by a team that’s going to be what Houston was for Maxwell is crucial. By the way, what did letting Maxwell be who he looks like?

Bomani Jones: One thing I think people don’t get about Houston, it’s a little thing, but Houston is one of the few cities in America that doesn’t have any zoning. So literally anything can be anywhere. Like, where the strip club pops out - totally random.

Vernon Maxwell: And that’s why I LOVE Houston, Texas. ’Cause I was in them holes, third ward, before the game, I’m on my knees behind my Ferrari, just shooting dice.

Vernon Maxwell, The Right Time with Bomani Jones

Mad Max had a blast on and off the court, and that’s why he’s still a fan favorite in Houston. Certain players just vibe with the essence of the city, the lifestyle, and the culture of it. “Everybody love me in Houston. I can go literally anywhere in Houston, and not feel threatened about nothin’.

Maxwell thinks the Rockets knew a little and were smart enough not to know more. From Vernon Maxwell to James Harden, the Rockets have always been a team that’s willing to not know more than most. For guys like Mad Max, they are what San Antonio is for the Tim Duncans of the world. To each his own.

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