Javaris Crittenton had separated himself from the pack, joining the sliver of men who play hoops well enough to reach the NBA. He overcome astronomical odds, achieving the childhood dream of millions, to enter a fraternity with about 450 active members in any given season.
But if the allegations are true, if Crittenton fired the bullet that missed his intended target but killed a 22-year-old mother of four in Atlanta, he traded select company for a group mentality that’s way too prevalent among African-American men. He went from role model of success to poster boy of dysfunction in the flash of a gun.
There’s a profile — or at least a prevalent perception — of guys who would be caught in Crittenton’s situation. Guys who would open fire on someone they thought stole jewelry from them. Guys who would go on the lam as the FBI issued “Wanted” posters featuring their mugs above the words “Armed and Dangerous.”
Typically, such guys are straight gangstas, criminal-minded individuals engaging in nefarious activities that are prevalent in the hood and romanticized in the arts. That image doesn’t fit pro athletes unless they embrace it, like suburban rap artists acting hard for increased street cred and sales.
Yes, Crittenton brought a gun into the Washington Wizards locker room in 2009, in an incident with three-time All-Star Gilbert Arenas. But nothing in Crittenton’s past or present suggested that he’d actually use a gun in retaliation for a robbery. No one pictured such a development for a former honor student at Southwest Atlanta Christian High who spent a year at Georgia Tech before jumping to the NBA.
Now he’s lumped himself in with the stereotypes and caricatures. He’s become just another black face accused of black-on-black crime, another statistic to be debated among sociologists, politicians, racists and apologists.
Sometimes a crab pulls you back in the barrel.
But sometimes you jump back in yourself.