NBA

An NCB Investigation: Did Kendrick Lamar Kill Marcus Camby’s Career?

I’ve had a hard time forming legitimate NBA opinions in the craziness of the last few weeks. I’m watching games, but not really taking in what I’m seeing and formulating anything into deeper thought. Basically, I am a weak-willed person. But what helps with that is listening to Kendrick Lamar, which I’ve been doing a lot of recently, as we all should, forever. Listening to “Ronald Reagan Era” from his first album Section.80, I found inspiration.

Welcome to vigilante, 80’s so don’t you ask me
I’m hungry, my body’s antsy, I rip through your f***in’ pantry
Peelin’ off like a Xanny, examine my orchestra
Granny said when I’m old enough, I’ll be sure to be all I can be
You n***as Marcus Camby, washed up

Yes. No political opinions or fake news here, just research and conclusion. There’s only one thing I want answers for now: did this diss contribute to the death of Marcus Camby’s career?

Camby was drafted in 1996 and was one of the best defenders of his era, even winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. He led the league in blocks four times and got in multiple brawls. This was a tough dude. But was a Kendrick Lamar diss enough to take him down? Let’s fast forward to late in his career.

– – –

2010-2011: Aging but Useful

This season was the worst of Camby’s career, but not by a lot. He was never a scorer, but scoring but 4.7 points per game in 26 minutes per game is tough for anyone to do, really. His 10.3 rebounds per game was among the lowest of his career, but not low enough to be an aberration.

Portland’s playoff series against Dallas that season was even worse than the regular season, however. After a 18 rebounds and four points on three shots in Game 1 (he wanted nothing to do with offense at this point and his conviction is amazing), he scored just 17 points and grabbed 40 boards in the final five games. He had a positive plus/minus just once while soaking up 28 minutes per game.

So in the run-up to the release of Section.80, Camby’s offensive production and efficiency was well below that of a league average player, but his rebounds were down only slightly. A down year was followed a forgettable playoffs. He turned 37 years old during the season, so the downtick in production can be explained by aging. Camby was on a downward slope, to be sure. But did that make him washed up?

I say no, not yet. His production as a rebounder (his total rebound percentage was the highest of his career) and defender still kept him useful enough on the court. But his playing in just 59 games and drop-off during the playoffs was a sign Camby was nearing the end.

July 2, 2011: Kendrick Lamar Releases Section.80

The 2011-12 season should have been a rough one for Camby. Not only had Kendrick called him washed up, but this was the lockout year. This 37-year-old man playing had just been dissed by a rapper and now he has to play back-to-back-to-backs and five games in six nights routinely? That’s cruel.

But Camby responded. This season was arguably better than the previous. His offense had the same production but better efficiency and his defending and rebounding stayed static. His PER, which had slipped below 15 for the first time the year before, was back up above 16. That put him in the top 100 among those who played 1,000 minutes, better than Tony Allen, Jamal Crawford, and Matt Barnes, to name a few. Given the circumstances, it would be a grievous error to call him washed up even after this season.

2012-2013: Disrespect in Trading

But something happened during the season, and this is where we start to find our answer. On March 15, 2012, Camby was traded to Houston for Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet. That hurts. Knowing your value is equal to that of Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet is enough to kill any man’s spirit. That should have been a fatal blow to his career, just like the Kendrick Lamar diss should have been, yet he played even better for Houston than he did for Portland.
At this stage, Camby’s career was just a train that took in disrespect as fuel and used it to churn out rebounds.

But all machinery must be phased out at some point. Just three months later he was traded again, this time to the Knicks for some scraps that went by the names Toney Douglas, Josh Harrellson, and Jerome Jordan. He may have been putting up numbers that could be matched by a younger, cheaper player, but the size of a contract isn’t necessarily an indicator of being washed up. And I believe it definitely wasn’t when it came to Camby. You can’t blame the man for earning large contracts.

But his assignment to the mess in New York in yet another disrespectful exchange seemed to finally break his body, if not his spirit. A shame, too, as that 2012-13 Knicks team remains to be the only fun one since Patrick Ewing left. Aging and injured, Camby played in just 24 games, averaging 10 minutes, two points and three rebounds. His PER dropped below nine. There were a few games that he played multiple minutes and got zero rebounds. That’s a death knell if I’ve ever heard one.

2013 Playoffs: Death by Feet

Despite his team’s success, Camby had a rough summer in 2013. He appeared in just three of the Knicks’ 12 postseason games, playing just over three minutes. He played 12 seconds of filler at the end of the first half in Game 1 of the 2nd round against the Pacers. He wouldn’t see the court again. Nearly two years after being declared washed up by Kendrick Lamar, Marcus Camby was finally done.

The Verdict

Due to his (relatively) amazing 2011-12 season, it can’t be declared that Kendrick was right at the time, or that his diss was the cause of a subsequent washing up. Camby was resilient as all hell, finally succumbing the notorious killer of aging athletes, plantar fasciitis. He took hits that would have finished a lesser man and fought bravely through. No outside force could stop Camby, whether it be a rapper or a trade. It came down to him and his own feet. Leave it to Camby to provide the world with the rarest of situations, one where Kendrick Lamar was wrong.

– – –

Camby didn’t know his career was over that summer. He tried to come back for the 2013-14 season after being traded by the Knicks and waived by the other team. He then joined Houston once again for a comeback. But plantar fasciitis is a real jerk, and he was waived before he could make it onto a court again. His feet, plus the disrespect finally got too great to push through, which of course the Knicks would shamefully be responsible for.

That team he was traded to and waived from? The Toronto Raptors. The player he was traded for? Andrea Bargnani.

*all stats via basketball-reference.com

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