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Sixers In Treatment: Kwame Brown

Because Sixers fans aren't the only ones who need therapy. And we need lots of it.


The Sixers are a bad basketball team. But the players on said team are human, which means they're prone to getting sad when things aren't going their way. Should Doug Collins request for the team to seek psychiatric help, we feel like we have a good idea of how things would go.

In 2008, HBO bought an Israeli series called "BeTipul" and adapted it for American television as "In Treatment." Gabriel Byrne starred as psychologist Dr. Paul Weston who saw one patient every evening for five days a week. Each episode would detail his sessions with one of his patients. The series drew great acclaim from critics for its wonderful acting, tremendous dialogue, and especially difficult shooting schedule.

Michael Levin, who wrote the first installment of this series, has seen exactly zero episodes of this show. I watched the arc during Season 1 with Dr. Paul and the crazy gymnast, which kicked off what would become a lifelong love affair with Mia Wasikowska.

At least in my head. But that's another story.

PATIENT #2: Kwame Brown

Weston: Good morning, Kwame.

Kwame (sitting): Good morning, Paul. How are you?

Weston: Fine, thanks. So, this is your first time here, Kwame. What do you want to talk about?

Kwame: It's been a rough year, Paul. Have you watched us at all this season?

Weston:, not really. But I read the papers, and it sounds like you've had a rough go of it.

Kwame: You could say that. I haven't been playing much, and I'm not all that happy about it.

Weston: I've heard. What about that makes you unhappy, Kwame?

Kwame: Well, here I am, the former No. 1 overall pick, Michael Jordan's handpicked franchise player, and ten years later I haven't got a lot to show for it.

Weston: Even playing as long as you have in the NBA is impressive, Kwame.

Kwame: I know, but I'm disappointed. You know, when Andrew Bynum had to have his legs amputated, I thought I'd get a chance to help out, but that hasn't happened.

Weston: I see. Do you feel like you deserve to play more?

Kwame: I wouldn't put it that way.

Weston: How would you put it? (takes sip of his tea)

Kwame: I feel like I've lost my last chance to realize my telos, Paul.

Weston (chokes on his tea, coughs): I'm sorry, Kwame, your what?

Kwame: My telos, Paul. My reason for existence. I've had a lot of time to think at the end of the bench, you see, and I've become quite introspective. I've reflected on my lot in life, and the choices I've made, and read a little.

Weston: You read on the bench during games?

Kwame: It beats the hell out of watching Sixers basketball. Not to put too fine a point on it or anything.

Weston: No, of course not.

Kwame: Anyway, I've been reading, and I'm trying to grasp what my purpose is, and I really should have been a superstar, you know, a Shaq or a Dwight Howard--someone who really controlled the game, made an impact. But now, what am I? A shell of a man, like it's too late to regain any agency over the way my career is going to go from now on. You know, Paul, I've thought about wearing a shirt on the bench that says: "Under bare Ben Bulben's head / In Drumcliff churchyard Kwame's laid," just to see if anyone notices.

Weston: Is that Yeats?

Kwame: It is. I've really started to appreciate the tragic beauty of the Irish poets of the early 20th Century.

Weston: You have been reading, haven't you?

Kwame: It's been a long season, Paul.

Weston: So why do you feel like you've lost control over your career?

Kwame: I feel alienated from my species-being. I've ceded control over my ultimate destiny to the capitalist ruling class, and while I've profited from it immensely, my life today does smack of wage-slavery.

Weston: Wage-slavery?

Kwame: Indeed. I sell myself, bit by bit, to repetitive labor in whose outcome I have no stake. How can I? I don't play, and when I do, I can't get far enough from the basket to shoot! I add no value to what we collectively produce.

Weston: I'm sorry, far enough from the basket?

Kwame: It sounds absurd, doesn't it? What hubris we have, Paul, to continue slogging away like Burgoyne's army through the woods of Saratoga, foolishly and stubbornly pushing ahead against steadily thickening opposition, exhausting itself just to keep up with a nimbler, smarter opponent, yet on we march! And I, sent to the end of the bench to ponder my own obsolescence!

(Kwame, on the verge of tears, stands and with one hand shoves a pile of books off the end table in a fit of frustration. He stops and begins to cry, then, embarrassed, kneels and begins to pick up the books and put them back on the table.)

Weston: You don't have to pick them up.

Kwame (still sobbing): No, please, I'm shouldn't have done that. (Kwame places the stack of books back on the end table and sits, wiping the tears from his eyes.) Do you have regrets, Paul? From your youth?

Weston: Sure. We all do.

Kwame (stares out the window, his eyes still red): I have regrets. I have demons. There's another poem that's struck my fancy lately. One of Walt Whitman's. Do you know "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry?"

Weston: I don't.

Kwame (now smiling wistfully): It's a beautiful bit of poetry, the last stanza in particular:

You have waited, you always wait, you dumb, beautiful ministers! you novices!
We receive you with free sense at last, and are insatiate henceforward;
Not you any more shall be able to foil us, or withhold yourselves from us;
We use you, and do not cast you aside—we plant you permanently within us;
We fathom you not—we love you—there is perfection in you also;
You furnish your parts toward eternity;
Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul.

Kwame: I don't know what that's supposed to mean, exactly, but I find myself murmuring those lines to myself, when it seems like I'll never play again. I don't know why.

Weston: Why don't you try to guess?

Kwame: I think part of it is just the way it sounds, the way the words flow, one to the next, building to a crescendo, then stopping, the caesura just before the climax, then the final line, whispered in such a way you can almost hear the speaker's reassuring smile: "Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul."

Weston: Is that what you like about it?

Kwame: I think that and the sense of optimism, of camaraderie. It reminds me of a time when we men, my teammates and I, were symbiotic almost, that everyone had his place and there was a place for everyone. That sense of fraternity, of togetherness, of banding together because we were just too naive to know any better. That's what I want, Paul. To be part of something special.

(Kwame pauses again, and though Paul is tempted to interrupt with another question, he waits, sensing that Kwame is still thinking.)

Kwame: I spoke to you earlier about regrets, Paul. Would you like to know my greatest regret?

Weston: Sure.

Kwame: It's that the feeling I just described...I've never felt it for myself. I've heard others talk about it, but I've never felt it for myself. I've had to imagine, and imagining that--it's like imagining sunlight if you've never seen it, Paul. Like sunlight. (Kwame checks his watch and stands.) I have to go, Paul. Thank you.

Weston (standing): I'll see you next time.

(Kwame nods, shakes Paul's hand and walks slowly toward the door. He opens it, starts to step outside, then hesitates. He turns to face Paul and smiles faintly.)

Kwame: "Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul." We all should, Paul. That's what we've all been missing.

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