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Remembering DeShawn Stevenson’s unusual journey to becoming a Wizards cult hero

Cleveland Cavaliers v Washington Wizards, Game 6 Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Like most kids my age, I spent my early teens rooting for the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers. Why? Kobe Bryant. Allen Iverson. There's not much else to explain there.

I only started watching the Wizards because Comcast SportsNet was the easiest way for me to keep tabs on the rest of the league. The Internet happened; Gilbert Arenas started blogging, and the late-2000s Washington Wizards soon became the team to make me fall in love with professional basketball and the absurd, pre-social media personalities that came with it.

We've said enough about Gilbert Arenas on this blog. We've said far too little about DeShawn Stevenson, the man for whom listed "Michael Jordan" as a player comp when he was in high school. The man who installed an ATM Machine in his living room. The man who, for a time, had Wizards fans believing their team could defeat LeBron James in a seven game series.

Below is a written history of DeShawn Stevenson during his time with the Wizards, in the words of his teammates, coaches, and the reporters that covered the team over the years.

Fall 2006

DeShawn Stevenson Signs with Wizards

Stevenson bet on himself in the summer of 2006, opting out of his $3 Million contract with the Orlando Magic with hopes of earning a lucrative raise elsewhere. Money wasn’t in the cards for Stevenson that summer, who signed with the Wizards for an NBA-Minimum salary of $932,015. The signing was certainly a humbling one for Stevenson. But by playing for the Wizards -- and with their superstar Gilbert Arenas -- he assimilated quickly to his new surroundings.

The deal is a pretty big blow to Stevenson financially. He opted out of a contract this spring that would have paid him $3 million and then turned down a three-year, $10 million contract from the Magic in early July.

"I had way more money on the table, but that's part of life," Stevenson said Saturday. "Sometimes you've got to go two steps backward to take five steps forward. I look at this as a stepping stone."

The next big step for the Wizards will be deciding whether to match the Knicks' offer sheet to restricted free agent Jared Jeffries.

Michael Lee; Wizards, Stevenson Find Comfort Zone; October, 2006

DeShawn Stevenson Gets Comfortable

In October 2006, Michael Lee, then of The Washington Post wrote that Stevenson was getting comfortable in D.C.

Washington Wizards shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson spotted Gilbert Arenas walking off the court at American Airlines Center and shouted toward his teammates, "Who's this?" Stevenson squatted, then slowly stood upright and lifted his practice jersey above his head, twirling it around like a windmill, while shaking from side to side.

Stevenson didn't need to tell his giggling audience that he was imitating Arenas's performance during the Wizards' home opener last season, when Arenas emerged from a movable platform in a cloud of smoke while waving his warmup jersey. "That," said Stevenson, who watched Arenas's antics from the opposing sideline, as a member of the Orlando Magic, "was hilarious."

And joke around, too. "With this team, it's easy to fit in if you're funny," Arenas said.

Michael Lee; Wizards, Stevenson Find Comfort Zone; October, 2006

Winter 2007

DeShawn Stevenson Cuts Hair; Hits threes

By the trade deadline of Stevenson’s inaugural season, the Wizards were 31-20, and Stevenson had proven himself to be an invaluable part of the team’s success. He beat Jarvis Hayes for the starting shooting guard spot in training camp and emerged, quite surprisingly, as one of the team’s best shooters and biggest personalities (Not quite as surprising).

To end any confusion, the Washington Wizards didn't make any trades last week. For any puzzled fans who might arrive at Verizon Center for tonight's game against the Memphis Grizzlies, that player with the closely cropped hair in the No. 2 jersey really is DeShawn Stevenson. Stevenson sheared off the dreadlocks he began to grow last season in Orlando when the Wizards arrived in Sacramento last Tuesday.

"I like my hair. It was hard for me to cut it," Stevenson said. "I thought it was a new look on a new team and I have a new role. I just felt like everything should be new."

Stevenson has certainly looked like a new player in the Wizards' high-octane offense in recent weeks. Noted for his ability to slash to the basket and finish when he arrived in Washington, Stevenson has emerged as a surprisingly consistent perimeter scorer in his seventh season. He is shooting a career-high 51.2 percent from the field and 52 percent (13 for 25) from beyond the three-point line.

Michael Lee; No Longer Hair Apparent, Stevenson Starts to Blend In, December, 2006

DeShawn Stevenson loses three point shooting contest to Gilbert Arenas

Anyhow, today after practice, Gil took 100 one-handed college three-pointers, and DeShawn took 100 two-handed NBA three-pointers. Oh, and they bet $20,000. Brendan Haywood and Antonio Daniels kept score. Caron Butler rebounded. Cal Booth was the voice of justice and fair play. Virtually everyone else on the team sat and watched.

[DeShawn] made his first 13. It got quiet. He made 17 out of his first 18. "Damn, dawg," Gil said. Then Gil got to work. He started jumping up and down while DeShawn shot. He started dancing around in circles. He started screaming at A.D. for constant scoring options. He got in DeShawn's face. He did some Matrix moves, sort of some modified flips or rolls. He pretended to kick DeShawn. He pretended to be a quarterback, taking a snap and dropping back to pass in front of DeShawn. He screamed a lot. He jumped some more. DeShawn cooled off.

Going into the last shooting station (10 shots), DeShawn was 10 down. He could still tie. He had made his first 10 shots from that same spot. Gil was hyper beyond belief, squirming and wiggling on the ground. DeShawn made his first 5. My palms got all sweaty. He missed the sixth. Gil began breakdancing and laughing uncontrollably. DeShawn stormed off the court.

Dan Steinberg; Gil vs. Deshawn; February 2007

Spring 2007

DeShawn Stevenson Puts ‘Swagfest’ on Pause

After a promising start, the 2006-07 Wizards fell apart down the stretch, finishing with a record of 41-41, a first round sweep at the hands of LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers, and a career-altering injury to Gilbert Arenas. Stevenson, however, had just completed the greatest year of his career, and went into the 2007 offseason with supreme confidence -- both on and off the court.

Or [Antawn Jamison's] sneakers, the ones that have "Fiji" written on them in magic marker. "When you think of water, you think of my jump shot," Jamison explained, noting that he actually calls out "Fiji!" after every made jumper.

"I think we made him a little weirder," Stevenson speculated, although Jamison disagreed.

"The swag-fest is officially on pause right now," Butler said. Stevenson agreed, saying he would be swag-free while relaxing with family members.

Dan Steinberg; They Had Joy, They Had Fun, They Had a Season in the Sun; May 2007

Fall 2007

DeShawn Stevenson Presses Play on ‘Dirty Man Contest’

By the beginning of the 2007 season, Stevenson’s gamble had paid off in a big way. After completing the best season of his career, Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld rewarded Stevenson with a 4 year, $15 Million deal. With Arenas expected to re-join the team shortly, Stevenson and the Wizards were ready to stake their claim among the Eastern Conference’s top teams.

Meanwhile, observe a bearded DeShawn Stevenson, discussing Gilbert. "Our team is better when he's going on rampages," DeShawn admitted. "When he goes off his feet he can't herky-jerk like he used to. You'll just see flashes, but he'll be all right....Gilbert's a star in this league....I'll give him by the end of this month, he's going to be the old Gilbert."

More importantly, uh, why the beard, DeShawn?

"I've got a bet with Drew Gooden," he said.

Yes, that's right, our very own DeShawn has made what we're calling an "undisclosed wager" with the formerly ducktailed Cavs forward Gooden, who began growing his own beard over the summer. Both guys live in Orlando, and they saw each other socially. Gooden had a beard, Stevenson made a comment, and so Gooden challenged him to grow facial hair of his own.

"So I said all right," Stevenson said. "He said 'who cuts it first,' I said let's do it," and the rest was history.

Dan Steinberg; DeShawn's Beard-Growing Contest; November, 2007

“I think it was called a Dirty Man Contest,” Gooden recalled. “You couldn’t shave or trim it for a whole basketball season. So it was a lot of junk in there.”

Dan Steinberg; Drew Gooden on his ‘Dirty Man Contest’ with DeShawn Stevenson; March 2014

Two months later, all is going according to plan. DeShawn says the beard doesn't itch, and he's allowed to edge it up to keep from looking "all nasty," as Wiz beat writer Ivan Carter put it. There was some concern in the locker room that the beard might be a bad-luck charm, what with that 0-5 start and all; Gilbert Arenas kept asking Stevenson to shave it off. But I'd disagree; I'd argue that a long and stringy beard will bring power, and accuracy too; Tolstoy was killer from three-point range. I asked DeShawn what he thought he'd look like in March.

"Probably look like Teen Wolf," he said one time. "Probably Moses," he said another time. "Moses with an even cut."

Dan Steinberg; DeShawn's Beard-Growing Contest; November, 2007

DeShawn Stevenson Gets Tattoo of His Own Jersey

He has that big "STEVENSON" on his back. I've seen a lot of players that are getting their names on their backs. I guess it's a way of them letting people know what their names are when they're on the beach -- I don't know. DeShawn is adding the No. 2 on his back so it looks like a jersey. I guess when he's swimming or something, having fun in the pool, everybody will know who that is. It's not for me though, I'll stick with the tiger.

Gilbert Arenas; Preseason Basketball; October, 2007

Spring 2007

DeShawn Stevenson Matures

The Wizards ended the 2007-08 season at 43-39, largely due to Stevenson’s leadership, defense, and consistent perimeter shooting. The Wizards finishing 5th in the Eastern Conference that season and would meet LeBron James and the Cavalier in the first round of the playoffs for the third consecutive year. With Arenas returning to the team in April, Stevenson and the Wizards were ready to vanquish their post-season rival once and for all.

He learned to play defense, getting in the grille of some of the game's most talented guards. He developed a deadeye, spot-up jumper from 25 feet and in. He subjugated his ego, too, realizing he was never going to be thought of as the wunderkind from Fresno, Calif., anymore. But that was okay. Eight years later -- in a ridiculously young league where a player a month shy of 27 can be called a hardened veteran -- he has a job.

"There are guys out there -- I hate to say his name, J.R. Smith -- that are stuck on wanting to be Carmelo [Anthony] and stuff," Stevenson said. "You got to be yourself. You got to get your own niche in the league."

Mike Wise; As Stevenson Evolves, So Does His Game; March 7, 2008

DeShawn Stevenson calls LeBron James overrated

"He's overrated," DeShawn told Mike [Lee]. "And you can say I said that."

Ivan Carter; Deshawn's Had Enough; March 14, 2008

LeBron James compares DeShawn Stevenson to Soulja Boy

"With DeShawn Stevenson it is kind of funny. It's almost like Jay-Z saying something bad about Soulja Boy. There's no comparison. Enough said."

Akron Beacon-Journa; LeBron: DeShawn, you are Soulja Boy, I am Jay-Z; March 16, 2008

DeShawn wants Cavs in the playoffs, declares intent to invite Soulja Boy

Oh, and if you thought the DeShawn Stevenson-LeBron James beef was dead, think again.In the locker room afterward, Stevenson was asked about the possibility of facing the Magic or the Cavaliers in the first round (it wasn't me) and he took the bait.

Remember, after Stevenson called James "overrated" following a game between the teams last Thursday, James responded by saying he is above such mess because that would be like his hero, Jay-Z, lowering himself to respond to the rapper, Soulja Boy. So, in one neat quote, James dissed Stevenson and Soulja Boy. Well, Stevenson is embracing the Soulja Boy role.

"I hope we play Cleveland," Stevenson said. "I'm going to get Soulja Boy courtside seats and have him wear a DeShawn Stevenson jersey. Maybe (James) can have Jay-Z there since LeBron's all on his (shorts) anyway."

Ivan Carter; A win is a win, Soulja Boy a Wiz fan?; March 19, 2008

DeShawn Stevenson tells Charles Barkley to chill

"Are we really going to listen to a guy who said Yao Ming would not be an all-star in this league?" Stevenson asked. "I mean really. So who cares what he has to say? Tell Charles Barkley to chill and worry about other things. Don't worry about the Washington Wizards."

Arenas called Barkley's take "cute" and responded to Barkley's assertion that the Wizards shouldn't tweak James because, in Barkley's words, James is "the second-best player in the NBA, and that's just stupid."

"They might have the number two player," Arenas said. "But they don't have the number one end-of-quarter, end-of-half, end-of-game player."

Ivan Carter; Stevenson Says Barkley Needs to Chill; April, 2008

Jay-Z Debuts Deshawn Diss Track at DC’s Love Nightclub

At a LeBron James-hosted event at Love, Jay-Z debuted “Blow the Whistle” -- a freestyle over Too $hort’s 2006 hit that featured numerous struggle bars aimed at the Wizards’ shooting guard.

Who the f— overrated?! If anything they underpaid him

Hatin that's only 'gon make him spend the night

Out of spite with the chick you've been datin

Why Jay-Z chose to rap over a Too $hort track (who’s from Oakland) rather than one by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony (who are from Cleveland) is beyond me, but he hit a nerve, and Stevenson had no choice but to respond.

DeShawn Stevenson Fulfills Promise, Brings Soulja Boy to First Home Playoff Game

Soulja Boy: I mean, I've got to support who support me, and that's the Wizards. I mean, I'm a fan of LeBron James, but when it's all said and done I've got to back who backing me up. You know? [Stevenson] called me and invited me out, he said 'I'm gonna fly you out, you just come, rock the jersey, sit courtside,' and I came out.

Dan Steinberg: So are you gonna help the Wizards win?

Soulja Boy: I mean, if it comes down to it, we're gonna have to do what we got to do to win, you feel me? I came all the way out here, we gotta take it home. If it comes down to it, you'll see. For real. We can't lose tonight man. I'm gonna have to talk to him, be like 'It's time to rock,' you know what I'm saying? I've got a lot riding on this.

Dan Steinberg; DeShawn, LeBron and Soulja Boy in Game 3; April, 2008

Now that you have created a Tupac-Biggie war in the NBA playoffs, fusing pro basketball and the hip-hop entertainment world like only Bob Johnson wishes he could have done, do you regret what you said about LeBron?

"I still feel that way," Stevenson said. "I think he's a good player, but I just don't think he's Kobe Bryant, a guy who you try to get your sleep on, you worry about, you can't stop no matter what you do. [LeBron] is a good player. But compared to the people I think who are true MVP all-stars.

"The whole thing is a little overblown," he added. "I said he's overrated, I didn't say he sucks. If you look at the games and what's going on, I know when I go to sleep I know we have to play LeBron James. When I go to sleep and know we have to play the Lakers, I know it's going to be a long night. It's the difference between the Kobes and LeBrons. Not saying he will never get there, but that's what I'm saying."

Mike Wise; Stevenson. James. Now Jay-Z? This Spat Is Getting Serious.; April, 2008

Fall 2008

DeShawn Stevenson Spends $1,000 on Wristbands

A hobbled Arenas wasn’t enough to take the Wizards over the precipice, and yet again the team found themselves bounced out of the playoffs at the hands of LeBron James, despite Soulja Boy’s best efforts. Despite the setback, Stevenson entered the 2008-09 season with supreme confidence, however a bad back and a worse coach would result in one of the most disappointing years of his career.

"What the hell does that mean?" Brendan Haywood asked, when I showed him these photos. "I won't know what to think until I know what it means. Right now I'm just confused."

DeShawn said he put about $1,000 into these wristbands, which come in a rainbow worth of colors and include something like 10 different sayings, which DeShawn claimed he thought up himself.

"I've got crazy thinking," he said, which is a pretty succinct way to summarize the man.

Dan Steinberg; DeShawn Stevenson's New Wristbands; September, 2008

DeShawn Stevenson Asks to Come off the Bench

"In a real team gesture he basically told me: 'Tap, I'm struggling a little bit. Why don't you let me come off the bench and see if I can't get my swag back,'" interim coach Ed Tapscott said.

The move didn't exactly pay off. Stevenson scored only three points in 26 minutes off the bench as the Wizards lost 80-72. But Tapscott appreciated the gesture.

"He's a real team-oriented guy," Tapscott said.; Stevenson start streak ends at 275; December 2008

Wait, Maybe DeShawn Didn’t Ask to Come off the Bench After All

"I didn't ask to come off the bench," said Stevenson, whose streak of 275 consecutive starts ended on Dec. 23.

Michael Lee; After Back Surgery, Wizards' Stevenson Wants to 'Come Back With a Bang'; August 2009

Fall 2009

DeShawn Stevenson Gets New Tattoos

The Wizards ended the 2008-09 season at 19-63, the worst record in franchise history. Arenas played in just two games and Eddie Jordan, the franchise’s most successful coach in decades, was fired after just eleven games.

Meanwhile, a back injury held Stevenson to just 6 points per game on 27 percent shooting. However, with Arenas presumably healthy, and newcomers Mike Miller, Randy Foye, and Flip Saunders in tow, the Wizards entered 2009-10 with visions of the Eastern Conference Finals. Oh, how misguided they were.

"I was going to get Martin Luther King and I told Gilbert Arenas. You should never tell nobody your idea. That summer, he came back and got it. So I didn't know who to get. I got Abraham Lincoln because he freed the slaves. I just had Abraham Lincoln and, from a distance, everybody kept saying, 'Who is that?' So I put the five-dollar bill so everybody would stop asking me."

Eric Schmoldt; DeShawn Stevenson Claims He Was Arrested For Simply Walking Down the Street; June 2011

On his left cheek bone is inked the Pitsburgh Pirate’s ‘P’, “for the Pittsburgh, that’s my favorite team. Barry Bonds, when he first started.” The thing about the P is, however, that it’s backwards and looks more like a 9. DeShawn tried to explain, “No, if you’re standing where Dom’s standing and looking at me, it looks like a P.” Dominic McGuire was standing directly in front of him about 10 yards away, but it still looked like a 9. I think DeShawn meant to say, “when I look in the mirror it looks like a P.” The final new tat is a crack on the left side of Stevenson’s forehead. He said it’s because “I don’t crack. I feel like people always try to break me, but I don’t crack. So, I put that there.”

Kelly Dwyer; Why Deshawn Stevenson has Lincoln tattooed on his neck; June 2011

DeShawn Stevenson Explains ‘Swag’

"Lot of swag," DeShawn Stevenson said. "Just go out there and play with heart. We've got a good team, a good, focused team. A lot of people have good characters on our team, [so] just go out there and work hard."

Stevenson defines swag in both on- and off-the-court ways, with the latter including wearing sunglasses indoors, swag here being a synonym for blindness. But Caron Butler has a broader view.

"I mean, everybody got swag in their own right," he said. "Some people don't boast about it, some people do, but just come and just be prepared to win games. And that's the swag that I'm talking about. Just win games, go out there and play hard on both ends of the court, and help us win games. That's all it's about."

Dan Steinberg; You're all invited to a Washington Wizards swag party; October 2009

Winter 2010

DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood Traded to the Mavericks for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden

Quiet or not, swag wasn’t enough to spare the Wizards from what came next. On January 6, 2010, Arenas was suspended for the remainder of the 2009-10 season for bringing firearms into the Wizards’ locker room.

With just 11 wins at the time of Arenas’ suspension, the franchise moved quickly, trading the majority of their core to the Dallas Mavericks by the trade deadline. At the time, Stevenson was averaging just 5 points per game on 43 percent shooting from the field and 17 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

The Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks have agreed in principle to a trade of Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden and other ancillary pieces, according to multiple league sources.

Michael Lee; Wizards and Mavericks agree to multiple-player trade involving Caron Butler; February 2010

For as poorly as his time in Washington had ended, DeShawn’s story does have a happy-ish ending. He played a critical role during the team’s 2011 championship run, starting in 18 playoff games while shooting 40 percent from 3. After brief stints in New Jersey and Atlanta, he retired at the end of the 2012-13 season at the age of 31.

Speaking about Stevenson, he’s still around on social media, where you can follow his Twitter account here and his Instagram account here. There, you’ll see that he now owns a barber shop in Orlando called Playoffs. And by the way, he still has fond memories of his time in D.C.

We Winning #PlayoffsBarbershop 4-3-81

A post shared by Deshawn Stevenson (@dsteve92) on