Billy Donovan Made 17-Year-Old Jaylen Brown Cry

Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown / Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

Jaylen Brown entered the NBA as an uber-athlete out of Cal who could jump over anybody, but that was about it. After two-and-a-half seasons, Brown has turned himself into a steady 3-point shooter with an improving handle and plus defensive abilities. Brown has also revealed a penchant for remembering when anybody has doubted his abilities.

Brown shared one such tale over the weekend when he spoke to University of Massachusetts students over Zoom. He was a member of Team USA's under-18 squad when he was a 17-year-old high school student. That team was coached by Billy Donovan, who was the head coach at the University of Florida at the time. According to Brown, he was toasting all of his opponents and didn't understand why Donovan wouldn't play him more. Donovan then told him something he has yet to forget (per Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald):

""[Donovan] told me he wasn’t playing me because he said I didn’t play hard," said Brown. "I said 'what do you mean, I've been cooking everybody.' And he told me you're only going to be in the league for three years because you don't play hard. And instantly I was emotional. I was 17 years old. I was like, 'what do you mean? I'm the best player here. I'm cooking everybody.' I was so mad I was crying. But I think Billy Donovan had a big impact on my drive for sure. I'm in the NBA now, and hopefully I have a couple more years now to go, so we'll see.""

Jaylen Brown

Brown later said he still didn't like Donovan for how he delivered the message, even if he appreciated the drive it granted him.

If The Last Dance has any takeaways, it's that athletes at this level find motivation wherever they can, even if there is none. It isn't surprising Brown has held onto that story for six years. He still recalls the time a teacher told him he'd be in jail in five years, which is admittedly a much more jarring thing to hear as a high schooler than, "You don't play hard."

A good lesson to any kid looking to make it in the league: there's no better way to get back at someone who made you cry than make millions of dollars playing professional sports. I had a similar mindset, but was cursed with a body that is not 6-foot-7 and cannot elevate high enough to dunk a basketball. Alas.