Michael Beasley’s Infectious Confidence Makes Him The NBA’s Most Unlikely Leader

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Blue hood pulled tightly over his head, Michael Beasley is dancing in something approximating rhythm with the Air Canada Centre speakers. He slaps hands with a teammate, then throws down a casual one-handed reverse. As he returns beyond the arc, he stumbles into the path of budding superstar Kristaps Porzingis, then calls for a ball and hits an impromptu elbow turnaround against an unsuspecting Willy Hernangomez. Beasley flings a wild scoop shot at the rim, hits a three, stares at his hot hand nodding, and then returns to an almost-in-beat bouncing along with Kardinal Offishall’s “Dangerous.”

It’s warmups ahead of a mid-November game in Toronto, and Beasley has been in and out of Jeff Hornacek’s rotation for the New York Knicks. He’s unsure if he’ll play later, but the playful calm about him should not be mistaken for aloofness or lack of focus. Beasley brings an easy vibe at all times, the Supercool nickname tattooed on his back holding true and good times and in hard. If he plays, he’s confident he’ll play well. If he doesn’t, he has a different role to fill, that of a teammate.

“We winning,” he says before the game. “As long as we winning, we good, man. As long as we winning, I’m happy. It’s still hard, some nights I play, some nights I don’t. Still gotta be ready, still gotta get my work in, still gotta be reliable for my teammates.”

Those teammates are watching. This is the youngest Knicks roster since 2011-12, some of the old guard jettisoned for a renewed focus on youth and development. Beasley is not the elder statesman, but he has more experience – in the basketball world and in life – than most. Beasley has followed anything but a typical path in his NBA career, and those experiences are instructive even if he’s still growing into the type of teammate who vocalizes their lessons.

“I mean, I’ve been a veteran for a few years now,” Beasley says. “But this is the first or second time I’ve been one of the oldest guys on a team. A little different, but that’s how life works. (I’m) more vocal. Sharing my story a little more than I used to. The ups, the downs, the goods, the ins, the outs. The dos …”

Beasley’s eyes shift upward and a smirk comes across his face.

“The don’ts.”

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Beasley will not reveal the “don’ts” that he shares (“Locker room talk,” he explains), but the ones he means are well-publicized and littered the early seasons of his career.