James Wiseman Just Wants to Play

Laveta Brigham

The most important moments of James Wiseman’s day come just after his eyes open, when he climbs out of bed, fires up YouTube and just . . . breathes. For the last year meditation has been a part of his daily routine. Kobe Bryant meditated, and Wiseman absorbs everything about […]

The most important moments of James Wiseman’s day come just after his eyes open, when he climbs out of bed, fires up YouTube and just . . . breathes.

For the last year meditation has been a part of his daily routine. Kobe Bryant meditated, and Wiseman absorbs everything about the late Lakers star, from watching his online interviews to reading his Wizenard Series of children’s books. For 10 minutes, maybe 20, Wiseman will let his problems dissolve into low-frequency music. He will forget about the hardships of growing up in a modest house in Nashville, where food could be scarce and a good week was when the lights stayed on. Wiseman’s mother, Donzaleigh Artis, had a saying in that house: Just make it to Friday, to payday, when Artis, a school bus driver, would collect a check that would sustain them for another week.

He will forget about Memphis, about a once-promising college experience that ended almost before it started. Last fall Wiseman, a 7′ 1″ spring-loaded center, was a five-star recruit who shunned offers from NBA factories like Kentucky and Kansas to sign with the Tigers, coached by local legend—and four-time All-Star point guard—Anfernee Hardaway. But before Wiseman could suit up, the NCAA deemed him ineligible, kicking off a months-long legal fight that ended with his playing three games before withdrawing from school in mid-December. It was an ordeal, Artis says, “that took away his love for basketball. . . . I could see it in him. It felt like his world was crumbling.”

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