CHICAGO — Hurt. Confused. A bit angry. That's how Warriors forward Corey Maggette said he feels about his home fans booing him, which has been the case of late at Oracle Arena.
"It's not pleasant at all," Maggette said. "I remember the time when Al Harrington was here, and he was getting booed and he was asking to be traded. And I saw it when (Stephen Jackson) was here, and he was asking to be traded. And now, I'm getting booed for wanting to be part of this team through all this nonsense."
Then, he breathes, and he remembers. See, for Maggette, this is not so much about his relationship with the fans as it is yet another inner tussle. It's the latest in a career of challenges to his developing character, in a series of spiritual obstacles that eventually, he prays, will make him into the complete person.
Maggette may have a physique that looks like something cut and pasted from Men's Health: 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, chiseled and boasting the body fat of a Chihuahua. But it's mental fortitude on which he prides himself most.
The negative attention he got for being Duke's first one-and-done. His reputation for being selfish. His propensity for injury. Even the current struggles of the Warriors. Maggette views them all as training to build the kind of strength others can't see. It's times like today, when he can return home to the Chicago, that Maggette remembers where he gets the wherewithal to repeatedly power through.
Maggette's been fighting perceptions since he was an adolescent.
Though he grew up on the west side of Chicago, in Melrose Park, Ill., Maggette got into Fenwick High in suburban Oak Park. Think "Finding Forrester," the 2000 movie featuring Sean Connery about a young, African-American from the 'hood who wound up playing ball for a prestigious, Ivy League-type of high school.
Maggette was that kid, trying to keep up, to show he was more than an athlete, to show he wasn't a sellout.
The struggle continued at Duke, after he was a three-time Parade All-American at Fenwick. Maggette bolted for the NBA after one season with the Blue Devils. He was considered part of what was wrong with young ballplayers having been among the first to leave Duke early, especially after it surfaced that he took cash payments from AAU coach Myron Piggee.
So by the time he got into the professional ranks and became a bona fide scorer in the NBA, it was easy to label him as selfish. Sure, Maggette has been on one winning team in 10-plus seasons and he averages 2.2 assists for his career.
But him? Selfish?
"I don't think he's selfish at all," guard Monta Ellis said. "He tries to make plays for others. He tries to get everybody involved. He tries to do what's best for the team. With anybody, when your play is called for you, that's your play. Him selfish? Naw, I wouldn't say that."
Maggette often wonders how is he selfish for sacrificing his body to give his team easy points, and for mixing it up on the boards, and for playing through injuries, and for willingly coming off the bench.
The Warriors' youngsters don't think he's selfish. They've gotten too much from Maggette in the form of advice, dinner, gifts. No one more than guard Anthony Morrow.
When Morrow was waiting for his car to arrive, Maggette let him borrow his 2009 Mercedes for a week. During Morrow's rookie year, Maggette allowed everyone to pick an item from the Louis Vuitton catalog as a gift. Morrow still has the shoes he got.
Maggette said the appreciation of his family, friends and teammates is sufficient. He said he is growing such that he doesn't see jabs at him as attacks anymore. Instead, they are tests of his faith.
They all are. The talk about the five-year, $50 million contract he signed with the Warriors in 2008 being too much. The fact that he's never played a full season. The clashes with coach Mike Dunleavy when he was with the Los Angeles Clippers. And, yes, his being booed at home every time he misses a jumper.
They all serve as opportunities for even more development. Cross training for the soul.
"It's been a big thing for me to always try to prove people wrong," said Maggette, whose Corey Cares Foundation is bringing 20 children from his old neighborhood to the game tonight. "I just need to endure what's going on. It's a spiritual battle. I know there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm going to press on. It's a fight. That's how you've got to look at it. It's a fight. In the beginning, I didn't understand it. Sometimes I still don't. But I've got to understand that and keep moving."