Not wanted by NBA teams, Alfonzo McKinnie used to play in empty gyms in a Luxembourg professional basketball league.
Today, he plays in sold-out arenas as a key role player for arguably one of the greatest teams to every play the game.
And as January 7th passed, McKinnie’s non-guaranteed contract became guaranteed, and the Warriors now have McKinnie’s talents for the rest of the season.
By now, McKinnie’s journey is well-documented. From Luxembourg to Mexico to the G-League to fighting for a Warriors’ roster spot in training camp. The Warriors, in the midst of the Patrick McCaw crisis, had a hole to fill to start the season. And McKinnie showed enough in training camp to warrant a look.
McKinnie was the placeholder. Hold down the fort at the wing position long enough for McCaw to come to his senses and return. But McKinnie didn’t oblige. He didn’t merely hold down the fort; he elevated it.
He raced off to a scorching start to the season, and accumulated career-highs of 19 points and 10 rebounds in a game against the his hometown Chicago Bulls. This coming right after he bought his mother a house with his new NBA money.
McKinnie’s storied tale continues even through injury, a Warrior’s feud, and team struggles as of late. But the Warriors still get what they coveted for so long: much-needed bench shooting and hustle.
Even though he averages only 14 minutes a game, his 3-point shooting off the bench is critical to what the Warriors do. They can afford to rest Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant in intervals when guys like McKinnie are knocking down 3’s.
But arguably his most valuable skill is his hustle, his fight, and his ability to grab rebounds, especially offensive boards. This season, he’s averaging 1.3 offensive rebounds per game in his 14 minutes per game of play.
In comparison, Pistons’ star Blake Griffin, in his 35 minutes per game, is also averaging 1.3 offensive rebounds per game. McKinnie has the hops to compete with centers, and the grit and fight to box out down low.
Alfonzo McKinnie may not be a household name. But he’s a high-flyer, crashing the boards and raining 3’s, who’s flying high as a Warrior.
And now, with his contract guaranteed through the end of the season, his magical story continues. And he’s just getting started.