It was the end of a saga and the beginning of a college career, but it fell well short of a celebration.
Nine months had elapsed since the NCAA warned schools recruiting Shabazz Muhammad, the No. 1-ranked recruit in the Class of 2012 and the early favorite to go No. 1 in the 2013 NBA Draft, that it was looking into his family's relationship with two financial planners. Ten days had passed since the NCAA declared Muhammad ineligible to play for UCLA; and it was just three days ago that he (and his lawyer) surprisingly won an appeal to serve only a three-game suspension and pay back $1,600 in travel expenses. The "Free Shabazz Muhammad" campaign that produced at least three variations of t-shirts -- including a D.I.Y. one Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea wore when he played the national anthem at the season opener -- ended on Nov. 16 at 7:07 p.m., when Muhammad dropped a one-word Tweet that was retweeted 1,923 times:
And so Muhammad was at Barclays Center for the Legends Classic semifinals on Monday, free from the tyranny of the NCAA, free to suit up against Georgetown, free to play for the No. 11-ranked Bruins in what was being unofficially -- and perhaps unfairly -- referred to as the Shabazz Game. Unfortunately there were circumstances that prevented the 6-foot-6 lefty small forward from being #FREE to debut in a manner befitting a No. 1 prospect.
For one, Muhammad was not in the starting lineup of UCLA's 78-70 loss to the unranked Hoyas.