Tyreke Evans, NBA Rookie of the Year, has discovered the flip side of fame. He learned the hard way that there's no making youthful mistakes when you're the face of the Kings franchise.
On Monday, Evans was stopped and cited for allegedly driving 130 mph on Interstate 80 in his black Mercedes S550 – and it became a huge story. The blogs went crazy. His family chastised him publicly. The Kings summoned him for a talk. He apologized on Twitter.
In interviews with The Bee, Evans seemed like a contrite 20-year-old.
"I didn't realize I was going that fast," said Evans, whose car was tracked by California Highway Patrol aircraft before squad cars gave chase. Evans pulled off at Norwood Avenue and soon found CHP officers with their guns drawn.
Evans escaped Chester, Pa., a poor and violent suburb of Philadelphia. He was once in a vehicle where one young man shot and killed another. When he was drafted by the Kings, Evans' family was thrilled he would be far from the streets where he could have guns drawn on him.
But there he was off Norwood Avenue, with CHP officers bearing down on him.
"I didn't see where they came from," Evans said. "I apologize to everyone for the situation I was in."
Thankfully, Evans didn't hurt himself or anyone else on his Memorial Day joyride. As a franchise, the Kings know what it is to see their top draft choice injured in a terrible car crash, as Bobby Hurley was in 1993.
Still, Evans' story provokes strong reactions because it involves a celebrity athlete, an alleged violation of the law and a debate:
Is Evans being treated unfairly because he is a celebrity – or getting off easy because he is a celebrity?
The truth is, the reaction to this story was in proportion to Evans' life as the NBA Rookie of the Year, which is to say, it's completely out of proportion.
"It's not fair for a normal 20-year-old, but Tyreke is not a normal 20-year-old," said Kings basketball President Geoff Petrie.
Evans is the face of a Kings franchise desperately seeking a face-lift. He plays in a market where, even in bad times, the Kings are the most visible and popular business from Stockton to the Oregon border.
On most days, Evans and his team reach an audience beyond the sports-minded, and that popularity is like a natural high. On Tuesday, it was more like a curse.
He was clearly embarrassed and sorry.
But in the eyes of the law, Evans was treated the same as any other motorist arrested for reckless driving.
He faces a fine and suspended license for 30 days. It's par for the course.
The Bee's Phillip Reese did a computer analysis of more than 1,400 arrests from the first week of January 2010 and found that no one was arrested and booked into Sacramento County jail solely on reckless driving or speeding charges.
But reaction to the incident is not normal, because he is Evans. He's where he is now because his older brothers drilled him for basketball excellence from the time he was a tiny child.
His entire childhood was a succession of grueling practices and travel to elite basketball camps, where Evans became one of the most explosive basketball prospects in the nation.
The Evans family survived the premature death of his father from illness, the aforementioned shooting, near poverty and constant danger.
A cadre of older brothers and advisers never let Evans stray too far or do too much on his own.
So when they shipped his car out to him after his Rookie of the Year season, Evans took it for a spin.
Read the full story at the Sacramento Bee.