Getty Images JaVale McGee, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson

This time last year, JaVale McGee's career was in flux. He was 28 and had played just 62 games the past three seasons with three teams. The calls weren't coming. McGee was past his prime, and the center position had lost its value.

But McGee's NBA dream was still alive and well.

"My summer was about getting into the best shape I can, getting my body right, and then hopefully close to the season, I sign with somebody," McGee remembers. "I wasn't really training to sign with a specific team, so I was really just grinding. It was more of a blind grind really since I didn't know where I was going. I could have not gone anywhere and it could have been a waste, but it was just hard work."

McGee trained through almost all of July with no deal. Finally, on July 30, one team was ready to take a flyer on McGee: The Golden State Warriors.

"I got the call from my agent, but Steve Kerr did call me and said they'd love to have me," McGee says. "That was basically the conversation. And I wasn't going to say, 'No, I don't want to go to the Finals this year.'"

But the Warriors' call was just an opportunity. McGee signed a non-guaranteed contract with a chance to make the team out of training camp. If McGee failed to impress, he'd go back to his blind training. If he did make the team, he'd make the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million, a far cry from the four-year, $44 million contract he signed with the Nuggets in 2012.

McGee proved his worth for a team coming off a 73-win season. To accommodate the signing of Kevin Durant, the Warriors lost basically their entire 2015-16 post presence, parting ways with Andrew Bogut, Marresse Speights and Festus Ezeli. McGee became part of a veteran big-man trio with Zaza Pachulia and David West.

"In the beginning of the season, it was more just me going in there and working hard to play for playing time, which you're supposed to do as a basketball player," McGee says. "I definitely don't shy away from hard work, and I wasn't afraid to come on a non-guaranteed. I was willing to take that pay cut and hustle and grind, so that's definitely what came out in the product. It just shows you that hard work pays off."

Steve Kerr, JaVale McGee

McGee's 9.6 minutes in 2016-17 were a career low, but his 23.0 points per 36 minutes were a career high. McGee played in 77 games, starting 10. Most importantly, his team won 67 regular-season games and an NBA championship. In the playoffs, McGee averaged 5.9 points and 3.0 rebounds in 9.3 minutes (16 games, one start).

On the personal side, McGee found a home. While some players deal with character or legal concerns, McGee has faced criticism for his intelligence. That wasn't an issue in Golden State.

"People just think I'm dumb basically," McGee says. "People will literally come up to me and say something rude and think I won't have a quick response and make them feel a certain type of way. That's just how it is, though.

"I'm over it. I've been over it. I mean it's just some aspects of respect. Those are the only ones that I respond to. If it's really disrespectful, you know, as a man you can't let certain things past, so sometimes you have to comment. But most times I just ignore it."

On the court, the Warriors made McGee comfortable. He came in for short bursts off the bench, protected the rim and soared for alley-oops on the offensive end. Off the court, the Warriors absorbed him into one of the NBA's most tight-knit circles.

"I've never been on a team where everyone on the team does everything together," McGee says "No one is left out. We hit everybody in the group message like, 'Guys, we're going here,' or on the road, if someone's going to the movies. they don't just go. They ask in the group message, 'Going to the movies at six. If you want to come let me know, blah, blah.' It's really team-oriented and we like to do everything together."

Does anyone hog that group chat?

"No, everybody really contributes. It's more like who's inactive? There's like seven of us who you can always count on to throw in some funny lines or memes or videos in the group chat."

For the record, McGee says it was his idea to wear the Shaq hat for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. That wasn't a group chat brainstorm. That was a straight troll (and showed his growing confidence).

JaVale McGee

McGee will be a free agent in just over a week. He may stay in Golden State or he may find a new home. But before anything happens, McGee has one more event with his teammates: The JaVale McGee Celebrity Softball Game.

For the third time, McGee will host a softball charity event for his #JUGLIFE foundation, which promotes a healthy and active lifestyle by encouraging everyone to drink more water.

"I play basketball, so I feel like it wouldn't be fun to just do a basketball charity event when you play basketball," McGee says. "So I decided on softball and you can bring out more people and it's a lot of fun.

"I'm not necessarily a power hitter but I'm definitely an amazing first baseman."

Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Marshawn Lynch, Andre Iguodala, Matt Barnes, Ian Clark, Patrick McCaw, Shaun Livingston, Miles Teller, Amber Rose, Christina Milian, Shemar Moore and Lakeith Stanfield are all expected to be in attendance for the game at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 24, at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Tickets are available on the JUGLIFE website.

Thompson's brother, Trayce, is an outfielder for the Dodgers. McGee says Klay blasted a couple home runs in McGee's second charity softball game, but there's a reason Klay didn't go the baseball route.

"Klay said he used to play baseball," McGee says. "He just thought it was boring, so he played basketball."

JUGLIFE has built three water wells in Uganda and McGee expects more to be built this summer. "We get to really help people and inform and educate about the properties of water that help you in your everyday lifestyle," he says.

McGee credits his mom, former NCAA and Olympic champ Pamela McGee, for influencing his interest in charity projects like this and his turkey drives.

"I didn't really know about those things before I got into the league, so she definitely helped me out in those aspects," he says. 

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