NBA player Jaylen Brown was once labeled “too smart” to join the very league he would go on to earn a historic contract with.

Athlon Sports reports Brown graduated Wheeler High School in Marietta, GA, at the top of his class. He accomplished this while excelling on the basketball court. He was a first team All-American and top-five national high school prospect, his NBA bio reads.

Between 2015 and 2016, Brown continued his studies at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), while playing for its basketball team. However, he was not satisfied with the freshman courses they offered him, which were not challenging enough, The New York Times reports. He swapped out some of his classes to take on African American Studies, an upper-division class from the Global Poverty and Practice minors program, and a graduate course titled “Theoretical Foundations for the Cultural Studies of Sport and Education,” which he had learned about through Hashim Ali, co-founder of the Oakland Soldiers AAU squad, and NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas.

“I said, ‘Jaylen, you’re a freshman,’” Derek Van Rheenen, the class’ professor, said per The New York Times. “No freshman in the history of this course has ever taken this course. It’s not meant for a freshman.”

Brown’s intelligence was intimidating when he was being considered by NBA teams following his first year at the university. According to Andscape, an NBA assistant general manager confirmed this was a concern for general managers and coaches in the league.

“He is an extremely intelligent kid,” the assistant general manager said, per Andscape. “He took a graduate school class at Cal in his freshman year. He is a person who is inquisitive about everything. Because he is so smart, it might be intimidating to some teams. He wants to know why you are doing something instead of just doing it. I don’t think it’s bad, but it’s a form of questioning authority. It’s not malicious. He just wants to know what is going on. Old-school coaches don’t want guys that question stuff.”

Brown would go on to enter into the draft and made an unconventional decision to do so without an agent, although he would hire one later. Instead, he was surrounded by advisers, which included Thomas and former NBA All-Star and former UC Berkeley student Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

Brown was drafted to the Boston Celtics in 2016 as a third overall draft pick, ESPN notes. He was signed to a $21.4 million rookie contract, per Spotrac.

As AFROTECH™ previously reported, Brown has proven to be an asset to the team, and this was reflected in his second contract, which was an extension that went into effect in 2020, valued at $106.3 million, per Spotrac.

During Brown’s 2022-23 season, he was averaging 26.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists and made the All-NBA 2nd Team in 2023.

He would then make history signing the highest contract in NBA history with a supermax extension that would pay him up to $304 million starting with the 2024 season. 

“He’s a big part of us. We believe in him, and I’m thankful for him,” Basketball Operations President Brad Stevens, said at the time of the signing, according to the Associated Press. “I’m really thankful that when those guys have success, they come back to work. And when they get beat, they own it, and they come back to work. And so I know that’s what they’re about. And that’s hard to find”

What’s more, when Brown learned of the contract news he had been in a robotic session at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with high school students, according to the Boston Globe.

“I was learning,” he mentioned to the outlet during a press conference. “I was a part of the curriculum. We were doing some teaching, doing some active engaging, some workshops. So I was able to put my phone down and just right into class with the Bridge students.”

Brown also broke down the details of the contract in front of over 100 students who are a part of the Bridge Program, created by his 7uice Foundation to offer opportunities and learning pathways for Black and Brown communities.

“I think education is one of the most powerful devices that we have, and it’s one of the ways that you know our social mobility is being controlled at a very early age,” Brown said during an interview with CBS Mornings around the same time. “So, being able to have my students there who are participating in my MIT programs to get to learn directly from MIT professors, MIT scientists, NASA astronauts, you get to directly benefit from you know those stories and those life lessons. So, my goal is to build the next leaders and next generational leaders of the world, and I feel like with the Bridge Program that’s what I’m doing.