Marreese Speights: From Zero to Hero


Marreese Speights is having the time of his life with the Golden State Warriors this season.

Currently sixth in the NBA in player efficiency rating (PER: 27.08), Speights is enjoying the best season of his career thus far having found a role in Steve Kerr‘s rotation as the backup center behind Andrew Bogut.

Unfortunately, things haven’t always been this good for the 27-year-old big man.

Golden State Warriors player Marreese Speights (middle) with mother, Regina, and father, Wilbur (

via Instagram


Born Marreese Akeem Speights on Aug. 4, 1987 in St. Petersburg, FL, Speights was raised primarily by his mother, Regina Glenn-Speights, as the youngest of four children.

It was especially difficult growing up without a reliable father figure considering his father, Wilbur, spent a good deal of time in and out of prison and missed out on personally watching his son play competitive basketball throughout high school and college.

"“Having four kids, financially, with school, clothes, the whole nine yards, it was difficult,” Glenn-Speights said.“Sometimes, Marreese had to accept hand-me-downs from his older brothers.”"

But Speights found his outlet early, proving himself to be a solid basketball player.

He spent some time playing for Gibbs High School in Florida, later averaging 17.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in his senior year at Hargrave Military Academy. He also played one year at college prep school Admiral Farragut Academy, which retired his jersey number after he posted averages of 18 points and 10 rebounds for the school in his lone year.

Speights then committed to the University of Florida, where he won a NCAA Championship his freshman year on per game averages of 4.1 points and 2.6 rebounds. In front of him in the rotation were Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford and Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, limiting Speights to just 5.7 minutes off the bench.

Speights saw more time in his sophomore season at Florida after the departure of Horford and Noah, averaging 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds on 62.4 percent shooting in 24.3 minutes. He declared for the 2008 NBA Draft, in which he was drafted 16th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers.

“After the (NBA team) workouts, he would send me text messages, saying, ‘Mom, I’m going to take care of you,'” – Regina Glenn Speights

He put up subpar numbers in Philly, which led to him being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for two future second round picks. Despite signing a two-year deal with the Grizz, he was then involved in a trade package that sent him to the Cleveland Cavaliers at the latter end of the 2012-13 season.

It was in the 2013 offseason that Speights was acquired by Golden State in free agency. Known for his tough demeanor, physical style of play and mediocre mid-range jumper, he signed a three-year deal worth $10.97 million (2015-16 team option) with the Warriors, which used their mid-level exception in hope of filling the void left by 2012 Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Carl Landry.

But instead of getting a valid replacement for Landry, what the Warriors got was an out-of-shape Mo Speights.

Under head coach Mark Jackson, Speights averaged just 12.4 minutes, contributing only 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds. It was an incredibly inconsistent season for Speights to say the least, posting only 16 double-digit games in the regular season (including a 32-point performance against the Sixers).

Speights made it a goal in the offseason to come into the 2014-15 season much improved and in better shape.

"“Last year, I really started (offseason conditioning) late,” Speights said. “That was my fault, so I feel like this summer I just know every day I can do a little something to keep me in game shape. I feel pretty good, but I still can improve more."

Not very much was expected from Speights. Many believed him to be all talk, although there were several reports of Speights being seen in the gym putting up shots on a constant basis.

And on his birthday, Speights notably was arrested for driving under the influence, a charge to which he pleaded not guilty a month later.

Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Then the unexpected happened.

Speights began to establish himself in the rotation, proving himself to be much improved from last season and in much better shape.

He was fighting through contact for and-one plays; he was unconsciously knocking down mid-range jumpers out of the pick-and-pop; and he was making plays on the defensive end — blocking shots, getting steals and drawing charges.

He became the spark the Warriors so desperately needed off the bench last season, and everyone, including Steve Kerr, have begun to take notice.

"”I figured he was a guy who could give us a spark off the bench every now and again, but I didn’t see him as our full-time backup center. … but Mo has been way better than I expected,” Kerr said after Speights scored 27 points to save the team from suffering a loss on the road against the Charlotte Hornets."

Teammate and Charlotte-native Stephen Curry also had some high praise for Speights following the team’s win over the Hornets.

"”We were struggling to find a rhythm and he came in and dominated, took over the game,” Curry said. ”He basically won us the game. Without him tonight our team doesn’t even come close.”"

Teammate Andrew Bogut had some great words on the 6-foot-10-inch backup big man, as well.

"“Mo has been huge for us,” Bogut said. “He’s one of the most talented guys in this locker room. He’s very, very talented.”"

And the best thing about all this attention? Speights is having fun with the team, having fun playing basketball, and he hopes to continue his recent production to give the second unit a reliable scorer.

"“I’m just really happy,” Speights said after a 28-point performance over the Oklahoma City Thunder.“My teammates never gave up on me, and the fans really never gave up on me. I feel like I owe that to my teammates and the fans that this is the player who signed last year to come here, and this is what I do.”"

Mo Buckets, as some fans refer to him as, epitomizes the Warriors mentality. A man of humble beginnings, he’s had to fight through a great deal of adversity — including his own inner demons — to be where he’s at today.

You can’t help but hope Speights continues to play at the level he’s played at early in the season. He gives Golden State everything he has when he’s on court, being exactly what the team needs when the team needs it.

Marreese Speights (via Instagram)

Whether he continues to produce like he has thus far is certainly a question, but the Speights train left the station a while ago and is moving all ahead, full steam, and it hasn’t shown any indication of stopping anytime soon.

Coach Kerr, who believes Speights to be an early favorite for Sixth Man of the Year this season, went on record early in the year to share exactly how highly he regards Mo Speights.

"“My new favorite player, Mo Speights … He’s amazing,” Kerr said."

At this point, it’s pretty safe to say he’s not the only one who thinks that.

Speights is currently averaging 12.5 points and 4.9 rebounds on 57 percent shooting in 15.8 minutes off the bench.