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Where Are They Now: Courtney Fortson

The “where are they now” series returns for a third summer, starting off with a look at the career of point guard Courtney Fortson.

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers

Clippers/NBA Career:

After being unselected in the 2010 NBA Draft, Fortson spent some time in Romania and the (then) D-League. The Clippers signed him in December of 2011 (the lockout season) but waived him before the season started. They then brought him back up on a 10 day deal just a few weeks later, and he played in four games with the Clips. While he played in only 46 minutes, his quickness with the ball in his hands, aggressiveness, and vague resemblance to Lil Wayne won him some fan support. Sadly, he was waived after the 10 day contract was over, and returned to the D-League. He played well for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, standing out enough that the Rockets signed him to a 10 day contract before bringing him back for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, Fortson didn’t play all that well for the Rockets, and while they brought him to their Summer League team in 2012, he was waived by them in September.


The Clippers signed Fortson to a training camp deal in late September, but their roster was full that year, and he was cut just over a week later. Fortson returned to the D-Fenders, with whom he would spend the remainder of the year. Courtney played a huge role for the D-Fenders that year as their starting point guard, receiving heavy minutes (38.4 per game) and making the D-League All-Star Team. Despite this, he actually performed worse than he had the previous season, shooting a much lower percentage from the field and deep, and turning the ball over at a higher rate. While Courtney continued to demonstrate scoring instincts and some passing ability, the poor efficiency and high turnovers were a grim sign for his ability to return to the NBA.


In the summer of 2013, Courtney signed a contract with Trotamundos, a team in Venezuela. He played 15 games for them before their season ended, putting up big scoring numbers with solid efficiency. This performance may have been the catalyst in Fortson signing with Avtodor Saratov, a team in the VTB United League, the top division in Russian basketball and one of the best leagues overseas.

Fortson played for the better part of two years with Avtodor (taking a brief five game detour back to Venezuela in the summer of 2014), breaking out in the 2014-2015 season. He averaged 19 points and 8 assists for Avtodor that year, and helped lead them to the EuroChallenge (a now defunct competition that ran a level below the EuroLeague and EuroCup). In 13 games at that tougher level, he averaged 17 points per game, but most importantly, raised his assist numbers (to 9.8) and efficiency (44% from the field and 46% from three). His play wasn’t good enough to get Avtodor the championship, but it must have raised some eyebrows in Europe. To cap it all off, Courtney was awarded the EuroChallenge Player of the Year, one of the highlights of his career.


In July of 2015, Courtney left Avtodor, signing with Banvit in the Turkish league. He was their starting point guard almost the entirety of the season, and put up solid numbers, albeit not quite up to his standard the year before. However, in EuroCup play (the second highest competition in Europe), he stumbled, seeing a drop in scoring, assists, and field goal percentage, and shooting a miserable 25% from three over 18 games. While EuroCup was the toughest competition he’d probably played since his NBA stint years before, it’s difficult to imagine Courtney performing that badly. It’s possible he was injured, or maybe he was just on a prolonged cold streak. Regardless, that stretch in EuroCup almost certainly left a poor impression on European teams and scouts, as Courtney moved to China the following season.


Fortson made the jump to China in July 2016, joining the Zhejiang Lions. He put up incredible numbers in his first season: 29 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 8.5 assists, but was only just beginning. In his second year with the Lions, Courtney was named CBA MVP after putting up a staggering 30/7.7/11, while getting to the free throw line nearly 10 times per game. Zhejiang won the regular season championship in the process, propelled to victory after victory by Courtney’s tremendous play. Unfortunately, while Zhejiang made it to the CBA Finals, they were swept in four games, ending Fortson’s season.

The Future:

Like so many other NBA players before him, Courtney Fortson appears to have found a home in China. He’s making more money there than he would in the United States or Europe, is more famous, and is receiving a greater number of minutes. At age 30, and with a game reliant on quickness and speed, Fortson’s NBA dreams are probably over. His streaky shooting, high turnover rate, and small size meant he was unlikely to ever stick in the NBA, but he’s had a great career, all things considered, with some incredible highs. And given his dominance in China last year, the best might be yet to come.