SI Vault
 
Mama's Boys
Gary Smith
April 23, 2001
Two fiercely competitive small men in a big man's game, two sons of hardworking single moms—Allen Iverson and Larry Brown are so much alike that only their mothers could tell them apart...and bring them together.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
April 23, 2001

Mama's Boys

Two fiercely competitive small men in a big man's game, two sons of hardworking single moms—Allen Iverson and Larry Brown are so much alike that only their mothers could tell them apart...and bring them together.

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Ann Brown would order cranberry juice but leave most of it in the glass. She doesn't have much thirst or appetite any more. Her name, officially, is Mrs. Alpern—that was the name of her deceased second husband—but she'd answer to Mrs. Brown for those likelier to know her by the surname of her two coaching sons and her deceased first husband. She'd wear slacks and a sweater, and a scarf to give her some color now that her red hair has gone to wispy curls of white. Her only jewelry would be a wristwatch and a 1988 Kansas national championship brooch on a necklace tucked beneath her blouse. She'd say that brooch meant everything to her, but no one needed to see it.

I met Milton in Brooklyn when I was 26. He was a furniture salesman. Milton had loads of personality. We looked like brother and sister. He was a worker, and so was I. Herbert was born first. He was colicky, such a crybaby I'd have to take him out in the hallway—I'd go out of my mind. I had an appendix attack when he was three weeks old. A second child? I didn't want to have another one after what I'd gone through, but Milton insisted. He thought something was wrong with me when it took so long to have another one.

Four-and-a-half years later, Larry was born. He was an angel, so quiet and gentle. I never had to correct him. Herb was wonderful as well, but he would flare up, more like his father. Larry was like me. I don't think he ever got in trouble, thank God! Does it sound like I'm saying this in conceit? He's so polite, just a very good soul. It's so nice to be nice, don't you think? Now I'm bragging to you, and I don't mean to brag. I'm sorry.

******

The Sixers did leg lifts at the beginning of practice. Larry lay down and did them with the team. Allen lay still and stared at the ceiling. Then the Sixers and Larry rolled over and did push-ups. Allen rolled over and grunted, but his body didn't leave the floor.

How many NBA coaches stopped practice a half-dozen times to teach their players the right way to execute a pick-and-roll? Exactly where the feet should go, when the teammate should rub past, how the pick-setter's hips should turn to the basket. Larry did. He lived to teach the game. He lived for practices.

Allen listened for a moment. Then his feet did a little hop, his arms a little dance move. Suddenly he hurled a basketball the length of the court. It slammed off die backboard, its echo bouncing off the walls.

We come from slaves down in Georgia. My father's name was Willie Lee Iverson—6'5" and good-lookin', and Papa was a rollin' stone, yeah, yeah. He had 17 children by four women, and I was the oldest one, and they say I'm like him. I didn't wear no dress. I climbed trees and kicked ass. My mother was a waitress. She died when I was 12, when they tied her tubes wrong and her bowels got infected, and that was the most devastatin' thing of my life. I was sittin' in a chair that night with a sheet pulled over my head so I could talk on the phone in privacy, when I hear my sister jessie say, "Ann, somethin' wrong with Mama." Pulled that sheet off and Mama was doubled over.

The ambulance came and I was squeezin' down the steps beside her and I told her I wanted to go with her. She said, "No, you watch jessie and Stevie and Greggy for me." And I said, "I'll do that." I didn't realize it then but I sure did later—she didn't mean watch my sister and brothers just that night. She meant for good.

They had to pay us for the mistake they made on my mother. We got 3,818 dollars and 18 cents. Don't forget that 18 cents.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13