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

Had to do lots of things to get us by. Can't tell you everything, gotta save some things for when I do my book. I drove a forklift. I was a secretary at Langley Air Force Base. Was a welder at the shipyard. Worked the counter at a convenience store, watched men walk right in and steal beer. Made the money I needed to bury Grandma playin' bingo. Men would lend me money till my SSI check came for my daughter—she was disabled with seizures. Bubba Chuck? He never worked a job—no! It was my job to take care of him. Only chore he ever had to do was take out the garbage. I cleaned his room my daggone self.

One day I came back to the projects from visitin' relatives in Hartford. All of a sudden, they're tellin' me I owed $32 and had to leave my house. I had $360 in my pocket but they wouldn't let me pay—they evicted us! My daughter and I went into a shelter for homeless mothers, but Bubba Chuck wouldn't go; he couldn't bear it. He moved in with his old football coach Gary Moore. He was 14 years old.

I didn't hide none of it from him. Whenever I took a bump, he was right there with me. He knows everything there is to know about me. But my kids didn't wake up every mornin' and see a different nigga in my bed or a different pair of shoes under it. I taught Bubba Chuck to go straight at a problem. Call me a top-dog bitch. If I gotta be one, that's the way I carry.

******

"It's about f—-in' time," snarled Allen, when Larry sent him back into a game two years ago against the Cleveland Cavaliers, after he'd been out for two minutes and three seconds. He often cursed when Larry pulled him out of games, then sat on the far end of the bench with a towel over his head, the way his mother used to do with a sheet when she needed to be alone in a crowded house. In five decades of basketball, Larry had never seen or heard anything like it, so he knew it wouldn't go down well the following season when he yanked Allen and four other starters with 8:15 left in the third quarter and the Sixers trailing the Detroit Pistons by 23 points, and never put Allen back in. "I've never been done like that in my career," Allen seethed in the locker room. "If that's the way it is, something needs to happen. Something's got to give. I mean every word I'm saying. Every single word."

Larry was standing 10 feet away. He didn't say a word. He just walked away.

We never talked about it, the boys and I. Not when it happened. Not afterward. I can't believe I'm talking about it now.

Milton didn't want to make a fuss. Finally he told me to call the doctor—doctors made house calls in those days—but the doctor had a birthday party to go to, so he didn't come until the next day. When he finally did, he said Milton should go to the hospital, but the hospital said there were no beds. So we waited another day. I took him at about seven that evening. I didn't tell the boys. They were at a movie. Milton didn't even want me to come up and see him in his room. I left after he got checked in, went home and got a call. He was dead. Imagine the shock. An aneurysm. By then the boys were in bed. When they woke up, the minors were covered with cloth. That's a Jewish tradition. My brother Joe and sister Edith had driven in from New York during the night. Herb knew something was wrong. But I couldn't tell him. Finally Joe told him his father had died, and Herb started punching him and crying. How could I tell Larry? He was six. He asked where his father was. We said he was on the road.

We sent him to a relative's house. You couldn't have a child that age at a funeral. We didn't tell him for a month that his father had died. We kept telling him he was off on business. He's still hurt that he wasn't told and didn't go to the funeral.

You know when I saw how much he still missed his father? I went to visit him once after he was married, and he had a cigar in his mouth. I said, "Larry, you don't smoke!" He said, "I just keep them in my mouth, I don't light them." Then he said, "Dad used to have cigars—didn't he?"

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