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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.
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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.

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Two women waited in a tunnel, outside a door. Light danced off the diamonds dangling from the black one, and a red rose jiggled in her hand. She was 39. She couldn't stand still. The white one stood by the wall, unornamented, holding her 92 years and her silence.

The door began to open and close. The younger one sang out greetings to the tall men coming out. Both women's eyes stayed fixed on the door. At last the two shortest men of all exited the locker room. One wore the tailored suit, short gray hair and wire-rimmed spectacles of a tenured professor. The other's hair was stitched in cornrows, his skin covered with baggy clothes and tattoos. It was unusual that they walked out together. They had always been so far apart.

"That's my boy!" cried the younger woman. "My baby won the game!"

"That's my boy," the older woman said quietly. "He coached the game."

The women turned to face each other for the first time. "What's your name?" said the younger one.

"I'm Ann," said the older one. "I'm Larry Brown's mother."

"Oh my God! My name's Ann too!" hollered the younger woman. "I'm Allen Iverson's mother!"

"Oh, I know who Allen is," the elder said. "You've got a good little boy."

Ann Iverson thrust her rose into the other Ann's hand. Larry's mom gave Allen's mom her phone number at the nursing home and urged her to call. The two sons watched all this, then headed away, each with his own mother, into the night.

Larry and Allen always did that—walked off, with their histories, in different directions. Theirs was the must studied relationship in the NBA, watched as closely as a weather vane to see if the storm clouds on the league's horizon were about to blow in and burst. If the 60-year-old Jewish grandfather and the 25-year-old rapper, arguably the best coach and the best player in the game, could emerge from their cultural bunkers and work together, then perhaps the growing divide between players and coaches, between philosophies and generations, could be bridged as well.

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