Regardless of whether his current gig playing for the Chicago Bulls is a temporary stop on the NBA merry-go-round, former Proviso East star Shannon Brown is happy to be home. Growing up in Maywood, Brown idolized Michael Jordan and embraced the Bulls during their remarkable run of six titles in the 1990s.
Brown’s “Running with the Bulls” as a childhood fan and pro player came full circle on Feb. 21 when the 6-foot 4-inch guard was dealt to Chicago as part of a blockbuster 11-player deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Seattle SuperSonics.
“When I heard about the trade, I was happy,” Brown said. “I thought it was a chance to come in and get more paying time. Obviously, the Bulls were my favorite team growing up. It’s an honor to for me to even put on the Bulls uniform. I was also happy to be home; there’s no place like home.”
The son of Chris and Sandra Brown, Brown knew basketball was his calling as a youngster, honing his craft on the courts of Tenth Park and Schroeder Park. While life in the NBA is essentially the pinnacle for any aspiring basketball player, Brown said he cherishes his formative years hanging out with friends on the blacktop.
“Every kid says, ‘I can’t wait to grow up,’ until they grow up and they are in the real world,” said Brown, who attended Lexington Elementary. “Growing up and being able to kick it with my friends, go to the courts and play ball, those will always be great memories for me.”
Maywood’s basketball memories, and legends like Brown, are made at Proviso East High School. Through the years, Proviso East has produced four basketball state titles and a “who’s who” roster of NBA talent that includes Brown, Jim Brewer, Glenn “Doc” Rivers, Michael Finley, Sherrell Ford, Donnie Boyce, Steven Hunter and Dee Brown.
“We’re the Pirates,” Brown said of the school’s storied hoops tradition. “There’s some pressure to do well, but it’s a good kind of pressure. A lot of great players have come out of Proviso East, and we consider ourselves a family.”
Brown capped his career at Proviso East by leading the Pirates to a 25-4 mark in 2003. That year, the McDonald’s All-American averaged 28 points and seven rebounds per game. In the most hyped game of the campaign, Brown erupted for 38 points against West Aurora in an overtime loss.
An honor roll student at Proviso East, Brown credited several teachers, administrators and his coach, Troy Jackson, as positive influences on his life.
“Everybody looked out for me,” he said. “People gave me their advice and I had to decipher what was right and wrong.”
On occasions when Brown made the wrong choice, his father, a sergeant with the Maywood Police Department, was there to help set him straight. Although he’s close to his dad, Brown said it was a struggle at times growing up as the son of one of Maywood’s finest.
“A lot of people looked at me with a crooked eye because my dad is a police officer,” Brown said. “In the neighborhood I grew up in, there was obviously a lot of crime and violence. I had to do some things that really made people understand that I was normal and just like them. My dad just happened to be a police officer.”
Chris Brown came up through the Maywood police ranks under the guidance of his lieutenant, Grady Rivers, who is the father of Boston Celtics coach Glenn Rivers.
“Shannon’s determination is what has led him to his success,” Chris Brown said. “He knew what he wanted and he worked hard to get it. The village of Maywood has a strong tradition of producing great athletes. Shannon is part of that tradition. The mayor even gave him a key to the city.”
Along with being a tremendous athlete, Brown possesses an affable nature, partially borne out of an intense curiosity to understand people.
“I like to study human behavior,” said Brown, a former sociology major at Michigan Sate University. “I’ve always been interested in trying to figure out why people do certain things.”
After his stellar college career at MSU highlighted by playing for coach Tom Izzo, Brown was selected in the first round with the 25th overall pick of the 2006 draft by the Cavaliers. Only two years in, Brown is keenly aware that the key to NBA success, like any profession, is opportunity.
“I look at guys like [Washington Wizards guard] Gilbert Arenas and [Detroit Pistons guard] Chauncey Billups and it took them a couple of years to find their niche,” Brown said. “When they found the right place, they took off. I’m just working hard and waiting for my opportunity to showcase my talents to the world.”
Blessed with preternatural athleticism – including a 46-inch vertical jump – huge hands and a knack for scoring, Brown certainly has the attention of his basketball colleagues.
“Shannon is a world-class athlete,” Bulls guard Ben Gordon said. “He’s a young guy so he has a lot of time to improve. I think once he gets his shot, he’ll be a very good player.”
Larry Hughes, a teammate of Brown’s in Cleveland and Chicago, concurred with Gordon’s assessment.
“I think Shannon will be fine,” Hughes said. “He is an aggressive player and he works hard.”
With the underachieving Bulls stumbling to a 33-49 record this season, significant coaching and personnel changes are expected on the team.
“We have a great group of guys [here],” Brown said. “Sometimes, guys didn’t always see eye to eye, but any relationship is like that. I think the Bulls have a bright future.”
Whether Brown is part of the Bulls’ future remains to be seen. Regardless, he is an unrestricted free agent this summer with plans on spending some time in Chicago with his family while working on his game.
“I try to go back to Maywood every time I get the chance,” Brown said. “I want everybody to know in the neighborhood that I love them all and I appreciate their support. They can keep looking for big things from me.”