Charlotte needs Chucky Brown

Wrote this column for SI.com. They have a load of Bobcats stuff for today, however, and didn’t run it. No worries … stuff happens. But I didn’t want the great (and wonderful) Chuck Brown to vanish without a fight.

Here’s my piece on why the Bobcats need to sign him—now!

The phone works.

I know this to be true, because moments ago I spoke with Clarence Brown (aka: Chucky), and he told me his line is open and ready. “I’m game,” he said. “If they call, I’m in.”

By “they,” Brown was referring to the Charlotte Bobcats, the Barnum & Bailey-esque entity that has spent the past few months erroneously identifying itself as a member of the National Basketball Association. For those of you who (wisely) stopped paying attention, the Bobcats are not merely a gaggle of ballers. They are, in fact, (arguably) the worst professional team ever assembled; a collection of 12 men who would almost certainly lose to the University of Kentucky—especially if Crystal Riley is on her game.

I digress. Just how awful are the Bobcats? Michael Jordan’s team has now lost 20 in a row. Its best player, journeyman Corey Maggette, is shooting 37 percent from the field. Its second best player, rookie Kemba Walker, is shooting even worse. The team averages 14,717 fans per game, good for 26th in the league.

Things are not bad.

Things are not dreadful.

Things are hopeless.

And yet, a mere 161 miles away in Cary, N.C., a savior awaits. Though he is 44-years old, and a decade removed from his final NBA game, and working as a scout with the New Orleans Hornets, and not exactly in fighting trim, Brown is the one man who could put a positive spin atop a nightmarish campaign. Having played forward for 12 different franchises during his 13-year NBA career, Brown is tied for the league record (with Joe Smith, Jimmy Jackson and Tony Massenburg) for uniforms worn. Should the Bobcats sign him over the next couple of days, history will be made.

Well, sorta made.

“I could probably give ‘em 10 minutes,” says Brown with a chuckle. “Maybe six points, a rebound or two. I don’t think I’d embarrass anyone.”

Cleveland’s second round draft pick in 1989, Brown, a North Carolina State product, entered the league under the assumption that things would go according to a relatively standard plan. He would play a few years, maybe spend time with one or two franchises, hopefully earn a starting job down the line. Instead, however, Brown became the poster child for RENT, DON’T BUY. He spent 2 ½ seasons with the Cavs (“I even bought a townhouse in Cleveland,” he says. “Lesson learned—last time I ever did that.”), before being waved, then signed as a free agent by the Lakers. And, a year later, by the Nets (“I was raised in New York, so that was nice.”). And, a year after that, by the Mavericks (“I played in one game before hurting my knee.”). And, a year after that, by the Heat (“Nice weather.”). In February, 1995 he signed back-to-back 10-day contracts with Houston (“Best city I played in,” he says), stuck with the team for the remainder of the season (“I was hopeful!”) before being traded to Phoenix as part of a package for Charles Barkley. Brown was a Sun for all of four months, then was shipped to Milwaukee (“Nothing against the city, but I hated playing for Chris Ford. He took all the fun out of the game for us.”) for someone named Darrin Hancock and a second rounder. Brown enjoyed his time as a Buck, but proceeded to sign ensuing free agent deals with the Hawks, Hornets, Spurs, Hornets (again), Warriors, Cavs (again) and, lastly, Kings. During the 1998-99 season, Brown earned $850,000, the highest total of his career. “It was a good journey,” says a man who averaged 12.4 points and 6.5 rebounds. “It showed me places I’d never otherwise see. It brought me to a lot of great people.”

During his time with the Bucks, one of Brown’s teammates was David Wood, a forward out of Nevada-Reno whose career spanned eight teams over seven years. When the two would chat, Wood cracked that he longed to hold the most-teams record—not exactly a mark of excellent, but a mark nonetheless. Brown has always remembered those chats, and even today—long retired—would gladly accept one more moment. If Minnie Minoso could take an at-bat for the Chicago White Sox at age 54 in 1980, thereby setting the record for most decades played, why not give Brown his 13th jersey?

“I’ll tell you one thing,” he says. “I’ll play hard, I’ll work hard … and I’ll let the Bobcats have a little fun. Lord knows they can probably use it.”

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