Making it in the NBA is pretty special.
Making it in the NBA in your own city for a team you grew up loving, that makes it a whole lot more special.
That’s something Charlie Brown Jr. found out a few weeks ago when he signed with the Philadelphia 76ers. In fact, it was so exciting, it cost him a night’s sleep.
“My agent called me and said we have a situation going on, (the 76ers) were talking to us and we weren’t sure what was going to happen,” Brown said by phone hours before his team defeated the San Antonio Spurs. “Then he called me at 10 at night and said the Sixers want to give you a 10-day (contract). I was like, ‘Cool!’ That’s what I wanted. But I didn’t go to sleep the whole night. The next day I had to test for COVID and then I had shootarounds and a game. It was hectic.”
Hectic, but everything Brown has wanted and worked for since growing up near Tarken Playground.
The 2015 George Washington High School graduate played at St. Joe’s University in college after a year in prep school where he continued to blossom as a player. He was a starter his freshman year, and made the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team.
He missed his sophomore year with a broken wrist, so he redshirted the season, and returned a season later, averaging 19 points per game, 6.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and was named second team All-Atlantic 10 and first team All-Big 5.
He decided to turn pro after that season. He wasn’t drafted, but he signed a free-agent deal with the Atlanta Hawks, where he played sporadically. After he parted ways with Atlanta, he hooked up with the Oklahoma City Thunder where he played nine games, and then he signed with the Delaware Blue Coats.
Earlier this year, he signed a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks, but after that was over he returned to the Blue Coats until the Sixers came calling, first with a 10-day contract before signing him for the rest of the year in a two-way deal.
It doesn’t seem like he’ll be bound for Delaware anytime soon. Since joining the Sixers on Jan. 2, he’s played key minutes for the team, including getting some starts.
Brown certainly has talent and that’s why he is where he is, but he also has the drive, and looks at every opportunity as a learning experience.
“When I signed with Dallas, I was so happy for the opportunity, to be honest,” Brown said. “It was cool, a great learning experience playing with some of the greatest players. When you’re in the G League, you never know what opportunity is waiting. I just thought I got mentally better. I didn’t play a lot, but I used the time, thinking about the game.”
When he arrived in Philly, he assumed he would have the same learning curve. He couldn’t have been more wrong. And he couldn’t be happier about being wrong.
The player Sixers coach Doc Rivers referred to as a one-man zone defense does all the things Rivers values in a player. He plays hard. He’s smart. He plays defense. He’s been everything the Sixers have wanted and more. And he’s happy for the chance.
“To be honest, I thought they would figure me out and ease me into playing, but I got thrown into the fire the first game and I embraced it,” Brown said. “I’m here. I’m not shying away. I’m doing whatever they need and I’m loving it.
“It’s 100 percent more special because it’s Philly. And it’s special because of Doc. Doc is big-time, it’s a constant learning experience. It’s always learning something. He tells us that. It’s a learning experience. Every play, never take a play off. I’m more of a slasher, cut to the rim. This team doesn’t need scoring. I’m doing intangibles. If I do that well, my role will increase.”
Rivers has been a huge supporter, but he’s also had help from teammates.
“We have some great vets, Danny Green and Tobias Harris have been very good about helping me,” Brown said. “I go to Danny Green for anything. We talk on the floor, we talk off the floor. He tells me what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong. Everyone is cool, but he’s a great vet to have.”
Brown has put in all the work, but he is quick to point out those who helped him along the way.
He credits his coaches at St. Joe’s, including Phil Martelli and his family, as well as all the assistants for helping him grow into the player he is. And two other coaches he says have had massive impacts on him are Kareem Hawkins, who coached him at Washington, and his first coach, his dad.
“My dad has always been my coach and my dad,” Brown said of his father, who was also a star basketball player and played overseas. “My parents, my family, they’ve been there for me. When I was working my way up, I thought of my mom and dad. My dad never complains. They taught me to work hard. They come to every home game. I’m really blessed. My dad is a father and a coach, coaching me daily, always gives me pointers.
“And Reem has been to every home game, too, and after every game I talk to him. He’ll tell me what he sees, tells me how to get better. Playing for Reem at Washington and Doc, man, they both like to yell, but it’s because they love you. They want so much for you to get better. You love playing for guys like that.”
He also loves playing for Philadelphia, his hometown team.
And he’s had more support than you could imagine.
“When I signed, it was crazy, my phone blew up, everything blew up,” Brown said. “I really only talked to immediate family, my mom, my dad, my agent, my trainer and my family. It’s still going up and it hasn’t stopped. I’m embracing it. It’s all love. I’ll FaceTime with my nephew. Everyone is excited.
“Everyone is so happy for me and that means everything, man. I never came across someone who didn’t like me. I was never in a fight, I always got along with everyone. I guess I love everyone and everyone loves me.
“It’s hard when you’re working your way up. It wasn’t easy and it’s not over, I still have to get better every day. I have the best opportunity and I’m embracing it and working hard.”