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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Neon Presents Special Screening of "Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story" on Thursday August 15

On Thursday August 15 at 7:30 p.m., The Neon in Dayton, Ohio will hold a special, one-time only screening of "Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story." Brown enjoyed a spectacular career in the ABA--helping the Indiana Pacers win three championships and setting the ABA Finals single game scoring record (53 points)--but because the ABA did not receive much mainstream media coverage Brown did not get the credit he deserves. Roger Brown is one of the most underrated players in pro basketball history; this September he will finally, belatedly be inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, 38 years after he retired and 16 years after he died of liver cancer.

Producer Ted Green will attend the screening, as will Arlena Smith. Smith and her husband Azariah (who passed away in 2011) provided a Dayton home for Brown in the 1960s when the University of Dayton and the NBA turned their backs on him; Brown was kicked out of school and banned by the NBA based on false allegations about his supposed connection with notorious gambler/game fixer Jack Molinas. Connie Hawkins was also unjustly banned by the NBA for the same reason. Hawkins and Brown both joined the ABA when it was formed in 1967 and they both later reached settlement agreements with the NBA, clearing their names.

Hawkins jumped from the ABA to the NBA in 1969 but Brown chose to remain in the league that had accepted him from the start. Brown's loyalty may have cost him with the Basketball Hall of Fame voters, who for years seemed to harbor a deep bias against players who spent all or most of their careers in the ABA. Hawkins' pro career mirrored Brown's in many ways, with the main difference being that Hawkins spent seven years in the NBA. Hawkins was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1992--so the voters ignored him for a few years (he retired in 1976, one year after Brown) but not nearly as long as they ignored Brown.

When I interviewed Basketball Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo in 2010, he vowed to make sure that the Hall of Fame honored deserving players who had previously "slipped through the cracks." Brown earned this honor and the focus should remain on him but Colangelo deserves a tip of the hat for following through on his promise. Jerry Colangelo is a man of his word; under his watch, the Hall of Fame has inducted neglected ABA players Roger Brown, Artis Gilmore and Mel Daniels.

Daniels wrote a heartfelt poetic tribute about his teammate Brown (a copy of the full text of the poem can be found at the end of this article):



The purpose of the Thursday screening is not only to spread the word about Brown's great career but also to raise enough money to enable Smith and her great, great nephew to attend this year's Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Smith had faith in Brown and supported him when few other people did, so she deserves to experience his Hall of Fame induction in person.

Each ticket for "Undefeated: The Roger Brown Story" costs $10; tickets can be purchased at The Neon box office and at the EbonNia Gallery, 1135 West Dr. Martin Luther King Way, Dayton, Ohio, 45402. All proceeds from the screening will go to the Arlena Smith Hall of Fame fund. You can also contribute directly to the fund by writing a check to “The Arlena Smith Fund” and sending it to the EbonNia Gallery.

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Mel Daniels' Poem:

Rahjie
By Mel Daniels

There are names in basketball history that will endure the test of time
Which will be brought up in conversation as if they were quotes from some great line

Jordan, Magic, Russell, Bird, West, Chamberlain, Miller to name a few

And as the conversation continues and the crowd who’s listening gathers around
The name that has to be added to the list would have to be that of Roger Brown.

As gifted as the aforementioned athletes in every aspect of the game
But diminished by youthful unawareness his rightful place to his glory and his fame

What he couldn’t do on a basketball court hasn’t come to pass
With two bad knees and age running out, he was still head and shoulders above his class

Deceptive speed and quickness, great hands, and serious hops.
Great strength, silky smooth jumper from anywhere on the court and motor you couldn’t stop.

A fierce competitor at both ends of the floor,
The things he did to the opposition had the crowd screaming for more

So smooth was he in tight games

It came to be a lock, down by one or two

Slick would call timeout, at the right moment as the seconds ticked off the clock

The die has been set long ago and this was just another repeat
And as we’d listen for those famous words from Slick – “Rahjie, put him to sleep.”

Neto would enter the ball to Freddie as we all took our spots
Freddie would pass to Roger
While we all watched the hands on the clock

The crowd would stand in silence as to not disturb a thing
As Roger made the bed for his opponent
So he’d have a nightmarish dream

A soft smile, a serious look, a subtle move that the opponent would take
Would end the game quietly, as his opponent took the fake

Scoring with ease, and unfazed by what he had done
Walking off the floor, he'd wink his eye at us and say

Isn’t it wonderful, the game we just won!

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:09 PM

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