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‘No whining and crying’ for homeless ex-UNLV star

Lewis Brown could play.

He was part of Jerry Tarkanian’s first great team at UNLV, a 6-11, 260-pounds center who helped the Rebels to the 1977 Final Four and a 102-16 record. His teammates say he was one of the most talented players they had and could be “dominant.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal named Brown the 20th best player in the school’s history, which seems like a no-brainer given that he still ranks No. 2 on UNLV’s all-time rebounds list.

But even the great ones can struggle. Brown’s now homeless, living on the streets of Los Angeles. The New York Times spent time with Brown and wrote a fantastic feature on him. An excerpt:

Mr. Brown said he was satisfied with the life he had, even as he lamented the life that could have been. He is fine living on a sidewalk, but would not permit a photographer to take pictures of where he sleeps. “I’m at peace with myself,” he said. “This ain’t no whining and crying story, you understand. You will see that I have a life. You will see that I have friends who love me.”

And yes, as Mr. Brown walks the streets, he is embraced by the people who have heard his stories, again and again, and give him work, money and food. He is remembered by the Filipinos who saw him play in the Philippines after he failed to break into the pros. He is appreciated by business owners who once tried to chase him off their property. “He’s the caretaker of the neighborhood,” said John Pienta, the manager of a production studio.

But for his family, who just learned of Mr. Brown’s life on the streets, this has been a painful reopening of a chapter that never really closed. “I haven’t seen my brother in 15 years,” said his sister, Jeri. “Tell him my mother is back with his father.”

“My mother talks about him all the time,” she said. “The main thing with her is that she is able to see my brother before she leaves this earth.”

You can read the whole story here.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.