'They Don't Pay Nobody To Be Humble'
So says Deion Sanders, the defensive back who has lit up the Atlanta Falcons with his gold chains and electric style of play. But there is more than glitter to Prime Time
Posted: Tuesday September 11, 2007 3:16PM; Updated: Tuesday September 11, 2007 4:02PM
This story was orginally published in the Nov. 13, 1989 issue of Sports Illustrated.
ABOUT THE JEWELRY. OR AS DEION SANDers pronounces it with an obvious bow to the only vowels not deserving enough to make it into his glorious first name, the "juray."
Yeah, really. The juray is off-the-cuff, wholesale, deep discount. But you didn't really think Sanders just strolled in and picked up those twined dollar signs and crosses and initials and whoknowswhatelse the circumference of cantaloupes after breakfast at Tiffany's, did you? Let the man explain how he does it:
"Yo. The rings are L.A. The other stuff is Miami and Fort Lauderdale and L.A. again. Other cities, other places, I forget. I check out these big swap shops where the rappers and the dudes with the gold hang out. I go in there, all covered up. Yo, like this. Hands in pockets. Jacket closed. No juray, see. Nobody can get a load of my own stuff. They think, This is some chump. He ain't got nothin'. Then they lay out the prices. Whoa! Say what? They tryin' to dog me, bad. What time is it, kids? Yo, I whip open my jacket. It's Prime Time! I say: 'You guys think I'm some kind of fool? Now let's talk some juray.' So much gold be flashin', those dudes about go blind!"
But in the matter of juray, his mama don't dance and his baby don't rock and roll. Carolyn Chambers, the striking Florida A & M graduate with whom Deion lives, couldn't care less about all those golden ropes, wrist manacles and knuckle knockers weighing down her guy. "But what it is, Deion wants me to wear them too," Chambers says. And the other woman in his life? "That glitzed-up stuff?" says Sanders' mother, Connie Knight. "When Deion's around me, he knows better than to wear that junk. He only likes to flash that mess for the pictures."
Deion Luwynn Sanders -- a cousin came up with the names; Knight added the extra letters "because anything else seemed too plain" -- does dress down on occasion, like when reporting to work for the New York Yankees or, currently, the Atlanta Falcons. His new Falcon teammate, guard Bill Fralic, pointed out why Sanders runs so outrageously fast: When he finally strips off the kilos of gold enveloping his body, Deion is as light as a feather.
"Why, when a brother wear a little juray, does everybody go off screaming about Mr. T or Sammy Davis Jr.?" asks Sanders. "When a white dude wear it, you never hear anything about Elizabeth Taylor or Liberace." Hold everything. In all their appearances at Caesars Palace, or in regulation civilization for that matter, the admittedly awesome, karat-bearing T, Sammy, Liz and Lee -- combined . . . history . . . lifetime -- never wore as much juray as Sanders did the night last April when he showed up at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport after becoming the fifth college player chosen in the NFL draft.
Over, under and around his spectacular black-leather outfit emblazoned PRIME TIME with his own personalized logo, which resembles a stick man being electrocuted by a lightning bolt -- soon to be on T-shirts, toothbrushes and power tools at your neighborhood K Mart -- there was, somebody estimated, $7,000 worth of gold clinging to Sanders' sensational physique. Nobody asked if that reflected swap-shop markdown. But Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Constitution did conduct a thorough itemization for posterity:
"Right hand: A ring that spanned three fingers . . . and carried the word 'Prime.' Also a square pinky ring.
"Left hand: Matching three-finger ring with the word 'Time.' Plus a gold pinky ring in the form of a dollar sign.
"Right wrist: Almost barren. Just a chain link bracelet.
"Left wrist: A Gucci watch and another bracelet.
"Chest: The auditor needed Deion's help here, so thick was the golden cluster. Thumbing through the necklaces, Deion called 'em out: 'Dollar sign . . . Prime Time . . . dollar sign . . . Jesus on the cross . . . dollar sign . . . my number  . . . dollar sign.' That made seven. He omitted a simple choker."
Chump change, as they say. It was fortunate for the security folks at the Hartsfield metal detectors, who would have missed dinner, that Sanders had stashed most of his juray in his luggage before heading to Atlanta. Soon enough, he told everyone he hated the name Neon Deion. ("That just doesn't sound like me," he explains now.) He much preferred Prime Time. And he wouldn't discuss the money he expected to be paid by the Falcons except to say, "It's gonna be a lot of zeros in that contract. You're gonna think it's alphabet soup or something, all them zeroes in there." He grabbed a microphone. "Hello, Atlanta," said Deion, introducing himself. "This is Deion Sanders, Prime Time. Live. It's . . ." he checked the Gucci ". . . five minutes to eight. And the thrill is here. Later."