Brandon laughs at his nickname, Lone Ranger, But he admits it fits. "I'm a people person when I'm with people," he says, "but I'm not out there to meet people." He's not out there, period. There is not a city in the NBA, except for Portland (where he grew up), that he can describe to you, not a restaurant he can discuss. All he knows is the bus ride to the game and room service.
He'll tell you that he practices such reclusiveness in the interest of his game. But, really, it's just the way he is. Chris Broussard, who covers the Cavaliers for the Akron Beacon Journal, once trailed him to his lair, finding him in his hotel room in Vancouver. Brandon was huddled under a quilt, staring out the window. "This is what I do, man," he told Broussard. "Sit by the window."
The simplicity of his life is considered off-putting. He seeks no endorsements, no press coverage, none of the trappings of stardom. "This life is easy if you let it be," he explains, bewildered that anyone might court fuss. "I won't complicate mine. I play the game, go home, wait for the next day. I don't want any stress in my life."
He doesn't want much that he doesn't already have, also off-putting in a time when everything is up for renegotiation, always. In the interest of fairness, the Cavaliers decided two years ago to give him a $7 million balloon payment to extend his exceedingly modest seven-year, $6.9 million contract, but the money doesn't seem to excite him. What more can he do with it? He's already retired his mom—marched right into the dry cleaners, told her she was done—bought his house in Portland, bought himself a commercial building there. To him, money is just a way to demonstrate loyalty anyway.
Take his house—nice enough, all right, but positioned in the gritty neighborhood of northeast Portland, five minutes from his parents, Charlotte and Charles (whom he calls after every game), near both his high school (Grant High) and Irving Park, where he practiced the game and now returns for his camps. Take his commercial building, a $600,000 complex in the same inner-city neighborhood, a structure that, alone among his possessions, reveals his pride. The building, scheduled to open this month, includes a sportswear store, a barbershop and the headquarters of Brandon's Tee Bee Enterprises. Why a barbershop? Well, he once told Daunte Paschal, a childhood friend who'd been cutting people's hair in basements and kitchens, that he would open a shop for him someday. And so he will.
The whole idea behind this complex, which was a dream going back to Brandon's high school days, was to bring jobs into the neighborhood. An odd dream for a kid, but one that's working; since his building has gone up, ground has been broken for five more in the formerly forgotten area.
"People think I'm going to use my money to buy cars," he says, "but I'd rather give it to my church, to my family, do something I can be proud of. All those days sitting in the hotel room, looking out the window, this is what I'm thinking about. What can I do to make my son [five-year-old Trevor, from a college-era relationship] proud of me. What can I do so my parents will be proud of me." Brandon is unique this way. He is not alone among athletes in his good intentions. It's just that while his peers seek to expand their franchise with namesake perfumes and lines of clothing, he fights to restrict his universe to neighbors and family. Particularly to family, which occupies most of his daydream thoughts.
Though Brandon can be no more than a part-time father (Trevor lives in Portland with his mother), he vows to be the best one he can be. He maintains a room for Trevor in his Portland house, sees him nearly every day during the off-season and flies him into Cleveland for periodic visits. "My son is everything to me—definitely not a mistake," Brandon says.
It is understandable, given his own upbringing, that Brandon would take parenthood seriously. His own parents continue to be the most important people in his life. They were the ones, after all, who nursed him through those first years so that someday he might be able to walk. But he doesn't operate merely out of gratitude; rather, he lives a life of emulation.
Both of his parents are active in helping others. His father was an associate pastor in a Pentecostal church for 24 years (he recently was promoted to assistant pastor), and his mother has recently founded Mothers of Professional Basketball Players, an organization for NBA mothers who are suddenly launched into a different economic sphere, but also one envisioned as a coast-to-coast support service for lonely players. Charlotte founded the group after last year's All-Star Game in San Antonio, where she met players' mothers who seemed a little adrift amid their sons' success.