Charlotte is the sort of upbeat person any player, not just Terrell, would like to call. Chris Dennis, Brandon's frustrated personal manager—one of his ideas to generate income turned into yet another free camp for 700 children, in Cleveland, complete with lunch and T-shirts paid for out of Brandon's pocket—says, "If I have a bad day, I'll call Mrs. Brandon, 'cause I know everything will be O.K. after I talk to her."
Charles appears to be the more obvious influence on Terrell. His relative quietude and his work ethic—30 years at Oregon Health Sciences University, where he supervised a supply store—clearly rubbed off on his son. In 1992, when Charles retired on his own nest egg, without Terrell's assistance, he had eight months of unused sick leave staring at him. "I remember once, it was snowing so hard," Charles says, "and Terrell wonders if I'm really going to work. I said, 'Terrell, you still like to eat, don't you?' "
Charles is the source of his son's determination, too. When Terrell was having trouble with grades—he was a Prop 48 recruit at Oregon—and was told by one of his high school teachers that he wasn't college material, Charles sat his son down and explained "how the Brandons are. We don't allow no one to tell us what to do." Later, when he saw his son was headed toward stardom, he sat him down again and advised him "not to get a big head, 'cause I'll recognize it, and I'll get you."
These are the only people tie means to please, ever meant to please. Whether it was returning home at 10:30 p.m. when his parents dictated 11 or getting Cleveland into the playoffs, he has always tried to exceed their expectations. And he has. He has seldom had to end his nightly phone conversation with any kind of embarrassing confession: "Oh, by the way, Mom...."
There are other good sons in the NBA; it's not the outlaw frontier that one or two con artists would have you believe. But Brandon seems fierce in his determination to have a correct career, a right life. It's strange indeed that when he tells you his guiding principle of behavior is anything that allows his parents to sleep at night, he seems the most intense. There's a fire there, all right, some kind of fire. Just not one you're used to seeing.