At first glance,
the MySpace page of Alabama forward Jermareo Davidson looks a lot like that of
any other college student. There are loads of photographs, a song playing in
the background and goofy, half-intelligible messages from friends. But take a
closer look. Read the preamble across the top of Davidson's page: "November
has been a rough month for me...." Listen to the song, Ky-Mani Marley's
mournful I Pray. And watch the continuously looping photo montages, digital
elegies to two fallen pillors of Davidson's life.
One shows pictures
of a willowy young woman framed by electronic roses, floating hearts and a
simple farewell: Live in the sky ... Nikki, love u 4ever, RIP. Just below that,
another series of photos presents a young man with piercing eyes, a goatee and
dreadlocks beneath another postscript: RIP BIG BRA.
On Nov. 7, just
three nights before the start of a senior season that Davidson, one of the
nation's leading big men, hoped would lead him to the Final Four and the NBA,
his brother, Dewayne Watkins, was shot in the neck by an unknown assailant.
Four days later Davidson and his girlfriend, Nikki Murphy, visited Watkins at
Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. That night, as they returned to Tuscaloosa,
Nikki, who was driving Davidson's SUV, lost control as she swerved to avoid
another car on Interstate 20. The vehicle flipped several times before landing
on its roof.
Davidson, who says
he was wearing his seatbelt, walked away unharmed, but Murphy was thrown from
the vehicle and died several hours later--in the same hospital where Watkins
would die on Dec. 20. Davidson is still coming to terms with the two tragedies.
"I have my tough moments, like right before we go on the court, but I'm
able to move it to the side until later," he says. "The times I break
down are when I'm alone, just sitting at home in front of the
staring at his MySpace page.
can't help it. She's a loud, proud mom, and this is a big game. So she cheers
when her son goes up strong against LSU's Glen (Big Baby) Davis, cheers again
when Jermareo lofts an old-school skyhook, and cheers loudest when then No. 14
Alabama seals a 71--61 win. There's nothing unusual about her fervor, except
for where it's being displayed. She's not sitting in the parents' section;
she's standing in the second row of the student section, among the craziest of
the Crimson Tide crazies. "Jermareo's heart is hurting, but I'm so proud of
him," Madonna says. "I tell him, 'You've got to use Nikki and Dewayne's
love for basketball as a driver because that is what they would want you to do.
You've got to keep striving. You've got a story to tell, a story to uplift
Some of Jermareo's
passion for the game came from Dewayne, who was five years his senior and a
point guard in high school. Growing up in the Capitol View neighborhood of
Atlanta, the boys would play ball nonstop on the goal Madonna had set up in the
backyard. "I have thousands of memories [of my brother]," says
Davidson, smiling. "The last Thanksgiving that I went home, he cooked for
me and [teammate] Alonzo Gee." Turkey, collard greens, mac and cheese; it
was a perfect holiday spread from the guy who called his younger brother Jay-O.
"Whenever he came into the gym, I knew he was there," says Davidson.
"That always got me hyped."
On Nov. 7 Davidson
got a call from a family friend: Dewayne had been shot in an Atlanta suburb.
The first person Davidson contacted was Nikki, whom he had met in a health
class when they were freshmen. A student athletic trainer for the women's team,
Nikki hoped to work in the NBA or WNBA one day. She more than anyone encouraged
Davidson to be serious about school. "She said we couldn't have a future
unless I graduated," he says. They kept their relationship secret because
her job prohibited her from dating athletes, so they called each other cousins.
("What's up, cuz?" he'd say in front of her friends. "You calling
Grandma tonight?") Only recently had they started using the terms boyfriend
and girlfriend, and every Thursday they would go bowling together.
been shot," he told her that night. "Can you ride with me to
packing," she replied.