ain't original!" cried the Hammer. "That's Pac! Tupac is my
They laughed. Sam
and the Hammer had found a common language. They began heading down 42nd Street
after training sessions, window-shopping, hip-hopping, the playwright and the
pug. At Sam's side James became the man he wanted to be, the curious and
sensitive guy who planned to spend his days after boxing helping at-risk kids
from broken homes, kids like him. He'd watch Sam's acts of generosity--giving
meals and even the shirt off his back to the homeless and, years later,
directing a play to raise money for the families of the 9/11 victims--and he'd
be inspired to give part of a $20,000 fight purse to the same cause.
One day Sam--who
loved women and the words that made women melt--decided to melt one for his
pal, talking up James to a girl they'd just met. James wanted no part of Sam's
setup. Suddenly Sam was staring into two glowing coals where his buddy's eyes
had been. "Man, I hope James never snaps on somebody," Sam told Ness.
"He's like Tyson." But it didn't scare away Sam.
So when Ruffhouse
Records, a label of Columbia Records, offered to produce a single and a video
of Max and Sam's Young Man Rumble--just another day in Max's World--Sam asked
the Hammer to appear in it. James showed up, grumbled over the long hours and
lack of pay and left before the shoot was done.
Max began to sour
on Sam's buddy. Still, for Sam's sake, Max stood up for the Hammer on TV and in
his espn.com column after James sucker-punched Grant, then took the Hammer to
lunch to encourage him.
Max wouldn't tell
his brother to stop reaching out to a troubled soul. That would be killing the
best part of Sam. But there was more to it than that: As long as Sam's
selflessness existed in the world, Max was free to charge toward his goals, to
cash in on his talent. In tandem they could solve the paradox in their
blood--kinship with the weak and insistence on strength. They shared one
consciousness and knew they couldn't be beaten, because each of them was two
people, while everyone else was one. That's what Max said.
A love that
complicated, of course, mired Max in a quandary. His duty as crew chief of
MaSaHaJa, keeper of the Brothers Kellerman, was to jam his foot in the doorway
of the American dream and keep it open long enough for SaHaJa to blow in and
take over the control room. How could he fully relish his success as long as
Sam was writing books and screenplays that he showed to no one, directing and
acting in plays in front of a few hundred people to raise money for the
One day a shelf
full of chess books in the library at Columbia caught Max's eye, and he
devoured this new game the way he had boxing. The universe was too vast and
unruly for a man of logic to control. But a chessboard, like a boxing ring, had
rules and parameters within which cause and effect could be tested,
became a chess game. He pored over it, searching for the move that would
maximize his--and his brothers'--advantage two or three moves later. In 1998 he
parlayed a highlights reel from Max on Boxing into a job as cohost of ESPN2's
Friday Night Fights. He was good. Very good. Decibels and decimals, his
family's dinner-table debates in front of a camera. Three years later, at 28,
he flew to Los Angeles and strode into a roomful of executives at
Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, moguls who steered the careers of Brad Pitt,
Nicolas Cage and Adam Sandler and who thought this hotshot young boxing analyst
had come seeking guidance in his field. "I have no interest in continuing
in sports," Max informed them. "I want to be starring in a feature film
in 12 months and accepting an Oscar in a year and a half. And the real reason
you'll want to work with me is that then you'll get to work with my three
brothers. Just wait until you see what they can do." After raving about
Sam's writing and acting skills, Harry's prizewinning short films and Jack's
wizardry in musical production, Max turned to a Jewish executive and began
speaking Yiddish. Then he left, and everyone just sat there, blinking.
Michael Price, a
talent manager dazzled by the performance, knew he had to harness the
performer. You, he told Max, could make so much money in broadcasting that you
could produce your own movie one day and star in it, so why spend 10 years
starving in audition lines? Max saw the logic, and in no time the two of them
parlayed his boxing cameos on Pardon the Interruption into a role as fill-in
host on the show, parlayed that into a job hosting his own show, Around the
Horn, and then turned that into a blockbuster deal to host I, Max on Fox.
Everything he plotted ... worked. A man could take hold of his fate.