happened one evening in 2003. Max entered Price's office in Hollywood to sign
his two-year, $1.66 million deal with Fox. Sam came along to ink his first
contract: a $4,600 deal to write 23 columns for foxsports.com, which Max had
helped arrange. Price watched in astonishment: Everything was upside down. As
Max hastily scribbled his signature in silence, Sam shouted, "Everybody
stand back! I'm about to sign my contract! Wait a minute! Photograph!" Sam
struck a bonus-baby signing pose, then swaggered out of the office. Max hurried
to catch up to him and kiss him on the forehead, his eyes misting with so much
pride in his brother's achievement that Price, for the only time in his life,
felt cheated to have been an only child.
Here, though, was
Sam's quandary: Big brother's credit card in his wallet. Big brother's car in
his name. Big brother's fist knocking on corporate doors for him. Big brother's
shadow everywhere he turned.
Shaq vs. Kobe:
best player in the NBA? Max argued every day and twice on Sundays for Shaq and
Sam for Kobe, both knowing, as sons of a shrink, that Shaq was Big Brother
Archetype and Kobe was Little Brother Archetype and that they were really
arguing Max vs. Sam. And that Kobe had to shove away Shaq, had to prove he
didn't need Big Brother to make it big ... just as Sam needed, at least for a
while, distance from Max. So the most shocking and most natural thing occurred
in February 2004. Sam bid the Brothers Kellerman farewell and moved to L.A.
On Sept.. 13,
2004, just above latitude 15º north in the mid-Atlantic, easterly trade winds
converged and began to rotate counter- clockwise, forming a tropical
depression. Jeanne, the second hurricane to target the southeastern coast of
Florida in three weeks, started to chug northwestward. James Butler, working as
a sparring partner in the Catskills, decided that he could not go home to
He had just
weathered Hurricane Frances in Vero Beach, where he'd lived for nearly a year.
He'd delighted aid workers at the shelter where he stayed with his girlfriend,
their newborn son and his girlfriend's daughter, ferrying bucket after bucket
of water to flush the toilets. But the storm seemed to trigger the mood swings
and sleeplessness of his manic depression. He'd left Florida on Sept. 7 and
headed to upstate New York.
He needed money.
He needed a fight. He needed a place to train where no power lines were down.
He'd gained more than 70 pounds during his four months in jail while taking a
cocktail of medications for bipolar disorder that made him feel sluggish,
then--after dropping much of the weight--lost two of his four bouts in a
lackluster comeback. His relationship with his girlfriend was hitting the
rocks. His relationship with his new trainer in Vero Beach, Buddy McGirt, who
was busy with other fighters, was over. All the Hammer had was talk of a
possible fight in California, a career swirling down the drain and almost
nowhere to turn, except....
Sam's phone rang.
His own career had begun to take off since his move to Los Angeles. He'd acted
in commercials with Willie Nelson and Christina Aguilera. He was in talks with
MTV2 about hosting a new call-in show. The producers of the HBO series
Entourage were so taken with him that they kept calling him to the set, trying
to figure out how to work him into their show.
The closer Sam
came to finding himself, it seemed, the more he needed to preserve those 2,800
miles between himself and Max. He might let a week pass without calling his
brother, and Max, sensing Sam's need, might do the same. Just a few days
earlier, after Max had flown to L.A. on a business trip and squeezed in a night
of boxing and a few rounds of the King of All Games with his brother, Sam had
stayed home for the evening to write rather than drive Max to the airport.
Sure, it had stung Max a little, but hadn't every pair of brothers known a time
like that? "Don't worry about me," Max urged him. "Let your talent
fly. Just let it fly."
L.A. was Sam's
liberation from the all-nighters writing term papers for his New York pals,
from editing every word his brothers wrote and serving as the family glue. L.A.
protected Sam from Sam, freed him to let it fly. His success there was
inevitable, because in a town full of people who stand out, he stood out.
That's what TV producer Mark Neveldine said.