Early on they
found it fairly easy to keep people away. But "then he got to high school,
and everyone started to notice him," Dwayne says. "That's when things
really picked up."
There are three
murals in the Farragut Academy gym. Two are of Garnett; the other depicts
Ronnie Fields soaring for a dunk: RONNIE FIELDS AIR SHOW, 1992--96, it reads,
and then his accomplishments are listed, including 372 dunks.
There are many
theories for why Fields never made it, but the soundest one is this: His family
provided him with little protection--his mother was 15 when he was born--so
street agents and others took over. "They look for kids who don't have a
support system, and then they come heavy," William Nelson, Fields's coach
at Farragut, says of the poachers.
Imagine then the
trepidation the brothers felt when some of the same people who had preyed on
Fields cast their covetous gazes on Derrick after he led Simeon's freshman team
to a city championship. Almost overnight the AAU team that Derrick had played
on since the sixth grade took on a new look. "All of these people got put
on staff, and I couldn't understand where they came from," Reggie says.
His response was
to create his own AAU team and take nine of Derrick's 14 AAU teammates with
him. That angered some parents and coaches the brothers had known for years,
but Reggie believes it was the right move. "People were just beginning to
really look at how they could make money off Derrick," he says. "If we
hadn't kept those people away, he could have ended up like Ronnie
Derrick played, the more people pushed to get close to him. Once, Derrick's
cellphone number got out, and in a 24-hour period he received nearly 40 text
messages and more than 60 calls from strangers. "There was a message from
this [AAU] coach from California trying to get me to play for him," Derrick
recalls, "and someone from down south saying he'd help my family move so I
could go to school there."
Derrick got a new
number, and the brothers quickly instituted a policy: No one but family could
get through to Derrick without going through Reggie. "When people asked
Derrick for his number, he would just give them mine," Reggie says.
"Then they'd call and I'd ask, 'So, what do you want with Derrick?'"
The brothers got so good at "smothering" Derrick that agents accused
them of exploiting him. "They'd say we were looking to make money off our
brother," Reggie recalls. "I told them, 'No one is going to pimp
Derrick. But if anybody is going to pimp him, it's going to be his
Fans of various
colleges waited in front of Reggie's house, hoping for the chance to urge him
to have Derrick pick their school. Big-name agents regularly called Reggie to
say they were flying into Chicago and were willing to meet with him. Random men
would approach Dwayne and ask him, "What kind of car does Derrick
drive?" A question that was far from innocent, implying that there were
people willing to give Derrick and his brothers gifts that would be anything
crazy," Dwayne says, "but it's been crazy for us, not for
death shook Chicago, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Mayor Harold Washington
used Wilson (and the two teenagers who killed him) to show that the city had
failed its children. "We have not heard their screams in the night,"
Washington said. He promised change, but have the screams stopped?