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Daddy Dearest
Bruce Newman
December 02, 1991
As a pro star Rick Barry was a shooter, but with his four basketball-playing sons he usually passes
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December 02, 1991

Daddy Dearest

As a pro star Rick Barry was a shooter, but with his four basketball-playing sons he usually passes

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Jon had played for a year at University of the Pacific before purposely flunking out. He then went to Paris (Texas) Junior College for two years to regain his eligibility. When he finally got his opportunity in the big time last season, he averaged 15.9 points a game and was impressive enough in all aspects of the game that North Carolina coach Dean Smith called him "the find of the year" in the ACC. "I'm trying to be my own person, to get out of that shadow of being Rick Barry's son," Jon says.

Only one of the brothers seems to find it comfortable in the shadows. "Brent loves the NBA limelight and wants to be famous himself," says Drew. "He's really different than the rest of us. Brent likes being Rick Barry's son. He shoots his free throws underhand like my dad, once wore number 24 like my dad, the wristbands, everything. He's got a horrible attitude. You can't tell him anything. I'm sure he and my dad are the closest."

Perhaps in hope of reducing the level of fraternal scorn, Brent decided to wear number 31 when he was in high school, but it still infuriates his brothers that he has maintained the most visible link possible to the player his father was—the underhand shot Rick used to set the NBA's career record for free throw percentage, .900. "Scooter could do it great, but he didn't want to take the abuse," Rick says. "And Jon and Drew don't want to have anything to do with it."

Brent shot his free throws overhanded until his senior year of high school, when Rick persuaded him to change. The following year his shooting percentage at the line jumped from 69% to 82%. "Brent doing everything just like my father, I know my dad loves it," Jon says. "But I think Brent should have more respect for my mom's feelings."

Rick's first wife remarried four years ago—she's now Pam Connolly—and in most ways has gotten on with her life. But she has never let go of the hurt and the anger she felt when Rick walked out, leaving her alone with five children. She refuses to speak to him and as a rule won't go to the boys' games if Rick is going to be there. "They both came to my last game at Kansas," Scooter says, "and they had to sit on different sides of the arena. You can't just seat them anywhere."

When both his parents showed up at the Sugar Bowl tournament in New Orleans last year, Jon played one of his worst games of the season, shooting three for seven against Tulane. "I was supposed to be concentrating on the game, and instead I was worrying about who I was going out to dinner with after the game," he says. "I don't think that's fair." When Rick left the next day, Jon went 11 for 18 against Villanova and was named to the all-tournament team.

Few things frustrate the boys more than the implication that they are somehow the products of history's second virgin birth, not to mention the first ever by a man. "It makes me mad when everything is about how we're Rick Barry's sons," Drew says. "She deserves the credit. People think my dad's the perfect guy...." His voice trails off. "I don't want to make my father sound like a jerk, but he wasn't the kind of normal father figure you need when you're growing up. My mom's whole thing is that he wasn't around when we were younger, but now that we're playing and getting some attention, suddenly he comes around."

When the Kansas team made it to the Final Four in 1988, Rick told Scooter he wasn't coming to the semifinal game on Friday because he didn't want to make Scooter nervous. Instead he went with Lynn Norenberg, then his girlfriend and now his third wife, to the women's Final Four in Tacoma, Wash., where Norenberg was representing USA Basketball. A friend of Rick's from a sports-equipment company made up an exact replica of Scooter's uniform, and Rick wore it while he and Norenberg watched the game on TV with a large group of people. "He wore the whole thing," she says. "He had on a jock and wristbands and two pairs of socks."

Rick did show up in Kansas City for the Jayhawks' championship game against Oklahoma, Scooter's nerves notwithstanding, and throughout its telecast of the game, CBS cut away to him bouncing around in his seat. "Scooter had to make a big free throw near the end of the game to clinch the championship," says Drew, "and as soon as he made it, they cut to Dad in the stands."

Scooter kicked around in the CBA and the World Basketball League for two years, before finally going to play in Braunschweig, Germany, this season. He is averaging 16 points a game, trying to reach the NBA, a path he feels has been blocked by his father's legacy. "There are a lot of NBA people who didn't like my father," Scooter says. "Maybe he beat them, or maybe they just didn't like him personally, but people don't forget. I'm a product of that anger and frustration." He does not say victim, but he doesn't have to. It hangs from his words by a thin, unspoken filament of meaning, like the unmistakable tail of a Y chromosome.

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