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Finding Peace Through Pain (Brian Shaw True Story) - Tim Brown - LA Times
Finding Peace Through Pain (Brian Shaw True Story) - Tim Brown - LA Times
I am not aware of this story being posted but I wanted to share this with everyone on here in case someone hasn't read it yet. I had a lot of respect for Brian Shaw before reading this but a whole lot more now. Wow.
Finding Peace Through Pain
Brian Shaw of the Lakers has rebuilt his family after the automobile accident that claimed the lives of his mother, father and sister nearly 10 years ago
April 20, 2003|Tim Brown | Times Staff Writer
On the saddest days, Brian Shaw can hear the voice of the coroner where his father's should have been.
It has been nearly 10 years since the one-car crash in the Nevada desert killed Shaw's father, mother and sister, almost all he had, and since his namesake, 11-month-old Brianna, tumbled from the wreckage bruised but alive.
On the happiest days, he can see Brianna's mother in her, so bright and charming that his voice thickens at the memory, and his eyes go red, and the tears won't dry after a decade, not even close.
In the moment it took to grieve, and to rebuild his family, much of his basketball career passed. Yet, in the struggle to make sense of a stark and unfair loneliness, his life grew back, more lush in places, in his two children with Nikki, his friend for 16 years and his wife for five, and in the niece he raised beside them as a daughter.
"If I can be half the parents they were," he says softly, "that's plenty enough for my kids."
On June 26, 1993, an hour before sunrise, Charles Shaw, 52, was 10 minutes from Las Vegas on Interstate 15. His wife, Barbara, 51, was in the passenger seat. Their daughter, Monica, 24, was in the back with her daughter. Brianna was in her child-restraint seat.
They had driven all night from Richmond, Calif., en route to a home their son, Brian, then a guard for the NBA's Miami Heat, had recently purchased. Brian had kissed them goodbye, had planned to follow them soon after, and would. Charles leaned out of the driver's side window and said, "When we get there, I'll call you so you know we got in." It was Friday night.
The Nevada Highway Patrol concluded that Charles Shaw fell asleep. His Jeep hit the center divider and rolled. When officers arrived, Barbara and Monica were dead. Charles died an hour later.
"When the phone rang at 8:30 the next morning, I was thinking it was them saying they were in," Shaw says. "It was the coroner's office."
Nikki was in the kitchen, beside him.
"His whole body," she says, "it was just lifeless."
The baby survived, and healed, and needed, and laughed. The baby hugged him back. The baby put her tiny hands on his face, and squealed, as though there had been no crash, no tragedy at all. Brianna lived for five years with Brian's aunt, Marie, in Oakland, after a short custody fight with her biological father, with the plan that someday Brian would raise her.
She arrived again about four years ago and, as his home became crowded with children and diapers and laughter and toys that howled, it occurred to him that someone was gradually replenishing his world.
Brian Jr., whom they call B.J., the son, had his grandfather's curiosities. Bianca, the daughter, had her grandmother's features and sensibilities. Brianna, at 10, had become Monica, Brian often blurting, "You are just like your momma! Just like her!" somewhere between impatient and thankful.
Someone was giving them back, one at a time. Sometimes it makes sense to him, life's equilibrium, one love replacing the next, someone having attached the giggles and pouting lips to another generation, assigning them again to Brian Shaw.
One day, when Brianna was old enough to ask, Brian sat her down and held her hands and told her, "Your mommy went to live with God and left you here for me to take care of you," and Brianna said OK.
He is mostly grateful, even as he sits today on the edge of a hotel bed, war fought silently on the television nearby, his shoulders drawn and his recollections coming in gasps.
"It's almost like they're all reborn," he says.
Charles Shaw grew up in Oakland, where he attended Oakland City College, then became a mechanic for the U.S. Postal Service. He met Barbara Laing, a student at San Francisco State at the time, at a party. They dated and married and had two children, Brian, in the spring of 1966, and Monica, three years later.
Barbara, who was born in Guyana, became influential in the field of parent-child development. She doted on her children, along with everyone else's.
On 54th Street and later Barkley Drive in Oakland, Charles and Barbara were block parents, block chauffeurs, block cooks, the block lost-and-found department. They sat in the bleachers at all of Brian's basketball games, but, according to Jerome Stanley, Brian's agent, "They didn't set out to raise a basketball player."
Brian and Monica played the piano. He was a baseball player. Barbara gave them books they were expected to read. Brian learned to shoot a bow and arrow.
"She loved Brian," Nikki said. "Even up until the day she passed she would wash and iron his clothes, leave him a dinner plate on the table. She lived for Brian, and this was from birth. This had nothing to do with the man he developed into."
Still, what the Shaws got was a basketball player, anyway, a man who played basketball. He developed his heady, elegant game at Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd High, then St. Mary's before transferring to UC Santa Barbara. After averaging 13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in his senior season for the Gauchos, Shaw set off on an NBA career that, 14 seasons later, has seen seven teams and three championships and a knack for gathering friendships.
He is "B. Shaw" to everyone who knows him, from the locker-room attendants to Shaquille O'Neal, who every fall insists the Lakers re-sign him.
"It all comes from his unselfishness," Rick Fox said. "And what you put out comes back to you tenfold."
For every season, it seems, he has had a remarkable presence in the middle of the box scores, games spent light on minutes and points, heavy on the grunt work of steals and assists and rebounds. No one has ever fed O'Neal as deftly as Shaw, and the connection earned them both a place in the Laker lexicon, the "Shaw-Shaq Redemption" coming to define the wing's artful pass followed by the center's catch and dunk.
Now 37 and in his fourth season with the Lakers, Shaw has a firm place in their locker room, respected for his forceful perspectives in a place once seized by pettiness. While huddles were difficult, sober places when O'Neal and Kobe Bryant weren't pals in seasons past, they were nearly as uncomfortable early this season when the Laker stars turned on the rest of them for their perceived lack of production.
It was Shaw who declined to avert his eyes, Shaw who spoke without fear of retaliation, who could put it all right, with a grin and a well-placed shove.
"The other 11 guys, we're getting our 30 points a game," he said. "It's up to them to get their 70."
On the saddest days, they're gone. Just, gone. For three consecutive Junes, Brian Shaw and a dozen Laker teammates have sloshed around in puddles of champagne, shouting songs that come to them at the moment.
It is always the same, men in purple and gold shorts, bouncing and laughing, the knot of them surrounded by television cameras and friends and family. Fathers beam. Mothers weep. Wives hold the hands of their tiny, wide-eyed children, their faces turned away from the occasional sticky spray tossed from the middle of the room.
Charles and Barbara Shaw are not among them. And, on the saddest days, Brian notices.
"I've told Kobe, because I used to see his parents and sisters around all the time, and now you don't see them anymore," Shaw says. "I don't know what's going on with them and it's not any of my business, but I tell the guys on the team, 'Hey, your parents are here. Your family is here. Enjoy them while you can. All those petty little disputes or whatever, work it out, make it right and move on.'
"It's so beautiful to see Shaq's parents, and Fish's parents and Devean's parents, Mad Dog's parents. They're all there in the locker room and we're spraying champagne, and it's nice to see that. That's what makes me sad. I'm like, 'Damn, I wish....' "
He stops and exhales. They're not there, and they deserve to be. After all the dusty gyms and the unremarkable postgame locker rooms they saw, Shaw says, they should have seen these gyms, these locker rooms.
"That's the only sad part," he says. "Physically they're not here. I always feel like they're with me. I don't know what's going on in other people's personal situations, but I'm like, 'Make it right. Enjoy it. Because, you look back and that's all you have. All you're going to have is memories.' "
Even those aren't promised.
In the weeks after the crash, after Brianna had begun to heal and when it was time to gather and box and clean up after three peoples' lives, Shaw separated out his mother's favorite dress and coat, the knockabout clothes his father wore on weekends, and a jump suit his sister loved.
"It had their smell," he says.
Wrapped in plastic, they hang today in his closet.
On the saddest days, on birthdays or anniversaries, he'll sit on his bed, unzip the bag, close his eyes and hold the dress to his cheek. He'll remember. Sometimes, he says, he is soothed. Sometimes he is inspired. It depends on the day, depends on his need.
"There's no way I'm going to forget what they looked like, what they were all about," Shaw says. "But, I do think about that stuff as time goes on and you start doing other things. Now I have a family and all this stuff is growing.
"I'm able to deal with it because they lived. And I know they lived, because I was there, we did everything together. All the memories that I have include them being there. Everything."
At his first high school prom, Shaw, who had skipped a grade in elementary school, was not old enough to drive the family Toyota. His parents drove him to his date's home, to dinner, to the dance, and then home again.
"I thought I was going to be the laughingstock of the school," he says. "I was like, 'This is so corny, my parents, oh no.' But now, I love the fact they were there."
For 10 summers now, he has spread across the bed his mother's jewelry, piece by piece, the rings and bracelets she wore, the coins she collected from foreign countries.
"He has the intention of insuring it," Nikki says. "That's why he says he's pulling it out."
One summer, he put two rings into his pocket and took them to the jeweler, who removed the stones and made them into the earring Brian wears every day.
What Brian Shaw does now is recover, an ounce every day, 10 years running. He pulls life from his children, the three of them now, and love from his wife and friends. Some days the emptiness surprises him, but more often it's OK, he's OK, arriving to work holding hands with Nikki, kids swirling at his feet, tapping teammates on the elbow as he passes.
"I see sadness deep in him every day," Nikki says. "But the way I see it now is he's made a complete positive out of a bad situation. He has taken everything that his parents instilled in him and he put his own little twists on it. It's made him a father and a husband. I think they gave him some good tools to work with. Although I'm sure there's sadness there, he focuses on the lessons he was taught by his parents."
It is a theme among those closest to Shaw, that his parents and sister were taken only when he could cope with it. They were independent and dynamic, and when he was too, they were gone.
"They had put so much into him," Stanley, the agent, says. "Everyone who knows him now appreciates the experience of it. That's a direct byproduct of the adversity growing the character."
Brianna is 10, in fourth grade. B.J. is 3. Bianca is 1 1/2. Nikki, in the family room at Staples Center before a game, shakes her head.
"The time has flown by," she says. "I guess we keep track of it with Brianna."
And with their memories, their grief, their comfort. With each other. On the happiest days, and the saddest.
"I try to live," Shaw says.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
BRIAN SHAW: CAREER AT A GLANCE
SEASON-BY-SEASON TEAM FINISH AND KEY STATISTIC
Born: March 22, 1966 in Oakland
Ht: 6-6. Wt: 205.
High school: Bishop O'Dowd
College: UC Santa Barbara
Drafted: 24th overall (Boston, 1988)
Longevity: 14 NBA seasons with a career scoring average of 6.9.
Other seasons: Played in Italy with Kobe Bryant's father, Joe, in 1989-90. Played one game for Portland in 1998-99.
Eighth in Eastern Conference (42-40)
Playoffs: First round (0-3)
* Career-high .826 free-throw
Second in Eastern Conference (55-26)
Playoffs: Second round (5-6)
* Career-high 13.6 points a game
(Miami) Eighth in Eastern Conf.(38-44)
Playoffs: First round (0-3)
* 12 points a game in playoffs
11th in Eastern Conference (36-46)
Playoffs: Didn't qualify
* Career-high point total for game (32) against Milwaukee.
Eighth in Eastern Conference (42-40)
Playoffs: First round (2-3)
* Nine points a game
First in Eastern Conference (57-25)
Playoffs: NBA Finals (11-10)
* 38.5% on three-point shots in
Second in Eastern Conference (60-22)
Playoffs: Conference finals (7-5)
* Had first triple-double of his career
Eighth in Eastern Conference (45-37)
Playoffs: First Round (2-3)
* 7.2 points a game -- best in three seasons with Magic.
1997-98: GOLDEN ST.-PHILA.
(Phil.) 13th in Eastern Conf. (31-51)
Playoffs: Did not qualify
* Shot career-low 34.5% from field
First in Western Conference (67-15)
Playoffs: NBA championship (15-8)
* Two less three-point baskets in playoffs (16) than regular season