Former Proviso East hoops star Shannon Brown now plays for the L.A. Lakers. Photo courtesy L.A. Lakers.

Freelance writer Marty Farmer shares his experience of covering a recent Bulls-Lakers game where former area star Shannon Brown (now with the Lakers) played. Here’s his take:    

As a freelance sportswriter for the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park River Forest for about 10 years now, I have seen countless OPRF and Fenwick boys basketball games. Heck, I was even a towel-waving benchwarmer for the Friars and coach John Quinn back in the late 1980s before my family moved to Florida. Through all those years of watching the Friars and Huskies, Corey Maggette and Iman Shumpert are the two best basketball players I’ve covered.

On Friday, I made the transition from preps to pros coverage by heading down to the United Center to check out the Lakers-Bulls game and chronicle the return of former Proviso East star Shannon Brown. Along with “Corey Maggs” and “Shump,” Brown is the other member of my hoops triumvirate of favorite/best area players in recent years.

Fueled by Derrick Rose’s 29 points and nine assists, the Bulls edged the Lakers 88-84, spoiling Brown’s homecoming and earning a season-split with the NBA two-time defending champs. In the first meeting (Nov. 23), Brown scored 21 points to lift L.A. to a 98-91 victory over visiting Chicago.

“We didn’t execute our game plan,” Brown said after Friday’s game. “We were sloppy taking shots out of the offense and turning the ball over too much.”

The off-court and post game traffic was arguably as entertaining as the game with local glitterati like Rev. Jesse Jackson, actor Chris O’Donnell, Lovie Smith, Patrick Kane, Devin Hester, Scottie Pippen all roaming the packed UC. After the game, Brown celebrated his recent 25th birthday with his fiancé, pop singer Monica.

While “SB 12” turned in a non-descript performance against the Bulls (0-for-4, four fouls in 18 minutes) on Friday, the fifth-year NBA guard is clearly putting together his best season, averaging 10.6 points and shooting 46 percent from the three-point line.

“Shannon is a phenomenal athlete, but he has developed his entire game,” Lakers center Pau Gasol said. “He gives us energy, athleticism and a good shooter off the bench.”

Last year, was created promoting Brown and his 44.5-inch vertical for the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. After Brown spent the summer launching countless jump shots and working on his ballhandling in Proviso East’s gym (aka the “Hot Box”), Lakers coach Phil Jackson obviously has decided to LetShannonPlay as Kobe Bryant’s two-guard backup.

“It was really beneficial for me to work on my game back home this summer,” Brown said. “I guess everybody can see the results [now], but I have to keep it going.”

While he’s flourishing in Lakerland, Brown grew up in Maywood as an avid Bulls and Michael Jordan fan. By the way, Brown’s younger brother, Sterling, is a burgeoning 6-foot-4 sophomore star at Proviso East.

“It’s always great to come back home to the crib and see my friends and family,” Brown said. “Playing on the United Center floor is always a thrill for me.”

–Marty Farmer

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Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...