Sport Meet the Texas native who beat the odds and is trying to help Japan's 3x3 basketball team do the same
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The 2021 Olympic opening ceremony will be a fun but poignant moment as the athletes of the world finally get to gather together in Tokyo and compete.After such a long wait, athletes and fans alike are excited about the event. There will be some soccer and softball action going on before the Olympics begin, but the opening ceremony will mark the official start of the 2021 Summer Games.
TOKYO — Most of the athletes at the Tokyo Olympics have aspired to this specific moment their whole lives, representing their country in a sport they’ve dedicated countless hours to, often from a very young age.
But growing up in Corsicana, Texas, Ira Brown never dreamt of being an Olympian. And he couldn’t possibly have imagined playingfor Team Japan. His dream was both bigger and simpler: to be the first millionaire in his family. Or, at least, to find a way to parlay his innate physical abilities into a better life for himself than what he experienced growing up.
“I've always felt that I was a very special athlete,” Brown, who will turn 39 next month, told Yahoo Sports during a video call from the Olympic village. “Obviously, I've just taken a longer road to get here.”
Olympics schedule 2021: Day-by-day TV coverage to watch Tokyo Games on NBC channels, stream online
Here's what's happening at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics today as well as a TV schedule to watch every event in the United States and Canada.During the 2016 Rio Olympics, the United States broadcast 6,755 hours of Olympic action. Canada itself produced over 2,000 hours. Each country could set new Summer Games-highs in 2021.
Brown said that both his birth parents were addicted to drugs. As a young kid he bounced between his relatives' overcrowded homes.
“At times we didn't have running water, we didn't have electricity,” he said. “Just a very, very poor family.”
There were gang fights and house fires and so many rats and roaches that the vermin were practically part of the family. Brown slept on a pile of clothes in the closet. But he was good at baseball — yes, baseball — and his coach, Earl Mitchell, not only noticed the talent, he noticed a young boy in desperation.
Brown met Earl and Susan Mitchell when he was 7 years old. They had moved to Corsicana after serving as missionaries in Indonesian and Haiti.
What Will an Opening Ceremony Without Spectators Look Like?
Here's everything we know about Friday's official commencement for the Tokyo Olympics. © Provided by Sports Illustrated Very Olympic Today is SI’s daily Olympics newsletter. You can receive each issue for free in your inbox by subscribing here. To continue reading the newsletter at SI.com every day, along with the rest of our Olympics coverage, readers can subscribe to SI.com here. The opening ceremony is here, and, as you probably have guessed, it’s going to be strange. NBC will broadcast the spectacle live at 7 a.m. ET on Friday.
“I would go to their house on the weekends,” Brown said. “They would wash my clothes for me and take me shopping, because I didn’t have a lot growing up.”
They took him to baseball games and church, and when the Mitchells moved a few hours south to Conroe, Texas, Brown started spending holidays with them. A few years later, when he was 14, he moved in with them permanently. Eventually, the Mitchells adopted Brown.
“It took me a little bit to be able to say 'mom' and 'dad' to my adoptive parents, but I felt like it was natural because they were,” Brown said. “They were my mom and dad. They took care of me as if I was their own.”
Baseball was still his first sport. The Kansas City Royals drafted Brown out of high school as a pitcher, but five years later he had a 4.49 ERA between the lower minors and indy league and needed a new plan.
So he switched to basketball, playing two years at Phoenix College and two years at Gonzaga, where he averaged fewer than 10 minutes a game.
Which NBA stars would make the best 3x3 Olympic team?
There are about five handchecks or bumps per 12-second possession that would be a foul in an NBA game and aren’t here. Let’s start with Steph Curry, who’s a tempting choice because 3x3 goes by 1s and 2s, not 2s and 3s. A point guard will inevitably find himself isolated in the post possession after possession after possession. James Harden, meanwhile, can defend in the post as well as any point guard in league history. But his game is a bit too methodical for 3x3.
Video: Many Japanese ‘in disbelief’ Olympic games still moving forward (ABC News)
From there the long road took him to Mexico, as part of a traveling basketball camp that finally earned him his first paycheck as professional athlete: $2,500 on a Mexican basketball team. Next he went to Argentina, and then onto the Philippines and finally, about a decade ago, Brown followed an opportunity to make $5,000 on the Toyama Grouses to Japan.
The boy who had grown up sleeping on dirty clothes loved how clean it was. How respectful everyone was.
In Japan, Brown, a 6-foot-4 Black man from Texas, felt at home. Which is not to say that he blended in.
“Some people, you could see that they’ve never seen a Black man before, especially in the countryside,” Brown said. “Some of them would kind of shy away, pull away from me.”
So he committed himself to learning the language, adapting to the culture. He studied his teammates' mannerisms. He made friends, married a woman who kept him in the country long term. By the time they divorced in 2017, “Japan was pretty much home for me,” he said.
USA vs. France live score, updates, highlights from 2021 Olympic men's basketball game
Sporting News is tracking live scoring updates and highlights from USA vs. France to open the 2021 Olympic men's basketball tournament. Follow along here for complete results from the Group A matchup. MORE: Watch the 2021 Olympics live with fuboTV (7-day free trial) USA vs. France score Group A Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final USA — — — — — France — — — — — USA vs. France live updates, highlights from 2021 Olympics (All times Eastern) Check back for updates here before USA vs. France tips off. How to watch USA Olympic basketball games Time: 8 a.m. ET | 5 a.m. PT TV channel: N/A live on cable Live stream: Peacock The USA vs.
“So I haven't had any desire to go anywhere else.”
During that time, Brown became a Japanese citizen. And now, when strangers are surprised that someone who looks like him speaks the language so well, he tells them he has a Japanese passport.
“And they get even more shocked.”
The Japanese passport that Brown could have never predicted as a kid in Corsicana was also his ticket to the Olympics.
There’s no American men's 3x3 basketball team in Tokyo,. But the host country is automatically entered in every event. So even though Japan ranks 11th in , Brown and teammates Ryuto Yasuoka, Keisei Tominaga, and Tomoya Ochiai are in the eight-team field as the basketball variation makes its Olympic debut. They’re long shots, but they split their first two games on the opening day of the tournament.
Brown’s birth mom passed away eight years ago from cancer. His birth father, though, has gotten clean.
“He's actually doing really well for himself, so I’m very happy about that,” Brown said.
A few years ago he reconnected with his whole biological family. Now he goes back to Corsicana every summer. They have a weekly bible study together. And even though his games are in the middle of their night, everyone back home — or the place where he was born, anyway — has been watching and sending messages of encouragement.
Asked what he hopes his family thinks when they see him compete on the international stage, Brown says he doesn’t have to hope anything.
“I know what they're thinking,” he said. “They're very, very proud of me.”
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