Jon Barry was standing on the floor at the Forum, warming up with the Golden State Warriors, when Cedric Ceballos sidled up to him with a question.
"How many of you are there, anyway?" Ceballos asked Barry.
"How many?" Jon responded, slightly confused.
"You know, Barry brothers."
"Oh, four." "Just four?"
They always knew they had the genes. How could they not? The Barry boys heard it every day of their lives: in school, on the basketball court -- just walking down the street, for goodness' sake. Jon, second-oldest of four sons, still can remember the whispers. "He's Rick Barry's kid. You know. The Hall of Famer. That's his son."
And so all four sons of Rick Barry -- Hall of Fame player for the Golden State Warriors, NBA championship MVP, free throw shooting legend -- simply expected to be great basketball players, basically from birth. Scooter was the firstborn, and he took to the game like a natural, just as one would think. Jon was barely better than four feet tall when he started the little-boy boast that he would be better than his father. And Brent, the next-oldest, would respond to Jon's bragging by challenging him to a driveway game of one-on-one.
As for little Drew, he was all of 2 years old when Rick led the Warriors to the NBA title in 1975, and a mere 6 when his father left his mother -- and the four boys -- in fall 1979. He can't remember the way his father played, can't remember ever getting a father-son basketball lesson. It didn't matter. He, too, knew he had the genes.
So when Drew is asked to describe what it's like to grow up as one of the four basketball-playing boys born to Rick Barry, it should come as no surprise that he starts where it all really started: with the bloodlines.
"I guess they say we all have a little bit of his game in us somewhere," said Drew, 23 and a starter for Georgia Tech. "We all have different strengths . . . we all do different things well . . . I mean, you know, we've got the genes."
Brent -- a 24-year-old rookie with the Los Angeles Clippers -- describes it a little differently:
"The bottom line is, it's not as tough as everyone makes it out to be growing up in our family. It's actually kind of fun to grow up knowing you're going to be good at something that your father -- and for me, your brothers -- played before you. It's kind of like a legacy." Ever-Growing Legacy
The Barry legacy may have started with Rick, one of the best to play the game, but it is now knee-deep in its second chapter as Brent -- and for that matter, Drew -- proved quite dramatically last weekend. Only the third white player to be invited to participate in the NBA slam dunk contest in its 11-year history, Brent electrified the All-Star Weekend crowd in San Antonio with a soaring slam that featured the foul-line takeoff pioneered and perfected by none other than Dr. J and Michael Jordan.
On that same day, more than 1,500 miles away in Chapel Hill, N.C., Drew had a career afternoon for the Yellow Jackets. A senior guard, Drew led Georgia Tech to an upset victory over North Carolina, registering 30 points (including a school record nine three-pointers) and assisted on the game-winning basket in overtime.
When Drew enrolled at Georgia Tech five years ago -- where Jon's picture still graces the walls in the athletic department -- he became the fourth and final son of Rick Barry and the former Pam Hale (daughter of Bruce Hale, the legendary National Basketball League player and Rick's coach at the University of Miami) to attend a Division I school on a basketball scholarship. Scooter (who plays professionally in Germany) went first, to Kansas, where he found himself in the national spotlight when the Jayhawks won the NCAA championship in 1988. Jon was a junior college transfer at Georgia Tech, and Brent graduated from Oregon State.
And this June, when the NBA holds its annual draft, Drew hopes to become the third Barry brother to be taken in the first round, following Jon (drafted by Boston in 1992, now 25 and playing for the Warriors) and Brent (who was taken 15th overall by the Clippers last year).
After years of being referred to first as "Rick's son" and then, at Georgia Tech, as "Jon's little brother," this is one time he wouldn't mind if people made the connection.
"If I get taken in the first round, I won't care what they say," Drew said. "I'll talk about being Rick's son all they want." Family Feud
Rick Barry has DirecTV at his home in Colorado Springs, which makes it easier for him to keep track of his children. He can't catch Scooter's games in Germany but he can get almost all of Jon's games with the Warriors, and a good number of Brent's Clippers games as well. Drew's Georgia Tech games are a little tougher to find.
"It's hard to be every place at the same time," Rick said.
Rick Barry has taken some harsh criticism for not being anywhere at anytime when it comes to his four sons. Rick left Pam -- who is remarried and goes by the name Pam Connolly -- in August 1979, and they were divorced the following year. Scooter was 14 at the time of the divorce, Jon 11, Brent 9 and Drew 7.
And, in a lot of ways, the Barry boys are not so different from many children of divorce: They have a fierce loyalty to the parent with whom they lived and by whom they were raised, and something of a resentment -- one that grows and fades, depending on the brother and the moment -- for the parent who wasn't around that much. Pam was there when the boys got up for breakfast every morning. Rick was in some basketball town -- playing, coaching, commentating, trying in whatever way possible to extend his career.
"It wouldn't have made any difference if I lived there or not," said Rick, who bristles at the suggestion that he is trying to make up for lost time. "I was working. I had to work for a living. I had to support them and take care of them. People say I wasn't there for them, and this is all so misconstrued. When I was playing ball, I got to spend a lot of time with them. How many kids get to go to work with their dad?"
To this day, Drew's strongest childhood memory of his father stems from a day when he served as a miniature ballboy for the Warriors; Brent still is awed by the thought of all the NBA players he met as a boy; Jon laughs when he recounts how he used to run among the seats of Oakland Coliseum -- where he now plays his home games -- back in those days.
And when they lost all of that -- when Rick left -- each of the Barry boys responded differently to their father's absence. Scooter decided to become the man of the house, and became something of a father figure to his younger brothers, particularly Brent and Drew. Jon, who at the time felt his father could do no wrong, went to live with Rick and his second wife for a while (Rick now has a fifth son, age 2), but returned to live with his mother and brothers, where he struggled terribly with his academics. Brent at first adopted both dad's basketball number (24) and his famous underhanded free throw shooting style but eventually abandoned both. And Drew would develop a close relationship with his stepfather, Bill Connolly, who married Pam in 1987.
"It's such a terrible subject for this family, and it's really been dragged out there a lot," Pam said. "Their father made a choice, and the result of the choice he made is now more apparent probably to the father, and to his kids. . . . I would hope that they would be able to have some type of relationship, and I think they will reconcile at some point. But I think it'll be on the boys' time."
All four brothers have been quoted harshly in regard to their father -- and his absenteeism -- in past interviews, and some particularly damning quotes were printed in a 1991 Sports Illustrated article that left the family reeling. But all four also insist, at this point, that they are reconciling with their father, at least in some small ways.
"I think it was the easiest for Scooter and I to eventually get to a point where things are better with our dad maybe because of the age -- Scooter being old enough to better understand what was going on and me being so young I didn't really know anything at all," Drew said. "I think it was harder on Brent and Jon."
Ask Pam Connolly, and she will say that the divorce hit Jon the hardest, and it would seem -- from his comments -- that his relationship with his father remains the most strained. When Rick attended a game at the Los Angeles Sports Arena that pitted Jon against Brent a few weeks ago -- the second NBA meeting between the brothers -- Jon sarcastically mentioned that he had not known his father would be attending until informed by Brent at lunch that day.
"It's tough to be a part of somebody's everyday life when you don't talk to them," said Jon, who said his conversations with his father are limited "basically to basketball talk."
Jon did leave the tickets for his father to attend the game that night, and Brent left tickets for Pam, who sat at the other end of the arena with her mother, Doris Hale, who painstakingly kept track of her grandsons' performances in a scorebook.
"I always told them when they were growing up that it didn't matter if they made it in basketball -- that it would be okay if they just got a degree and a regular job," Pam said. "But you watch them, and I'm so proud of what they're doing now." Competitive Crew
The Barry boys were ferociously competitive as children, and at times it could drive their mother crazy. They fought over checkers and Monopoly, backgammon and baseball. They fought over who got the shower first in the morning. They fought over who got the front seat on the way to the shoe store. They fought over food at the dinner table, and Brent still claims he's so skinny because he never won.
Most of all, though, the Barry boys fought over basketball. The two-on-two games were always the same: Scooter and Drew vs. Jon and Brent. To this day, no team ever has won. They fought far too much to keep score.
"It was ridiculous," said Jon, who admittedly is the most competitive of the foursome. "Everybody wanted to beat everybody else all the time. Back then, it caused a lot of friction, a lot of fighting."
They also used to fight all the time about who was the best player, but they seem to be in agreement now. Jon was the high school star, and has the best pure shot, but Brent has the most all-around skills and likely will have the strongest pro career. For that reason, Jon now refuses Brent's challenges to a one-on-one game, but the two still can't get together without talking basketball.
Of course, none of the boys ever could avoid that topic, as was evidenced by the lunch Jon and Brent sat down to together the day they were to play against each other in Los Angeles. What was their lunchtime conversation? "Well, the Warriors, how Brent's doing with the Clippers, the Magic Johnson thing.. . . " Jon needed to say no more.
Indeed, Betsy Reedy is perhaps the only person to get the Barry boys to stop talking about basketball, and she had to walk down the aisle to accomplish that. Reedy married Jon Sept. 2, and there was an unofficial moratorium on hoop talk at the wedding. As for the reception? No pick-up games allowed.
"He was the first of the Barry brothers to bite the bullet, so to speak," Brent said. "We figured we had to make it a special occasion."
That day drew all four Barry brothers together, but that doesn't happen often now, especially with Scooter in Europe much of the time. Still, they talk on the phone, with Brent and Jon paying special attention to Drew, who, as the fourth of Rick's sons, carries perhaps the biggest burden.
Although Brent said recently that he believed Drew had benefited from watching the successes -- and mistakes -- of both his father and his three older brothers, Jon seemed to disagree, a small furrow of worry creasing his forehead. Jon knows that, for Drew, it's not just about being "Rick Barry's son." He has had to be Jon Barry's little brother at Georgia Tech (where people on campus actually called him that -- "Jon's little brother" -- his first two seasons) and, when the NBA draft rolls around in June, he surely will hear a lot about being "Brent Barry's little brother" as well.
"I try to call him a lot and tell him not to worry about the NBA stuff, to just be himself," Jon said. "He may act nonchalant about it, but that's just an act. It's a difficult situation, and I worry about him."
Drew doesn't lie when asked, nearly a week later, about what Jon has said about him. All his life, he has had to follow in his brothers' basketball footsteps -- on the playground courts in Concord, Calif., at De La Salle high school, and now at Georgia Tech. And all his life, he has heard people talk in awed tones about his father, whose name always seemed to be preceded by the words "Hall of Famer." Those words never meant all that much to Drew until last summer, when, in a moment he recalls with incredible clarity, he came to understand exactly what it meant to be a Barry and play basketball. He was in Colorado, trying out for the U.S. national team, and he had been invited to stay at his father's house.
It was late one evening, quite late actually, and Rick had gone to sleep upstairs. Drew was restless. He wandered into the TV room and flipped channels, finding nothing. Then he picked through his father's videos, stopping when he found the tape of the Warriors in the 1975 NBA championship game.
Drew never had watched that series, at least not at an age when it left any kind of imprint upon him. So, he popped the tape into the recorder and spent half the night watching -- pausing, rewinding, rewinding again -- in something of a trance, his amazement increasing each time Rick flitted across the screen. "You hear it all your life about his being a Hall of Famer and you know he was a good basketball player and all, but I just didn't know," Drew said. "I saw the way he played, the things he did. . . . I got a whole new appreciation. . . . No wonder it's what they talk about all the time." CAPTION: Clockwise, from top right, Brent Barry of the Los Angeles Clippers, Drew of Georgia Tech, Jon of Golden State, Scooter, playing in Germany, and Hall of Fame dad, Rick. CAPTION: Brent Barry, 24, this year's NBA slam dunk champion, said "the bottom line is, it's not as tough as everyone makes it out to be growing up in our family." CAPTION: Warriors guard Jon Barry, middle, said the very competitive atmosphere at home, including brother and Clippers guard Brent, caused "a lot of friction."