Here’s the thing about being Dee Brown’s child: You just aren’t going to escape question after question about his iconic performance in the 1991 NBA slam dunk contest.
Brown, then a member of the Boston Celtics, bent over to pump up his shoes, got a running start, took off from just inside the foul line and, in midair, covered his eyes with his right arm before dunking with his left.
So in awe of the maneuver was Magic Johnson that the most accomplished point guard in NBA history was left to exclaim: “Everybody at home, don’t try that. Please don’t try that. That is unbelievable.”
Lexie Brown knows all about that seminal moment in NBA all-star weekend history, even though she was not born at the time her father, a late entry into the competition, beat Shawn Kemp in the finals. She has watched the sequence countless times and these days, as a basketball player herself, has come to appreciate it that much more.
Much to the relief of her father, though, Lexie doesn’t need to worry about being compared to the 19th overall pick in the 1990 NBA draft who played 12 seasons for three teams. She’s doing just fine on her own as the starting point guard for ninth-ranked Maryland — and as a freshman no less.
The Terrapins (19-4, 7-3 ACC) have won three in a row and will play four of their next five on the road starting Thursday night at Miami. Maryland is in fourth place in the conference with six games to go as it seeks a top-four seed in the ACC tournament.
The top four seeds receive double-byes into the quarterfinals and avoid potentially having to play five games in as many days.
“I think the best thing to happen with Lexie is that she’s a female,” said her father, now an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings. “She doesn’t have to play in my shadow. She’s not Dee Brown’s son. Dee Brown’s daughter is a different animal than Dee Brown’s son, and I think that will help her because there wasn’t any pressure on her to be as good as her dad or to jump as high as her dad.
“It’s everything opposite.”
What Lexie does share with her high-flying father is a 24/7 attachment to basketball, whether it’s playing, watching, learning or practicing the sport. On Saturday, in fact, Lexie was performing drills on the court at Comcast Center under the watchful eye of the family patriarch following the Maryland men’s game against Florida State.
Dee was able to work with his daughter for more than an hour because the Kings were in town to play the Washington Wizards the next night. Lexie went through a series of dribbling and shooting exercises, stopping every now and again to absorb pointers from her father.
It didn’t matter that Lexie had a game early the following afternoon and had practiced with her teammates that morning. The extra work was more important than rest.
“This is like the easy day,” said Lexie, who rose to starter four games into this season and has been thriving, particularly over the past four games.
Brown averaged 16.3 points and 4.5 assists during that span, including 31 points in 32 minutes in an 89-64 victory over Syracuse on Feb. 2 at the Carrier Dome, and went 14 for 21 (67 percent) on three-pointers. She also leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.1).
“She’s just playing with a lot of confidence,” said Maryland Coach Brenda Frese, who has started other freshman point guards over her 12 seasons in College Park, most notably 2009 ACC player of the year Kristi Toliver.
Brown’s ascension to starter on a team with Final Four aspirations belies her introduction to the sport as a pre-teen. Basketball, it turns out, became a last-ditch effort to get her involved in athletics after failed attempts at soccer, tennis and baseball.
“I went to the first day of [baseball] tryouts, got hit with the ball, and I was like, ‘Nope, I’m not doing it,’ ” said Lexie, who has three siblings.
It was several years later when Lexie began to comprehend her father’s impact on the game as a player, although she said one of her first memories in that regard was bringing Dee Brown’s basketball cards to elementary school and passing them out to classmates.
Dee also coached in the WNBA during the early formative years for Lexie. In 2002, he served as head coach of the Orlando Miracle, and two years later he held the same position with the San Antonio Silver Stars.
“The knowledge he has for the game is unreal,” she said.
Lexie benefitted from countless hours of teaching, and by the time she reached seventh grade, she was playing point guard with the junior varsity team of her local high school. The next season, she was directing the offense as a member of the varsity team despite being a year away from entering high school.
Lexie committed to Maryland as a high school sophomore and is part of a Terrapins freshman class that has the team in promising hands over the next three-plus years. Center Brionna Jones has started the last three games, and backup forward Shatori Walker-Kimbrough is Maryland’s second-leading scorer.
“She’s done a good job of separating herself and not just being Dee Brown’s daughter,” Dee said. “Now it’s Lexie Brown’s dad.”