Brown, who was a key contributor throughout the Celtics’ deep playoff run, averaging 21.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals in 17 games, revealed to daytime TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres that he considered staying home upon learning about his grandfather’s cancer diagnosis. Willie Brown, Jaylen’s grandfather, turned into Brown’s personal trainer throughout the COVID-19 shutdown.
The two would spend days working out together, the devastating news came just before the NBA made its initial announcement about a potential restart.
“He’s my superhero,” Brown told DeGeneres. “He’s been to the Vietnam War, he’s been shot in the head twice, he’s had a heart attack, cancer, COVID, all at the same time, and has beat it all.”
The weight of it all wore on Willie, who refused to start his first round of chemotherapy. However, Jaylen, who was reluctant to the idea of heading to Orlando to play basketball in the midst of what was going on, decided to make a fair offer to his grandfather.
“He just said he was done,” Brown explained. “He said he was tired, and how I convinced him was like ‘I’m a go down there (Orlando) and play but you got to play, too’ and he liked the sound of that and he signed up.”
Grandfather Willie’s Impressive Boxing Background
Fortunately, Jaylen confirmed Willie is doing well. The two kept in constant contact throughout Brown’s stay in Orlando, which turned out to be nearly three months.
But weeks before Jaylen entered the bubble, he was already singing his grandfather’s praises for Willie’s unique accomplishments and incredible feats, including an amateur boxing pedigree that took him toe-to-toe against some of the sport’s most iconic figures.
“I always knew where the gym was,” Willie told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. “At that time, it didn’t take that much to find out who is who, so I kept running from city to city. Once in the ‘70s I sparred with Joe Frazier in Philadelphia, and he hit me with a left hook down below, and it kept me on the floor of my hotel room for three days.”
Brown’s reputation as a worthy training opponent for elite boxers developed over time. Willie sparred against Fraiser, Muhammad Ali, and Sonny Liston, among others.
Jaylen Brown: A Third-Generation Athlete
Willie’s son, Marselles Brown, was a professional heavyweight boxer. At 7-feet, Brown holds a career record of 31-18-1 with 23 knockouts.
At 48-years-old, he made a comeback in 2016 and competed in three more bouts. It was a move he said, at the time, was attributed to set an example of how to keep a dream alive.
“My main motivation for coming out of retirement was to show my kids that I never gave up on my dreams,” Brown said. “So I didn’t want them to give up on theirs. I am extremely proud of both my sons. I am especially proud of Jaylen. He is an extraordinary athlete and very smart.”