SUPER MAN
CBS Watch! Magazine|January/February 2021
James Brown on what matters most: faith, family, football, and following your heart
Chris Raymond

CERTAIN THINGS LEAVE A LASTING MARK ON YOUR SOUL.

In the early 1960s, back when he was just a boy, all of 9 or 10 years old, James Brown discovered a book in the grade-school library about how to become a doctor when you grow up. As he flipped through the pages, his teacher walked by, saw him reading it, and stopped in her tracks.

“You may want to consider another profession,” she said. “Because kids like you don’t do well in math and the sciences.” He was crushed, so rattled by the insult he never could bring himself to discuss what had happened with his mother and his father.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me? That’s a lie,” he says. “Words are powerful. Kids think they can do anything, and that needs to be fed, fueled, steered in the right direction.”

From his early days as a basketball star to his record-breaking run as 10-time host of the Super Bowl pregame show, Brown has found that kind of inspiration and direction from legendary sports giants such as Wes Unseld, Red Auerbach, and Tony Dungy.

But sports has not been the biggest influence on his life. It doesn’t even rank in the top three, says Brown, affectionately known to NFL fans as JB. He points instead to the teachings of his high school basketball coach, the man who echoed the lessons he’d learned from his parents: the importance of education, family, and faith.

Over the course of 46 years, Morgan Wootten would log 1,274 victories and five national titles at all-boys DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, earning a plaque in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. For Brown, though, it was the principles Wootten championed off the court that helped guide him through the most challenging moments in his life.

JB was born and raised in Washington, D.C. His father was a security guard in a local prison. To provide for his five children, he also drove a taxicab, served in the Army Reserve, and took on odd jobs each holiday season. His mom ran the household, working tirelessly to raise her offspring. She was a five-foot-five taskmaster, JB says, playfully calling her “the sergeant.”

The family had a deep-rooted respect for sports stars. JB’s maternal grandfather owned a baseball team in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It wasn’t a Negro League team, but it brought big names like Hank Aaron, Cool Papa Bell, Mudcat Grant, and Satchel Paige into the fold.

But Mary Ann and John Brown were determined not to let athletics lure their children away from real success. “They had PhDs in drive and determination,” JB says, “a desire to see all five kids do well in the game of life.”

And that meant JB and his siblings had to be home at the kitchen table, doing their homework, when the streetlights came on. They had to help around the house, washing dishes, ironing clothes, and waxing the floors. And they had to assist neighbors in mowing the lawn and carting groceries from the car.

God forbid you misbehaved when you were outside playing. Not only did a nearby adult set you straight, but a phone call to Mary Ann usually ensued, ensuring that you got “another dose of discipline” the moment you got home.

JB’s sister had her own bedroom. He and his three brothers piled into the two bunk beds in another. It was a modest upbringing—one pair of dress shoes and a few nice shirts. But Mary Ann Brown inspired her children to think big. “She instilled in all of us the idea that there is a spirit of excellence in our family,” says JB.

MORGAN WOOTTEN SHARED THE BROWN FAMILY’S values. He also had a knack for cultivating excellence. It’s almost like fate brought him to JB. The would-be prospect was playing in a youth baseball game, doggedly pursuing his first love, when Wootten turned up to scout another boy. Impressed with the lanky outfielder’s spirit, the coach invited him to a summer basketball camp, where JB found himself soaking up every word on the finer points of passing and shooting. “I never picked up a baseball bat after that,” he says. “It was all basketball.”

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM CBS WATCH! MAGAZINEView All

Yasmine Al-Bustami's Dallas

Welcome to the Lone Star State and bring your appetite. The NCIS: Hawai’i actress shows us around her hometown.

4 mins read
CBS Watch! Magazine
September/October 2021

What Happens In Vegas

Mandeep Dhillon, Jorja Fox, and Paula Newsome are solving crimes, changing the game, and kicking ass in CSI: Vegas.

10+ mins read
CBS Watch! Magazine
September/October 2021

Survivor – Carrying The Torch

After a 16-month COVID-induced hiatus, the groundbreaking reality series Survivor is finally ready to don its buffs again. For its 41st season, 18 brand-new contestants will be marooned on the island of Fiji and will attempt to outwit, outlast, and outplay each other forthe $1 million prize and, if they strategize correctly, the chance to etch their names in Survivor lore. But first: Let’s hear from host Jeff Probst, meet the new cast, and get up to speed with a highlight reel of memorable players, twists, romances, and more. In the words of Probst, come on in, guys!

8 mins read
CBS Watch! Magazine
September/October 2021

Full Speed Ahead

When he’s not catching bad guys on Magnum P.I., actor Tim Kang enjoys his life in the fast lane.

2 mins read
CBS Watch! Magazine
September/October 2021

The Boo Crew

This Ghosts story tells how the new CBS comedy came together brilliantly in spite of the ghastly pandemic.

10+ mins read
CBS Watch! Magazine
September/October 2021

24 Hours With... Debra Martin Chase

The first Black woman to produce a $100 million blockbuster (1996’s Courage Under Fire) and land an overall deal at a major studio (she currently has a deal with Universal Television), executive producer Debra Martin Chase is the powerhouse behind the Queen Latifah drama The Equalizer. Here’s a look inside the world of a Hollywood trailblazer.

3 mins read
CBS Watch! Magazine
September/October 2021

Day Dreamer

Emmy-winning The Young and the Restless costume designer David Zyla spills his wardrobe secrets.

3 mins read
CBS Watch! Magazine
September/October 2021

That's Entertainment

Happy 40th anniversary, Entertainment Tonight! The history-making news magazine didn’t just talk about the stars … they were right there with them.

8 mins read
CBS Watch! Magazine
September/October 2021

Nate Expectations

As a former football star, an analyst on The NFL Today, and a new co-host of CBS’s morning show, Emmy Award–winning Nate Burleson shows his versatility every time he’s on camera. And he’s just getting started.

10+ mins read
CBS Watch! Magazine
September/October 2021

Street Smarts

Weights, a skateboard, and protein-packed meals keep S.W.A.T.’s Alex Russell feeling fine.

2 mins read
CBS Watch! Magazine
September/October 2021
RELATED STORIES

BACK ON BOARD

Ry Cooder reunites with Taj Mahal for an album that returns to both men’s roots: Get On Board: The Songs of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

8 mins read
Guitar Player
June 2022

Brownie Lasagna!

WITH EIGHT LAYERS OF BROWNIE, CREAM CHEESE, AND GANACHE, THIS DESSERT IS PURE DECADENCE.

1 min read
Delish
Issue 5, 2022

It's time to LOVE… LOSING

Yep, seriously. Why winning isn’t everything—and how losing could be just what you need to succeed.

3 mins read
Girls' Life magazine
April/May 2022

Spread-eagled

Brown Snake Eagle’s epic tussle

4 mins read
African Birdlife
March/April 2022

HEARTBROKEN KHLOE WASTING AWAY!

FRIENDS WORRY AS THE REALITY STAR SKIPS MEALS AND SHEDS POUNDS.

1 min read
Star
February 07, 2022

What Progressives Get Wrong About Judicial Review

IN FEBRUARY 1958, a distinguished liberal jurist named Learned Hand told a distinguished liberal audience some-thing that it did not want to hear. The U.S. Supreme Court’s celebrated power of judicial review, Hand declared in a lecture at Harvard Law School, was fundamentally illegitimate.

10 mins read
Reason magazine
February 2022

B'BALL WIFE'S OFFER: GO FIND ANOTHER BABY MAMA!

Reggie Youngblood and Tami Roman tied the knot in 2018

1 min read
National Enquirer
December 13, 2021

Machines Don't Blink

The Perils of Military Brinkmanship in the Age of AI

9 mins read
Newsweek
November 12, 2021

AT LONG LAST, BALLMER, CLIPPERS BREAK GROUND ON NEW HOME

The design meetings have been going on for years.

4 mins read
Techlife News
September 25, 2021

Revival of the Fittest

ORIGIN EFFECTS RD COMPACT HOT ROD

4 mins read
Guitar World
October 2021