Lorenzen Wright never forgot promise to friends, family
If my math is right, Vince Chase, Turtle and E were likely still in Queens. And Johnny Drama was on
It was 2002 and I attempted to put together a piece for
In the course of the reporting, I heard one story again and again:
Like a lot of rumors floating around the sportscape, it contained vestiges of truth, but ultimately it was a lot more complicated. Wright not only kept a sizable entourage, but it also even had a name, "the Wright Stuff." And, yes,
Along with Raw Dawg, there was "A-One," "E Man" and two security staffers,
But then Wright explained the situation to me. In the early '90s he was the star forward on a Memphis high school team. Raw Dawg was the point guard. They drove around their corpse of a neighborhood in Wright's beat-up car and if they had a few bucks they went to Taco Bell. But they dreamed big. Raw Dawg explained that one night, over a 10-pack of tacos, he and "Ren" made a deal. "If one of us blew up, he'd take care of the other," Raw Dawg recalled. "Of course, to us at the time that meant buying nice shoes."
Raw Dawg stopped growing at 5-foot-9 and went to tiny Tougaloo (Miss.) College. He was supposed to play ball there, but it didn't work out, and he eventually left school. Wright, meanwhile, became a star at Memphis State. In 1996, the Los Angeles Clippers made him a lottery pick. And he remembered the pledge he made Raw Dawg.
It wasn't a debt he was paying, a bet he had lost or blind loyalty. "I wanted him to share in some of my success," Wright said. "Why wouldn't you want your friends with you in the good times?"
For his part, Raw Dawg took his duties seriously. He learned to cook and became Wright's personal chef of sorts. He read up on fitness and physiology and became a personal trainer for Wright. And, yes, there were the wake-up calls, too. "My day is pretty much up to Ren," Raw Dawg said. "The biggest thing is that I be on time."
And the other Wright Stuff members had similar stories. One was a cousin of Wright's who was going through some hard times. "He could use some help," shrugged Wright, then in the middle of a $42 million contract. Another was a longtime friend who had hoped to major in business in college but had dropped out when the bills piled up. Wright wanted to help him, too.
Apart from the odd jobs and the errands, the Wright Stuff served another purpose. Lorenzen Wright's father,
So Wright was using his success to help out family members and prop up the careers of quasi-siblings down on their luck. He was happy to let fortunate friends share some scraps of his success. He let a boyhood friend serve as a business manager. Funny, no one wanted to make a half-hour HBO series about this arrangement.
On Wednesday, the Memphis
For whatever sordid details might or might not emerge in the coming days, it bears remembering that this was a guy saddled with pressures beyond basketball who went to great lengths looking after his family and friends.