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Super mom fusses over all of her kids in the NBA

Charlotte Brandon herded players' moms into an organization.

Stern, speaking on his car phone after a long day at the office, chuckles when asked to describe Charlotte Brandon.

'In one word Ñ and I can just hear Charlotte laughing at this Ñ I would say colorful,' the NBA commissioner says, talking about the mother of Minnesota guard Terrell Brandon. 'Charlotte is very colorful, her style is motivational, she is inspirational É and she is one determined woman.'

Terrell Brandon has been one of the league's top point guards during his 12-year career, and his mother is just as well-known at the league office. Eight years ago, Charlotte Brandon founded the Mothers of Professional Basketball Players. She remains as its only president. From 1995, when there were 23 founding members, to today, with membership of more than 100, she has been the driving force behind the organization.

Membership 'should be 200, but it's not for everybody,' says Charlotte, 58, relaxing at her northeast Portland home, less than two miles from the Rose Garden.

It's a home decorated with knickknacks and assorted family items in a 95-year-old house that has been in the Brandon family for more than 50 years.

The house has been refurbished for Charlotte and her husband of 36 years, Charles, the assistant pastor at the Walker Temple Church of God in Christ. Charlotte remembers visiting her grandparents there as a young girl and caring for her grandmother, Myra Moody Clease, for 15 years until her grandmother's death in 1984.

Since then, the house has been Charlotte's. Since 1995, it has been the home base for the Mothers of Professional Basketball Players.

The Brandons were attending the All-Star Game in 1995 when the seed was planted. Charlotte was struck by the lack of organization in helping the players' families deal with the weekend festivities. Annie Payton, mother of Gary Payton, took her to the annual All-Star breakfast for families. Stern's wife was the host. At the breakfast, Charlotte cornered Stern and told him she wanted to start a mothers' association.

Stern offers help

'That would be wonderful,' Stern told her. 'I'll do whatever I can to help you.'

Charlotte held an informational meeting of the mothers in San Antonio, then flew to New York to meet with NBA mothers in that area and talk to league officials. Soon she had major supporters in Payton, Lucille Harrison (Shaquille O'Neal's mother) and Janet Hill (Grant's mother), a board of directors, regional representatives and a mission statement. To wit:

•ÊTo sustain positive and strong relationships between mothers and our professional player sons, in order to promote and strengthen positive relationships among the players themselves

• To help mothers focus on our place in the life of our son so we may help him thrive in the pro sports environment

•ÊTo support each other spiritually and emotionally in order to create long-term friendships

•ÊTo welcome and orient new mothers and families to the NBA environment

•ÊTo assist our son maintain a high level of morale and sportsmanship, and to help create fellowship among players

• To help support the communities from which our sons come and in which they play through charitable works and contributions

Stern says the organization has grown into an important role in the NBA.

Support group has big role

'In addition to their charitable activities, they work hard to provide a support structure for their sons, and they work as an important introductory support group for new parents who don't know quite what to expect as their sons enter the NBA,' the commissioner says.

'Charlotte has been an extraordinary leader, and an inspirational force for the organization and the NBA,' he says. 'There's no member of our NBA family that has contributed any more than the moms' association, and, in particular, Charlotte. She and her husband have a remarkable set of values, and she understands the much broader picture of life, not just the basketball part.'

Twice a year, the organization holds meetings. In March, 45 to 50 mothers will convene in Mobile, Ala. In the summer, they will get together in Hawaii. They listen to a guest speaker (Stern, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Alex English and players union chief Billy Hunter have been invited in the past), decide on the recipients of their charitable contributions, discuss educational items and pursue other agenda organized by Brandon.

Last year, she brought in a clinical psychologist to speak. For this summer's meeting, she's lined up an orthopedic expert to discuss the nature of injuries.

Each year, she flies to the NBA draft, where she's put in contact with mothers of the young men being drafted. She has attended the rookie orientation sessions to answer questions and meet with the new NBA players, and she helped get an NFL Mothers Association get off the ground.

Almost daily, she fields calls about the organization's business. 'It usually makes for more than an eight-hour day,' she says. Sometimes, she sneaks down to the Rose Garden to give a player a hug, 'or to slip them some greens and cornbread,' she says, giggling.

It's a labor of love, and Charlotte says she's most proud of the 'divine sisterhood, the friendships that have grown from this. It has been very rewarding, but it has been hard.'

But people have noticed. Earlier this month, she was honored with a merit award at the annual Oregon Sports Awards. Organizers surprised her, telling her to be there to accept an award for her son.

Caught by surprise

'I am rarely at a loss for words, but they got me,' she says. 'I was all choked up. I feel wonderful about it. I'm a humble woman. I don't like to take things I don't feel I am worthy of. That award is not only for me but also for the mothers and others who have helped make our organization.'

That Charlotte is alive today to do her deeds is a story in itself. In 1993, she spent a month in the hospital after being diagnosed with colon and liver cancer. After surgery but no chemotherapy or radiation, she recovered and has had no health problems since.

'They didn't think I was going to live,' she says. 'I believe my strong faith in God healed me.'

An evangelist for her church, she makes occasional motivational speeches, including an engagement this winter in Lansing, Mich., at a symposium organized by Magic Johnson. She wants to write a book. And she's not sure how much longer she will remain as the organization's president.

'I have other things, some other goals I want to achieve,' she says. 'I don't know if I want to do this full time too much longer, unless David has a job for me in the NBA office.'

Stern considers the latter and chuckles again.

'I better reserve comment on that,' he says, 'knowing that it may be that Charlotte will one day replace me.'