Heartbreaking End to Once Hopeful Life

September 16, 2011  |  

(New York Times) — Lewis Brown, a high school and college basketball prodigy who spent the past 10 years living on a sidewalk in Hollywood, seemed on the verge of a second chance. He had scraped enough money together to get a California identification card so he could fly to visit a sister in New York who had thought him dead. Friends said that he would finally get off the street.  That was on Tuesday. But Wednesday, around 6 a.m., Mr. Brown, breathless and frantic, was pleading for someone to call an ambulance. By the time help arrived, Mr. Brown — 300 pounds, 6 feet 11 inches — was lying on the ground. A half-hour of efforts by four paramedics — as his neighborhood friends shouted: “Come on, Big Lew! You can make it” — could not save him.  For Mr. Brown — a star high school center who once seemed destined for a spot in the N.B.A. — all that was left on Thursday was a Staples shopping cart carrying a few of his possessions: a pair of sneakers, a blanket, a laminated copy of a New York Times article from this year that detailed his sad story of decline, bitterness, drug arrests and missed opportunities. The remainder of his belongings — a mattress, some tattered clothes — had been put into a Dumpster.

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