Brown finds new avenues to engage in community
On a typical day, Ardmore resident Lionel Brown is just an average dude.
Married with four kids, Brown can often be seen taking his kids to different sporting practices, just before heading to work at Winstar Casino in Thackerville.
For any fan of the Ardmore Tigers basketball program, seeing the name Lionel Brown may be bring back memories.
In the early 2000s, Brown was a mainstay during one of the top periods in the Tigers’ program history. As a junior and senior, Brown helped lead the Tigers to back-to-back state tournament final appearances.
As a boy, Brown had two major influences in his life — his grandma and his uncle. Brown was estranged from his mother, while his father lived in Tacoma, Wash. Brown lived with his grandmother in Ardmore, and credits his uncle for helping him grow as a basketball player by inviting him to play as a young kid against adults.
Brown used basketball as a way to stay out of trouble, and to escape from the everyday struggles of life.
“I don’t know if I loved basketball as much as I thought I did, as much as I just needed to get away from certain things,” Brown said. “I wanted to get away from those things, there was a lot of trouble to get into. I think basketball and track and field played a major role in my life.”
Growing up in Ardmore, Brown had several parks he would frequent to hone his skills on the court. One of his favorites, then and now, is Fraley Park.
Brown’s basketball career hit a road bump early on when he tried out for the eighth grade Tigers basketball team.
“I ended up making the ‘B’ team, which the whole time I thought I was an ‘A’ team caliber player,” Brown said. “They threw me on ‘B’ team and told me, ‘You are not going to play this type of way, you are going to have to buy in,’ but I continued to play the type of way I wanted to play.”
Brown grew up without a favorite NBA team to root for, so he modeled his game after Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers, who had a similar build to Brown.
Using his experience and the motivation of not being on the ‘A’ team in eighth grade, Brown worked to improve heading into high school. After months of practice, he made the Tigers varsity team his freshman year, a team that would go on to the state quarterfinals.
Hoping to build on his successful freshman campaign, Brown looked forward to the summer going into his sophomore season. Unfortunately, as a 15-year-old he was stabbed and his grandma sent him to live with his dad.
When he arrived in Tacoma it was too late to sign up for sports. But nothing could keep Brown from the basketball court.
He made a name for himself on the local courts in Tacoma, earning the nickname ‘Oklahoma.’ Though he was too late to sign up for the season, once word spread about the new kid the coaches made an exception.
Attending Lincoln High School, Brown was part of a state championship team his sophomore year.
After struggling with his home life, Brown found himself homeless on the streets of Tacoma. Upon hearing the news, his grandmother moved Brown back to Ardmore just before the end of his sophomore year.
Around this time, Brown and a group of his friends created a rap group called ‘Going Fed’ with their influences coming from the Texas rap scene. One of Brown’s early passions in life was music, which he tried to use to help spread a positive message throughout the community.
Rapping became an afterthought during his junior and senior seasons with the Tigers, as he and lifelong friends tried to bring a title home.
During his junior season the No. 2 Tigers were 26-1 heading into the state championship game before losing to No.1 Tulsa Washington, a game which ended early for Brown due to foul trouble.
“I felt like I let the team down,” Brown said. “ I know if I don’t foul out maybe we win, I can’t say we would win but we would have a better shot at winning.”
A series of events led Brown to miss the first five games of his senior season, and coupled with an injured Dewond Swindell, the Tigers struggled to an 0-5 start. When Brown returned to the team, the Tigers went on a tear, and made it back to the state championship game.
After beating John Marshall in the area tournament, the Tigers would lose to them by four in the state championship game, Brown’s final game as a Tiger. His number 11 jersey was retired by AHS.
Following his graduation from high school, Brown went to Eastern Oklahoma State where he excelled for two seasons.
After talking to the coach at the University of North Texas, Brown transferred and led the team in assists in his only season with the school.
Being a father and a husband away at school took a toll on Brown.
“I couldn’t give 100 percent towards basketball,” Brown said. “After practice they would go put up extra shots, but after practice for me I had to go home and take care of the kids.”
The constant wear and tear of basketball and parenting eventually got to Brown, forcing him to make a decision about his future.
“We were playing in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and we were playing in the Sun Belt conference tournament and I am there eating steak and I get to the hotel room to call my wife,” Brown said. “I asked her, ‘what did y’all eat today,’ and she tells me the kids didn’t have milk, and I am trying to get some money together for some milk and diapers. For me, I am realizing I’m in this hotel room and I am living it up and my [wife] is at home with the kids and they are struggling. It didn’t sit well with me.”
Brown left UNT following his junior season to move back to Ardmore to live with his family.
Never giving up on his dreams, Brown continued to practice his craft at the local parks.
After a short break, he returned to school to play at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas, taking his family with him.
Arguably his best season as a player, Brown was recognized for his efforts his senior year, winning 1st Team All-Conference, 1st Team All-District and 2nd Team All-Region. Brown was also named runner-up for Player of the Year in the Lone Star Conference and was named Newcomer of the Year.
Once Brown discovered semi-pro tournaments could help him provide for his family, and after he got the blessing from his wife, he continued to play.
Brown has played in tournaments throughout the country, until February when he had hip replacement surgery. Brown said he would be taking a break from the courts, which will give him time to focus on another passion — music.
Fans of the Ardmore rap scene may not recognize the name Lionel Brown, as he uses the moniker “Southside Louie” for his music work. Louie was a nickname given to him by his uncle because of the way he would dance to the song “Louie Louie” by the Kingsman.
His group, ‘Going Fed’, made their first mix tape in Oklahoma City after asking everyone on the bus with them if they could borrow some money.
“We came up with about 60 bucks, and it cost about 20 dollars a song,” Brown said. “We got on there and started free styling. It was about having fun with music.”
Brown has come a long way from asking for money to make songs, as he now has thousands of views on his Facebook and Youtube videos. Opening for acts like Mike Jones, Brown is considered by some as a Godfather for the Ardmore rap scene, influencing rappers from across southern Oklahoma.
Brown is now looking for other ways to give back to the community he loves.
This summer, Brown plans to build the 400 Percent Academy in Ardmore. The academy is a place where Brown hopes kids will have access to pursue their dreams and display their talents.
“We are going to do a lot of clinics, skill trainings, camps and play tournaments,” Brown said. “It is a place for kids to come, like a safe haven after school.”
Brown is a father of four, with his sons following in his footsteps playing basketball at Ardmore. Living in Ardmore for most of his life, Brown could have left whenever he wanted, but instead decided to stay to help his community through music and community outreach.
“I just feel like I am Ardmore,” Brown said. “My family is here, I was raised here and some of my biggest influencers are here, like those early 90s Ardmore basketball teams. Watching those guys run out, I am sitting in the stands wanting to represent Ardmore. For me that is something I have always wanted to do, represent it as a whole, this community is what made me who I am. I have always wanted to put this city on the map. People always say ‘Hey, where are you from? Oklahoma City or Tulsa?’ No, I am from Ardmore.”