Jim O'Donnell: Doc Rivers, Fred Hampton and two very different lives 'Made in Maywood'

  • Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers directs his players during Thursday's game in Portland.

    Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers directs his players during Thursday's game in Portland. Associated Press

  • Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panthers party, speaks at a rally Oct. 29, 1969, outside the U.S. Courthouse in Chicago while Dr. Benjamin Spock, background, listens. "Judas and the Black Messiah," a movie about Hampton, is being released by Warner Bros. this weekend.

    Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panthers party, speaks at a rally Oct. 29, 1969, outside the U.S. Courthouse in Chicago while Dr. Benjamin Spock, background, listens. "Judas and the Black Messiah," a movie about Hampton, is being released by Warner Bros. this weekend. Associated Press

 
Updated 2/12/2021 6:22 PM

THERE IS A COMPELLING CROSS of multimedia convergence going on this weekend.

At nba.com -- as part of the league's "Black History Month Inspirations" -- Doc Rivers is featured in a well-done package by Brian Seltzer titled, "Made in Maywood."

 

And at select cinemas and on HBO Max, Warner Bros. is releasing "Judas and the Black Messiah."

It's all about the government-sponsored assassination of 21-year-old Black Panthers leader Fred Hampton on the West Side of Chicago in December 1969.

Hampton, like Rivers, grew up in West suburban Maywood.

Both attended Proviso East.

Although Hampton was 12 years older, he -- like Rivers -- was a star athlete at the high school.

When he graduated in 1966, one of Hampton's professed goals was to play center field for the New York Yankees.

Although none of this is touched upon in the film, along the way, one of Hampton's community mentors was Grady Rivers Sr., Doc's father and a rising Black officer in the Maywood Police Department.

"My father knew the Hamptons," Grady Rivers Jr. said in a past conversation.

"My father knew everybody in Maywood. He also owned a record shop that we all hung out at or worked at to listen to new music and meet girls.

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"He also worried about Fred."

In high school, Hampton was a very good student who played football, basketball and baseball.

Shelving plans for a career in law, he went from Junior Achievement to the Maywood chapter of the NAACP to rapidly rising star with the Black Panthers.

By age 20, he was charismatically preaching a class revolution heavily spiced with core tenets running the spectrum from Malcolm X to Mao.

Hampton also worked to establish a free medical clinic in Chicago's poorer quarters and organized a free breakfast program for underprivileged schoolchildren.

In tandem with the armed national militancy of the Panthers, all of that put him squarely in the sights of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and his lethal COINTELPRO.

That's essentially where the movie picks up.

In real life, basketball served as a great community salve in Maywood, crescendoing when Jim Brewer -- an uncle to the Rivers brothers -- led Proviso East to a single-class Illinois High School Association championship in 1969.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

All of the 14 police raiders who stormed Hampton's modest apartment in the predawn and fired 92 shots -- to one by the seven people caught inside -- are fictionalized in "Judas and the Black Messiah."

A side curiosity is that two of them -- Chicago Police Sgt. Dan Groth and Black officer George W. Jones -- later wound up with prominent positions in Chicago horse racing.

Groth, the commander of the raiding unit, was general manager of South suburban Balmoral Park in the 1980s and eventually director of security at Hawthorne.

Jones became the first Black overseer of any track in America in 1979 when the late Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. made him executive VP/operations of both Balmoral and Thistledown in Cleveland.

As for Doc Rivers, he has successfully kept pushing on to become one of the NBA's premier head coaches of the 21st century.

"Made in Maywood" and "Judas and the Black Messiah" are ultimately tales of two roads so very differently taken.

With one all about forever touching stars and the other about what could have been.

STREET-BEATIN': Lingering bad vibrations from Super Bowl 55 continue: Parsed Nielsen TV numbers showed that the game's viewership among adults ages 18 to 49 dipped for the ninth consecutive year. (Isn't "The Gray Cup" supposed to be in Canada?) ...

As if he wasn't dealing with enough, Andy Reid finally addressed the swarm of yellow rags that smothered his Chiefs: "Obviously it's a shame that we had that many (penalties) in that big of a game that possibly were that close of a judgment call." (Nicely dodged.) ...

News of the Cubs extending their stay on WSCR-AM (670) caught no one off guard. Without Theo Epstein, the team is perceived as being in an accelerating state of diminishment; the station has nowhere near the leadership or the sales force that it did back in magical 2016. ...

Max Strus continues to circle the rotation of Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat. The resilient DePaul gunner had a career high 21 vs. Houston Thursday night. (And the Heat covered.) ...

The PGA is redefining dreary at Pebble Beach this weekend. (Not that the Pro-Am presences of Jerry Yang, Macklemore and Charles Schwab would have made any difference.) ...

And CBS lead producer Jim Rikhoff -- with a tepid sayonara to SB 55 -- told media: "I think we had an A-minus telecast from a C-minus game."

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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