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John Brown series took months of detective work

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Posted at 8:15 AM, Oct 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-05 08:15:32-04

For months, sports columnist Ryan Ernst has researched John Brown.

Brown was an amazingly talented local basketball player whose off-the-court troubles kept him from becoming a star.

Ryan first mentioned Brown to me one night shortly after I had returned to Ohio. I was asking him if he would be interested in some freelance sports reporting with us. He said he was and started to talk about some of the stories he never had a chance to tell as a sports writer.

He mentioned Brown.

At that time, he didn't know if Brown's stories were truth or myth. Just that one way or another there was a great story in there somewhere.

I told him to go for it.

So he began to tap into his network of contacts from his days as a full-time sports reporter.

At one point, he messaged me and said he thought the story wasn't happening. He could find little information about Brown. He was hitting dead ends. 

But then he connected with Ozie Davis, who had coached Brown, and the reporting dominoes began to fall. He connected with coaches, teammates and Brown's mother and brother.

The resulting three-part oral history is one you have to read. It chronicles Brown's immense talent — he really did once go head-to-head against LeBron James — and sad squandering of that talent.

These are the types of stories we at WCPO Insider want to bring you. The stories that take you behind-the-scenes and tell you about people, places and events that others won't learn about.

Over the next three days, you will learn about John Brown — his skill, the opportunities, the battle with LeBron and the lure of the streets.

Mike Canan  is editor of WCPO.com. Contact him at mike.canan@wcpo.com. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram at @Mike_Canan.