Jordan Bell, Through Challenging Path to Golden State, Has Always Had His ‘Brother’ in Shelly Brown
PIEDMONT, California -- Draymond Green seemed like a safe bet to be MVP of the Golden State Warriors’ NBA championship parade for a third time this past June.
In 2015, the Michigan State product was the star of the Warriors’ first NBA title celebration in 40 years, trash-talking everyone from LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to his own head coach, Steve Kerr, on the podium in Oakland. In 2017, Draymond returned with a t-shirt emblazoned with “Quickie”, with the "Q" written in the same font as the Cavs’ Quicken Loans Arena—a double dig at Cleveland over a 4-1 Finals flurry and at team owner Dan Gilbert, who founded Quicken Loans.
This year, though, Dray himself was upstaged—by a rookie named Jordan Bell.
While Golden State’s superstars enjoyed their latest triumph as if by rote, Jordan, who averaged 13.5 minutes per game during the Dubs’ four-game sweep of Cleveland in the 2018 Finals, lived it up like his first-ever playoff run would be his last. Jordan downed his bottle of Hennessy so fast, he leapt into the crowd—shirtless—in search of more swigs.
Jordan, though, was in good company while sipping cognac in the streets of Oakland. Joining him atop the Warriors’ double-decker bus was his closest friend, Sheldon (Shelly) Brown. The partners-in-crime had come a long way from their roots in Long Beach, with Shelly riding all of Jordan’s highs and lows since their freshman year of high school.
And as Jordan faces more challenges in Year 2—with the Warriors soon to welcome All-Star DeMarcus Cousins into the lineup at his position—Shelly will still be there, as much to help Jordan manage his day-to-day as to be more than a best friend.
“We’re just brothers,” Jordan recently tells CloseUp360 at his home in Piedmont, a short ride from Oracle Arena. “That’s what Shelly means to me.”
Shelly Brown (left) and Jordan Bell (center) celebrate the Warriors' 2018 NBA championship in Oakland. (Courtesy of Shelly Brown)
Jordan was always the little brother at home. He grew up as the youngest of five children to Carolyn Gray, a single mother. The sibling closest to him in age—his brother, Josh—became his biggest rival, even leaving little Jordan with a busted nose and a stitched-up forehead at one point.
“I'd always tell myself, ‘If I had a little brother, I would treat him like this, I would give him this, I would make sure he's okay, try to protect him,’” Jordan says.
It wasn’t until he got to Long Beach Polytechnic High School that Jordan found a little brother of his own.
At first, Shelly was just an aspiring linebacker on the Jackrabbits football team and the brother of Serenity Brown, one of Jordan’s friends. Jordan, meanwhile, played all over the field, with the physical tools of a budding star athlete.
“He didn't even like me,” Shelly says.
That is, until Jordan needed a ride to the Long Beach Poly football game and Shelly happened to have an extra seat.
“He used me for a ride,” Shelly quips.
It wasn’t long before that convenience converted to a true connection.
“His mom took us to get pizza, and we went to his house, chilled before the game,” Jordan says, “and he just became my brother after that.”
Jordan got kicked off the Jackrabbits’ football team as a freshman, after he stole a teammate’s wallet and jewelry in what he thought was retaliation for that teammate stealing from him.
As for Shelly, he didn’t have the passion for the game—and all of the physical pain that came with it—after ninth grade.
“It just wasn’t for me,” he says.
Still, Jordan and Shelly kept up the tradition. Every Friday, they would chow down on Little Caesars Pizza then go to the game with Serenity.
“Ever since then, we just never left each other's side,” Shelly says.
Jordan and Shelly jog at the 2017 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge 5K in San Francisco. (Courtesy of Shelly Brown)
The two would walk home together, talk to girls together, go to parties together, hoop together—regardless of what they were wearing.
“I'm trying to dunk from the free throw line with Vans on,” Jordan says.
Dollar fries at Pee & Gee Fish? Haircuts at Russell’s Barber Shop? Gallons of Tampico juice and packs of Now & Laters from what they called the “Don’t Trip Store”?
Whatever it was, Jordan and Shelly were sure to do it together. They became part of each other’s families. They referred to each other’s mothers as “mom,” with the ability to distinguish between the two with a tonal inflection only siblings could detect.
“You don't see Jordan without Shelly,” says Sharrief Metoyer, Jordan’s former basketball coach at Poly and current mentor, “and people won't see Shelly without Jordan.”
Jordan and Shelly have made a habit of fooling people into thinking they are biological brothers.
“People said we looked alike,” Jordan says. “They were, like, ‘Y'all brothers?’ And we was, like, ‘Yeah.’”
Their story, though, needed work.
At first, “It was, like, ‘Alright, we have the same dad,’” Jordan recalls.
Except, Jordan and Shelly don’t share a last name.
So then, “I was, like, ‘I'ma say I'm adopted. I live with a different mom now,’” Jordan says.
But why do you live with different women?
“I used to be, like, ‘Oh, that was his ex-wife. Well, she got custody or whatever,’” Jordan says.
Eventually, Jordan and Shelly shored up their story.
“We be telling people, like, ‘Mom got started as soon as she had me. She got back to work,’” Jordan says. “People really believe in it.”
“We had the story down pat,” Shelly says. “Any question y'all had, we had a recovery for it.”
Their tale has been so effective that they’ve even fooled themselves on occasion.
“I remember one time, he was, like, ‘Bro, remember when we was younger?’” Jordan says. “I was, like, ‘I didn’t meet you ‘til high school.’”
“I be hitting him, like, ‘You right,’” Shelly follows up.
“I actually really believe he my brother, though,” Jordan admits.
Adds Shelly: “Me, too. He honestly is my brother.”
Jordan and Shelly Over the Years
Shelly would always crack the same joke on Jordan—much to the latter’s lament.
“Let's get your hair longer,” Shelly would say, mocking Jordan’s unkempt coiffe.
“It got me through high school,” Shelly says.
Jordan, though, knew how to push back.
“Whenever I wanted to get him mad, I was, like, ‘What's up, best friend?’” Jordan says.
You better stop calling me that, Shelly would respond. I'm your brother.
The bond between them ran deeper than friendship. They lifted each other up and kept each other company, though not always productively so.
“I would walk around campus and I would see Jordan out of class and he would always be talking to Shelly,” Sharrief says. “So I would tell Jordan to get himself to class.”
And when Jordan didn’t listen, Sharrief enlisted Shelly as a mouthpiece.
“One day, I got tired of seeing [Jordan skipping class] and I pulled Shelly aside and I told Shelly, ‘If he doesn't get to class, I'm gonna kick your ass,’” Sharrief says. “At that point in time, every time Shelly would see me, he would make sure Jordan got to class.”
Jordan and Shelly during the 2017 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge 5K in San Francisco. (Courtesy of Shelly Brown)
Jordan did what he could to return the favor. Though Shelly could ball, he couldn’t quite secure a spot on the boys’ basketball team at Poly. Shelly didn’t want to be stuck in PE as a senior, so Jordan wanted to help.
“I was, like, ‘Just be the manager,’” Jordan says, “and Metoyer was, like, ‘No way’ at first.”
Sharrief relented, at Jordan’s behest.
“I had to beg to get him on the team,” Jordan says.
To some surprise, Shelly proved to be a positive influence on Jordan from the sideline. In Shelly, Sharrief had someone who knew how to get the most out of Poly’s rising star.
“He was acting not as a teammate, but as somebody who also was an objective observer in a sense because he saw practices, he saw games,” Sharrief says. “So he could tell him if he ever was in the wrong, and would get Jordan to be introspective and understand what he was doing wrong.”
With Shelly by his side, Jordan excelled during his senior season in 2012-13, averaging 13.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game. He helped the Jackrabbits reach the California state semifinals with a record of 28-4.
Along the way, Jordan and Shelly kept their antics underwraps... except for that one time, in the championship game of the Pac Shores Tournament against Westchester High School.
“I'm playing terrible. I can't even make a free throw to save my life,” Jordan recalls. “They fouling me, too. Not fouling me on purpose. I'm big. I'm getting jumped.”
One of those fouls caught Jordan in a tender spot.
“I got kicked in the nuts,” he says.
Shelly was concerned. So he went to investigate.
“He was, like, ‘Bro, what’s up?’” Jordan recalls. “I'm, like, ‘[I got] kicked in the nuts.’ He goes, “Ooh, let me see.’”
“I didn't say that,” Shelly insists while sitting next to Jordan.
Whatever Shelly said, it was enough to get Jordan laughing, which didn’t help with the pain. Still, Jordan tried to stay locked in. After all, it was a close game, with a tournament title on the line.
“But he says it, I'm just like dying laughing,” Jordan says. “This hurts. My nuts, I feel like they're inside of me. I'm laughing, like, ‘Get up out of here.’ He's laughing, walking away.”
“He usually get mad,” Shelly says.
“That pissed me off that day,” Jordan retorts. “Other than that, we was always serious.”
After graduating from Poly in 2013, Jordan left for the University of Oregon, where he had accepted a basketball scholarship. But his stay in Eugene lasted only a few weeks, due to NCAA eligibility issues related to his test scores.
By the time Jordan returned to Long Beach, his mom had already moved into his old room and thrown out his bed.
“They thought I was just going to school,” he says. “So I came back and I didn't have a bed, so I was sleeping on the couch.”
It didn’t help that Jordan had flipped his sleep schedule “because I was so embarrassed.” He would work out at 24 Hour Fitness in the middle of the night, come home and watch TV until sunrise, go to bed around 6 a.m., wake up at 3 or 4 in the afternoon and do it all over again—all to avoid having to fib his way through question after question about his situation.
“I only could do that so long before they were, like, ‘Mmm no, you ain't going nowhere,’” he says.
With Shelly, Jordan didn’t have to fake it. After his workouts at 24 Hour Fitness, Jordan would head to Shelly’s family’s house—just five minutes away from his own—and wake up his brother in the middle of the night.
“He used to throw rocks at my window at like 5 in the morning,” Shelly says.
“I'd wait up there all night,” Jordan says.
“I used to just ignore you,” Shelly quips.
Jordan and Shelly goof around. (Courtesy of Shelly Brown)
Jordan practically moved into Shelly’s house. He spent days and nights there, and even started using Shelly’s car—much to the dismay of Shelly’s mom, Sharon Hamilton.
“She's always on, like, ‘If you not on insurance, you not driving the car,’” Jordan says.
So when Jordan tried to roll away in Shelly’s red Jeep Cherokee one night, Shelly’s mom just about lost it.
They’ve got stories like that “for days,” they say. They could go on and on—and they do—about their teenage antics, from crashing house parties in Long Beach to their “blood brother moment,” which involved a treacherous taxi ride to get late-night munchies at the Taco Bell drive-thru.
“We were legit scared,” Jordan says.
Jordan and Shelly have stories "for days." (Courtesy of Shelly Brown)
In January 2014, Jordan left Long Beach for Phoenix, where he spent several months getting himself NCAA eligible. While Jordan’s former high school teammates were living it up in college, he was stuck in near social solitude, working out alongside kids half his age near Arizona State University.
“I questioned if I should even play basketball anymore,” Jordan says. “I was about to get a regular job, just start working.”
“That was a tough time for both of us,” Shelly says.
The two talked daily. Each time, Shelly assured Jordan, “Something good gonna come out of this.”
In April of that year, Shelly trekked out to Arizona to console his brother, to help him get his head right.
“That was the best 10 days I had out there,” Jordan says.
The bond between Jordan and Shelly is practically telepathic. Though they’re so often around each other and keep up over FaceTime when they’re apart, they insist they can survive in isolation.
“We used to go weeks without talking,” Shelly says.
“Maybe a month without talking,” Jordan chimes in.
“We didn’t have to,” Shelly adds.
“I don't gotta talk to him every single day,” Jordan responds. “I know Shelly good.”
When Jordan returned to Oregon in December 2013, after his impasse with the NCAA, he and Shelly managed just fine. Sharrief encouraged Shelly to move up to Eugene and get a job there, so he could look out for Jordan. Instead, Shelly stayed in Long Beach, working odd jobs—from the Nike store and BJ’s Restaurant to Parks and Recreation and 24 Hour Fitness—so he wouldn’t distract Jordan.
He would trip up to Oregon twice a year, including around Jordan’s birthday in early January. And Jordan would hang with Shelly whenever he went home, usually celebrating Shelly’s birthday after Christmas.
“We didn't need to talk to each other every day,” Shelly says. “We just got that bond.”
Jordan always knew Shelly would come through in the biggest moments.
“I remember when we was in high school,” Jordan says, “he was, like, ‘Bro, as soon as you going to the Final Four, I'ma be getting my first-class ticket.’”
Shelly made that same promise before each season, though he admits, “I never really bought it.”
“I honestly thought always he bought it,” Jordan says.
Jordan was an impact player at Oregon from the start. With his size and athleticism, he could snatch rebounds and dominate around the rim on both ends.
But as a freshman, his efforts couldn’t push Oregon past the second round of the NCAA tournament. As a sophomore, the Ducks beat Duke in the Sweet 16 before losing to Buddy Hield and Oklahoma in the Elite Eight.
Prior to his junior year, Jordan had a hunch.
“Get that ticket ready,” he told Shelly.
Jordan did his part. He emerged as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and an all-conference performer. He put up double-doubles in three of Oregon’s first four games of the 2017 NCAA tournament, including 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks to help the Ducks take down Kansas in the Elite Eight.
“I actually cried when they went to the Final Four,” Shelly says.
What he didn’t do was book a flight. Since the games were in Glendale, Arizona, Shelly could drive there.
“It worked out perfect,” Shelly says. “Never had to buy a ticket.”
Jordan needed Shelly then more than ever. The Ducks lost to North Carolina in the national semifinal, 77-76. Jordan shouldered the blame after missing rebounds from a flurry of missed free throws by the Tar Heels in the final seconds.
The hate and mockery flooded into Jordan’s phone from all corners of social media. Sharrief, who also traveled to Glendale for the game, knew how emotional Jordan would be. So he turned to Shelly to help him handle things.
When they gathered in a hotel room later that night with Brandon Staton, Jordan’s high school teammate, and Carissa, Jordan’s girlfriend, they weren’t going to talk about the game. Instead, they’d reflect on the good ol’ days.
After a bit of sulking, Jordan stayed up through the night, drowning his sorrows in laughter and nostalgia.
“[Shelly] knew exactly how to handle that situation,” Sharrief says. “He knew exactly what kind of comfort his brother needed.”
Jordan and Shelly at the 2017 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge 5K in San Francisco. (Courtesy of Shelly Brown)
On April 18, 2017, Jordan declared for the NBA draft. He figured his star turn in March Madness and physical abilities would land him in the first round. His pre-draft workouts only bolstered his hopes.
But Jordan knew he wouldn’t be a lottery pick. So on draft day, during a watch party at a house in Long Beach, he kicked back during the first hour of the broadcast.
“I'm gonna enjoy the party,” he says. “I'm in the pool with the kids, trying to not think about as much.”
As the picks crept into the 20s, Jordan started to worry. There were no calls from Aaron Mintz, his agent at CAA Sports, or a prospective NBA team. His phone’s only action came from “these two annoying people next to me” who wanted to goof around on his Instagram Live.
They kept yapping, and the picks kept passing, and Jordan kept getting more agitated.
“When we was planning the whole draft party,” Jordan says, “Shell was, like, ‘Bro, if you need anything, just give me that look. I will fix it.”
So Jordan gave Shelly that look. Shelly came over, asked to see the phone and calmly walked away with it. Jordan’s tormentors barely said a word after that.
“Shell is really good at de-escalating situations,” Jordan says.
As the draft slipped into the second round, and his name remained uncalled, Jordan left the party and went into the garage to find some peace and quiet.
Then, his phone rang. It was Aaron.
“He's, like, ‘Honestly, you're probably going to be either a Cav or a Warrior,’” Jordan says. “And I'm, like, ‘That's cool and all, but I still wanna go in the first round.’”
Then, his phone rang again. It was the Warriors. They were going to buy the Chicago Bulls’ second-round pick (No. 38 overall) and use it on him.
The first person Jordan told? Shelly.
“I didn't tell him the team,” Jordan says, “but we knew.”
Jordan walked back into the party, pretending to still be upset. When Mark Tatum, the NBA’s deputy commissioner, said his name on TV, everyone in the room erupted.
Jordan and Shelly were elated, too—in part because Jordan was headed to sunny Oakland stead of “cold Chicago,” as Shelly put it.
“That would have sucked,” Jordan says.
Jordan’s rookie season in Golden State wasn’t much easier. Through inconsistent playing time early in the 2017-18 season, ankle injuries mid-season and frustrations in the playoffs, Jordan could always count on Shelly. He had moved up to the Bay Area with Jordan to keep their friendship close and work for him to make sure “things run smoothly for him."
“If I'm mad about something,” Jordan says, “I'll talk to him about it.”
With Shelly’s support, Jordan became a key cog for the Warriors during their 2018 title run. When the final buzzer sounded on Golden State’s championship-clinching win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals, most of the Warriors celebrated together on the court at Quicken Loans Arena. Jordan, though, ran into the stands to rejoice with family and friends—including Shelly.
And while Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were spraying each other with champagne in the locker room, Jordan was out in the hallway showering his people with bubbly.
“Why are we here right now?” Shelly asked, struck by the moment. “We're just a bunch of dudes from Long Beach.”
That incredulity carried into the summer. As they shacked up in the Hollywood Hills and Jordan spent his afternoons playing pickup at UCLA, Shelly would marvel at his brother’s champion credentials.
“It's like a dream,” Shelly says. “We really done live in a dream.”
Shelly and Jordan during a podcast. (Courtesy of Shelly Brown)
That was true for Shelly, too. Whatever passion he wanted to pursue, he could find a mind to pick just by walking into the Warriors’ family room on a given night. Jordan, meanwhile, has used his time around the likes of Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Omri Casspi to learn all he can about investing, though he’s not ready to plunk down any of his own money just yet.
“I love to just bring him around,” Jordan says. “I want him around me because I never know who I'm gonna meet, and I want him to make his own money.”
To that end, Shelly has emerged as an aspiring filmmaker and entrepreneur, with a clothing brand (Chapter 5:62, a reference to the area code in Long Beach) that Jordan has promoted on social media.
“I don't know where I'd be without JoJo,” Shelly says. “Honestly, I'd probably just be in Long Beach.”
“We'd probably both still be in Long Beach without each other, bro,” Jordan replies.
Instead, they’re about 400 miles northwest of home, chowing down on soul food in the East Bay, reflecting on the fun they’ve had and looking forward to all that’s still to come.
“Shell,” Jordan says, “he's like the little brother I always wanted.”
Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of the Hollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.