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Rory Sparrow, Good-Guy Point Guard December 21, 1987

In June 1990, Rory Sparrow was vacationing in Hawaii when a
woman in a hotel elevator recognized him. "Rick Barry was
talking about you on TV," the stranger informed the 6'2"
Sparrow, who had just finished his season as a guard with the
Miami Heat. "You've been traded to Sacramento." Sparrow was
hardly fazed by the prospect of changing cities: The Kings would
be his sixth NBA team in 11 seasons. A year later Sacramento
chose not to re-sign him, and he bounced in rapid succession to
three more teams. In 1992, worn down by what he calls "the cold
business of pro basketball," he quietly retired, leaving behind
solid numbers (career averages of 9.0 points and 5.0 assists)
and a reputation as one of the game's truly good guys.

Shakespeare wrote, "There's a special providence in the fall of
a sparrow." Freed from his migratory existence, this Sparrow
settled in Montclair, N.J., 16 minutes from the Paterson
projects in which he was raised. Here he could devote full
attention to his wife, Jacqui, their three sons and hundreds of
underprivileged kids. Sparrow spends Saturdays in a bleak school
gymnasium in Paterson, volunteering for Positive Impact, a
nonprofit organization started by Joe Butler, a childhood
rec-league teammate, and Joe Grier. When he's not teaching
12-year-olds zone defense and long division, Sparrow, in his job
as the NBA's player-programs director, counsels newly rich
twentysomethings on how to make the transition from college to
pro life.

For his volunteer work with youths in New York City and Paterson,
Sparrow was named one of SI's eight Sportsmen and Sportswomen of
the Year ("Athletes Who Care" was the cover billing) in 1987. He
says he has "always felt in a special position to help and guide
others." Even in the middle of a basketball game this inclination
was evident: Sparrow had 400 or more assists in four consecutive
seasons as a Knick. At Villanova, where he earned an electrical
engineering degree, Sparrow won five games with shots at the

Sparrow, 41, spends most evenings in the glow of a computer
screen, pecking away at Love Thy Brother, a roman a clef that's
one of his two novels in progress. Although he is unsure if he
will reveal his literary talent to the world, he's determined to
complete both manuscripts in the near future. After all, Sparrow
firmly believes in a credo he often repeats to his young charges:
"It's not where you start, but where you finish."

--Kelley King

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: RICHARD HESSSparrow (top left on cover) teaches 12-year-olds zone defense and long division.