Fabulous Flournoy Has Set New Standards in British Basketball
He's got the flashiest name in British sport and a run of success to match. Meet basketball star Fabulous Flournoy.
There is probably no sportsman currently competing in Britain with a more extravagant name than Fabulous Flournoy, the 41-year-old player-coach at the British Basketball League's Newcastle Eagles. Of course, with a name like Fabulous the pressure is on to impress. Flournoy more than manages that – in fact he has helped make his club the most successful in BBL history.
As an American playing basketball in England, you might think Flournoy's route to the top was relatively simple. Far from it. Born in New York in 1973, he is the only member of his family to graduate from high school. As a young man his elder brother Divine – better known as Jimmy – was his mentor. But while Fab escaped the streets, his brother became caught up in a world of gangs and drugs; he was later shot dead in a nightclub in South Carolina.
"We were close when we were younger," Fab recounted to The Journal in 2011. "He was the father figure. As we got older we drifted apart. He was into drugs and gangs, he had a reputation and was known in the neighbourhood.
"He was tough and he protected me. Nobody bothered me because he was my brother. He wouldn't have allowed me to follow him. Growing up in the Bronx, I didn't have to fight my battles."
After finishing college in 1996, Fab sought to escape New York by moving to Britain to play for the Birmingham Bullets. He spent two seasons at the Midlands club before switching to Sheffield Sharks.
His next move was what made him: in 2001 Fab joined Newcastle Eagles. Two years later he was handed the opportunity to become player-coach at the North East side, though his debut year did not hint at what was to come as the Eagles took sixth place in the BBL and exited the play-offs at the quarter-final stage.
Then all hell broke lose. Members of the BBL since its inception in 1987, the Eagles had no major silverware to their name when Flournoy took over. Under his guidance they have won the BBL Championship seven times, five Play-Off Finals, the BBL Cup three times, and the BBL Trophy on six occasions. They have twice swept the board, winning all four major honours in the 2005-06 and 2011-12 seasons. They're aiming to do that again this year having already taken three of the four ahead of the Play-Offs.
But those 21 titles haven't seen Fab wake up with 21 brain-mangled hangovers. He thanks his brother Jimmy for this, too.
"He taught me lessons which I'll carry with me for the rest of my life. I never drink alcohol, I've never smoked a cigarette, I've never taken drugs.
He makes one exception as a reminder of his brother's life.
"December 10 is the only day I drink – the (anniversary of the) day he died.
"I drink what he used to drink – Hennessey. I sit somewhere and I get drunk. It started with one shot, now it's about 15. No chaser, no ice, just neat. I do it with people who are close to me over here. They know me as the man I am now, but only because of Jimmy's influence and the world I grew up in."
Last week, his side secured yet another title with a 107-97 win over Manchester Giants. Flournoy and the Eagles will now look to land their third clean sweep by taking the BBL Play-Offs next month. Fab won't be on the court having suffered a torn Achilles in March, but his influence from the sidelines is undoubtedly a significant part of the Eagles' incredible run of success.