Real Basketball Moms of Kentucky
Michelle Green brings a billboard-size poster of her son’s head to his basketball games and has been known to cheer so aggressively that she has been thrown out of the gym. Susie Walker-Byrd has switched her son’s high school three times to accommodate his basketball dreams. Carmelita Clay is convinced that her son should be on national television because of his basketball
If being a basketball mom were a competitive sport, this group of mothers from Kentucky would be perennial all-stars.
Overaggressive parents hollering from the stands have become a cliché of American childhood, but these moms have turned parental cheering into an art form — and, they hope, a business. Six Kentucky families have signed a deal with NorthSouth Productions, a television company, to make a reality show about their hoops-mad families.
It is unclear if the project will appear on the screen any time soon, but the producer Blaine Hopkins called the mothers perfectly suited to reality TV, describing them as “hysterical, passionate, real and competitive.”
The mothers say they want to draw attention to their sons in hopes of drawing a college scholarship. But their zeal has raised the eyebrows of the boys’ coaches, as well as the boys themselves.
“Sometimes, I’ve wanted to know what being a regular kid was like,” said Jordan Green, an 18-year-old, 6-foot-6 senior forward, who is the son of Michelle Green. “From Day 1, all I’ve known is basketball.”
His mother makes no apologies for her behavior. When Green, who works at a middle school, cheers from the stands, she said, “I turn into a complete different person.”
“I am an animal,” she continued. “I heckle everybody — the parents, the players, the referees.”
The six mothers hoping to star in the show know each other from the sidelines of their sons’ various basketball games. They are not close friends, but they all have centered their family’s lives on their sons’ jump shots in hopes of gaining the attention of college coaches.
“He’s got to get a scholarship,” Green said of Jordan, who scored a team-high 16 points in a victory last week. “When in sixth grade, they start talking about scholarships, it became business for me.”
Before his freshman year, Jordan told his mother he wanted to play with his friends at Henry Clay High in Lexington, a school with a rich basketball tradition. But they lived in the Bryan Station High School district, about five miles from Henry Clay. Green decided to put her house of 10 years on the market and move her family for Jordan’s game. A buyer fell through, so she said she filed for bankruptcy — and then moved closer to Henry Clay.
A single mother, Green, 47, has held two jobs at times to help pay for Jordan’s basketball expenses. She said she spent about $10,000 on basketball last summer alone.
When Jordan plays, it is easy to find Green, who is 6 feet tall and who played on a basketball scholarship at Paine College, a Division II university. She takes a Fathead-like image of her son’s face to games. Never mind the cheerleaders, she leads students in shouting singsong chants: “I’m blind! I’m deaf! I want to be a ref!”
Green’s enthusiasm is not always welcomed. Two years ago at an Amateur Athletic Union tournament in Las Vegas, she was escorted out by security after arguing with a mother from the opposing team. Green said the woman threatened to kill her.
“I’m the most flamboyant and rambunctious parent ever,” Green said.
Jordan’s high school coach, Daniel Brown, has said that he would not participate in a television show if one were to come to fruition. “It does individualize the kid when you’re talking about a team sport,” Brown said.
Everything changed for Susie Walker-Byrd, 48, when her son, Bryce Walker-Byrd, entered the fifth grade. That is when basketball became more than just a diversion, and Bryce’s summers, like his winters, became dedicated to playing in as many games as possible.