His Brother’s Keeper

Larry and Justin at The Q on August 2.
Bruce Wimbish
Cavaliers Photo
Since the regular season came to a close – and some might assert, even before that point – the Cavaliers have been on an emotional rollercoaster, filled with ultimate highs and near-debilitating lows.

But as low as they might have felt coming off Tuesday’s Game 2 loss in Detroit, the Wine and Gold family got a devastating piece of news on Thursday morning that took them to depths that the game of basketball never could.

Cavaliers two-guard, Larry Hughes’ younger brother, Justin, passed away early Wednesday morning in Hughes’ hometown of St. Louis. Larry left Cleveland on Thursday morning and there is no timetable set on his return. Justin Hughes, 20, received a heart transplant in 1997 at the age of 13 and complications from that led to his tragic death.

Hughes’ resilient sibling was an obvious source of inspiration to the Cavaliers’ sinewy shooting guard. Among Larry Hughes’ array of tattoos – neatly inscribed across the right side of his neck – is: “MY BROTHER’S KEEPER.”

Larry Hughes has been a champion of the cause of organ donation. He and Justin received the First Family Pledge Award of Thanks in April of 2000 for their work in raising awareness for the cause.

While Hughes’ was with the Warriors, he won Angela & Christopher Cohan Community Service Award for outstanding work in the community.

And of course, Hughes’ own project, The Larry Hughes Foundation, is dedicated to creating a safe and comfortable environment for those families – of both recipients and donors – affected by the emotional and financial burdens of organ transplants.

But beyond the public eye, Hughes was simply a stand-up older brother to Justin. When Hughes’ officially signed his free agent contract with the Cavaliers on August 2, Justin was by his side after the press conference and looked every bit as proud to be part of the organization as Larry. After Hughes’ addressed fans and media, the two were inseparable.

Larry Hughes’ didn’t hide behind an organization or simply put on a public face when it came to Justin. They were brothers and friends, right down to his younger sibling programming the iTunes that Larry listened to before ballgames.

When Larry returns to Cleveland after taking care of his family, he will be welcomed back by his basketball family. Larry Hughes was his brother’s keeper. When he eventually returns to the Wine and Gold, his basketball brethren will be his.

All for One, One for All

Coach Mike Brown
It puts what we do in perspective. Basketball provides a good life for us and our families and it’s enjoyable. But when it gets down to it, that’s way more important than anything we do. Larry needs to be with his family and we’ll go with this day-by-day as the season moves along. I knew Justin – obviously not as well as a lot of people – but I met him before and had a chance to talk with him. You talk about a big-time guy. He didn’t just affect Larry and his family; he affected everyone in that locker room.

Larry Hughes is a good person, first; and a good basketball player, second.

LeBron James
I knew (Justin); not as well as I would have liked to. It’s a very sad time for Larry and his family. My prayers and my family’s prayers go out to him and his family and I just hope he’ll be OK. It’s very hard to focus on basketball right now. I look at Larry as a brother of mine and for Justin to pass away at a time like this, it’s very difficult to focus on anything but Larry and his family right now. I’m going to try to reach out to Larry, just to let him know that I’m here for him to help in any way possible. I know there’s not too much I can do for him now, but I just want him to know that I’m here for him through these tough times.

Damon Jones
It’s a tough time for not only Larry and his family, but his family here because we love and embrace Larry like a brother. So we’ve also lost a member of our family as well. Right now, basketball should be the furthest thing from his mind. He has to be in St. Louis for his family. They’re going through a trying time right now. So if he’s able to get back, that’s good. If not, we’re going to continue to keep him with us in spirit and in our hearts.

Drew Gooden
I used to hear the stories about Larry and his brother years ago when he was with Golden State and Washington and I knew the struggles he went through with his health. It’s a sad thing for us and my condolences and the team’s condolences go out to Larry and his family. And we hope that they’ll be able to get through this time. We’re here for Larry and whatever he needs to do, we’re behind him.