‘Mad Max’ was unforgettable on and off the pitch

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T Raw, real, ridiculously steamy, Vernon Maxwell is one of the most colorful characters in Rockets history.

He is also one of the most talented players on the organization’s all-time roster.

Twenty years after retiring from the NBA, Mad Max, as he is affectionately and rightly called, is more popular than ever here.

The 56-year-old Gainesville, Fla. Native chose to celebrate his “35th” birthday here last week, and Houston greeted him as if he were at home, despite not being at home. has only played six of his 13 NBA seasons here. Not to mention a sudden breakup.

Maxwell currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina

Time and distance – and a collective loathing for Utah Jazz fans – not only brought Maxwell back in favor of old-school Rockets loyalists, they helped him establish a following among a generation of NBA lovers who have never seen him play.

Many of them have no idea how special he was, or how he established himself as a driving force towards the Rockets’ debut championship.

In a team with Hakeem Olajuwon, the best player on the planet at the time, and outstanding leaders like Kenny Smith and Mario Elie, the lean and vicious Maxwell was often the force that propelled the Rockets.

Almost certainly, they don’t know how wild and crazy Maxwell can be on and off the pitch, which makes him a player that coaches might like to have on the squad one minute and want to leave the squad the next. .

Twenty-five years later, everything is forgotten, forgiven or never learned. When Mellow Max is in town, fans flock.

In interviews for “Texas Sports Nation In-Depth” on AT&T SportsNet Southwest, Maxwell spoke of his love for Houston, his love for his children, his love of hating all things Salt Lake City, and so much more.

He even expressed a desire to be part of the Rockets organization, potentially as a mentor for the players. Sure, he said he could share with them what not to do as they adjust to the instant fame and fortune that a professional basketball career can bring.

He did it with his sons Tristan, who is at Georgia Tech, and Vernon “Trey” Maxwell III, a rising high school star.

From his party days when he was in nightclubs after hours, even the evenings before games, to his seemingly complete disregard for following the rules, to his damn almost deranged approach to custody of Michael Jordan, Maxwell has many great stories to tell.

His hottest topic right now is his feeling about Salt Lake City, where he says fans have regularly crossed the lines of decency by heckling him.

Maxwell’s Twitter feed is a stream of comments and jokes that disparage Utah that, if you didn’t know, would seem ironic. This is not the case.

It’s hilarious, but it’s really his true feelings.

“They gave it to me when I was playing,” Maxwell said. “They had it for Vernon Maxwell.

“I felt like I had a platform that I can use, so any day, and it’s every day that I wake up, I have something to say in Utah. I felt like I was abused, and I’m going to abuse them for as long as I get the chance.

“Utah… they’re just not good people out there. Mormon? Don’t fall for the trap. There are a lot of devils there.

Maxwell, who went to the stands in a game in Portland to take on (and hit) a particularly abusive fan, said the NBA should ban such fans for life.

“They have to hold the fans to account,” he said. “Everyone thinks (the players are) just soldiers, everything bounces off of us and we’re not supposed to have feelings about what you do to us.

“Ban them for life. You don’t want that bad apple to ruin it for everyone. They have a lot of good people (in Utah) coming to the game, but one section can make things bad for everyone.

Considering the way he’s approached the game at times, Maxwell defending decorum is a bit ironic.

This is a guy who says his night before Game 3 of the 1994 NBA Finals, with the Rockets in New York, was so over the top that when he woke up the next morning he wasn’t sure. to be able to play.

“It was rated X,” said Maxwell, who collected 12 points and six rebounds in the Rockets’ 93-89 win. “I was doing a lot of things that a professional athlete shouldn’t have done.”

“I hung out all night. I was bad. “

And he was bad on the ground too. Bad as in one of the few who was not afraid to challenge Michael Jordan.

One year, Maxwell led the NBA in 3 points and swear words.

One night before a game against the Chicago Bulls, instead of going through warm-ups, he stood in midfield and cursed Jordan whenever his Airness was in range.

For about 10 to 15 minutes, Maxwell stood there and called Jordan a multitude of names that we can’t print in a family journal.

“Every time he got in line, I was like, ‘I’m going to fuck your ass tonight,'” said Maxwell. “I used to do little things like that, and he (thought) ‘this guy is crazy for real.’

“He was so good I told myself I had to approach him in a way no one had ever done.”

Uh, mission accomplished.

Maxwell imagines a return to Houston after Trey graduates.

We are ready for more stories.

Like that time, he ran late to get to the Summit to play because he was shooting dice in the street.

Or when he and Dennis Rodman shared a two-level beach house in California.

Or when Olajuwon slapped him in the locker room at half-time for disrespecting him.

What a life.

jerome.solomon@chron.com

twitter.com/JeromeSolomon



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