OAKLAND, Calif. – Phoenix Suns guard Shannon Brown was walking into the arena for Saturday evening's game against the Sacramento Kings when he began hearing rumors that Whitney Houston had died. As he started to text his wife, R&B star Monica, his phone rang. Monica, a close friend of Houston's, was on the other end of the call, her sobs confirming the news for Brown.
"When I say they were super close, they were super close," Brown said. "[Houston] took her under her wing when she first came into the industry and they did everything together. …They have been through a lot together."
Music industry executives discovered Monica, then 11, while she was performing Houston's hit "Greatest Love of All" in 1991 in Atlanta. Houston became a mentor for Monica, and the pair spent a lot of time together while living in Atlanta.
In the days before her death, Houston had given advice to Monica and singer Brandi Norwood as they rehearsed for a duet for famed producer Clive Davis' pre-Grammy Awards party. She also interrupted an interview by the trio. After learning of Houston's death, Monica and Norwood were too distraught to perform at the party.
"My wife loved everything [Houston] was about,” Brown said. “She used to sing like her. [Houston] used to help her with her vocals and her voice. …Whitney loved my wife and her spirit and held on to her."
Brown said his wife consoled Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, on Saturday night after her mother’s death. Bobbi Kristina Brown was admitted to a Los Angeles hospital on Sunday morning to be treated for stress and anxiety.
The Suns weren't playing Sunday in San Francisco, so Shannon Brown flew to Los Angeles to be with his wife, who chose not to attend the Grammy Awards. He returned to San Francisco on Monday morning in advance of that evening's game against the Warriors.
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Shannon Brown said his wife will attend Houston’s funeral, but he probably won’t attend because the Suns play the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday and Sunday.
“She calmed down a little bit,” Shannon Brown said of his wife. “It’s definitely a tough situation, and her emotions are up and down. Anything can trigger her when she sees a tribute, thinks about something or whatever the case may be. It’s definitely a tough and sad situation.”
Shannon Brown spent some time Monday talking about Houston with teammate Grant Hill. Hill’s wife, R&B singer Tamia, credits Houston for inspiring her to begin singing. Hill said he met Houston twice briefly with his wife and was “in awe" of her.
Houston's "voice, her range and the kind of songs that she sang really inspired [Tamia]," Hill said. "That standard is where my wife aspires to go and still tries to now. She sings those types of songs, which are great songs from a great singer.
“Her voice really was an instrument that was one of a kind. It’s just so sad.”
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