Fred “Downtown” Brown (born August 7, 1948) is a retired American professional basketball player. A 6’3″ guard from the University of Iowa, he played 13 seasons (1971–1984) in the NBA, all with the Seattle SuperSonics. Known for his accurate outside shooting, Brown was selected to the 1976 NBA All-Star Game and scored 14,018 points in his career.
Brown graduated from downtown Milwaukee’s Lincoln High School in 1967, where other high schools gave him his nickname “Downtown Freddie” Brown. He led Lincoln to two state titles, and made all-state twice. He captained the 1967 team, and earned four prep letters, including one each in football and baseball. Due to his outside shooting skills, his high school nickname “Downtown Freddie” Brown followed him for his entire career.
Brown finished his senior year at the University of Iowa in 1971, averaging 27.6 points per game, and was selected by the Kentucky Colonels in the American Basketball Association draft and selected 6th overall by the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1971 NBA draft. His NBA career got off to a slow start, as he averaged only 4.2 points per game in 33 games as a rookie, playing behind veteran guards Lenny Wilkens and Dick Snyder. Following Wilkens’ trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1972, Brown saw more playing time and his scoring average rose to 13.5 and 16.5 points per game in the next two seasons.
After Snyder was traded to the Cavaliers in 1974, Brown’s output increased again, to 21.0 points per game in the 1974–75 season and he finished fifth in the league in steals per game. In the 1975–76 season, Brown had an All-Star season finishing fifth in the NBA in both scoring average and free throw percentage.
Brown continued as a starter for the Sonics through the 1976-77 season and the start of the 1977-78 season. However, when Lenny Wilkens took over as coach after a slow start, he decided to pair new free-agent signing Gus Williams and second-year guard Dennis Johnson in the Sonics’ starting backcourt and bring Brown off the bench. He dubbed Brown “Instant Offense”. The Sonics made the NBA Finals that season and the next, winning the NBA championship in 1978-79.
Brown was captain of the SuperSonics’ 1978–79 NBA championship team. Often among the league leaders in free-throw percentage, Brown also led the NBA in three-point shooting percentage in 1979–80—the first season in which the three-point line was adopted by the league.
When he retired in 1984 Brown was the SuperSonics’ all-time leader in:
Games played (963)
Points scored (14,018)
Field goals (6,006)
Free throws (1,896)
Brown still holds the team’s all-time marks for points in a regular season game with 58, points in a playoff game with 45 (a record shared with Ray Allen), and steals in a game with 10 (a record shared with Gus Williams).
Brown’s #32 SuperSonics jersey was retired November 6, 1986 in honor of his career with the SuperSonics.
Brown continues to reside in the Seattle area and is one of the former players lobbying to bring NBA basketball back to Seattle after the SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008.
Career highlights and awards
NBA champion (1979)
NBA All-Star (1976)
No. 32 retired by the Seattle SuperSonics
Third-team All-American – AP (1971)