It was the saddest 2002 March Madness story ever. Baltimore native Juan Dixon, who was starting at the University of Maryland, had lost both of his parents, Phil and Juanita Dixon, to AIDS-related illness when he was only 16. Dixon would go on to lead the Terrapins to the national championship that year, and the story would be the collective feel-good moment of the tournament. Dixon’s parents’ story would go on to encapsulate Baltimore’s struggle with drug addiction, and Dixon’s hard work and dedication proved to be the Dickensian fairy tale America loves.
That is the story everyone believed, including Juan. But the actual story is a little more involved. Turns out Juan Dixon’s mother was dating a guy named Bruce Flanigan when she was a teen. The two would break up, and Juanita would go on to marry Phil Dixon. During a separation, Juanita and Bruce Flanigan began dating again. A month later, they broke up and she went back to Phil. Some months later, Juan was born. Obviously, Phil and Juanita both believed Juan to be their child and raised him as if he were. But deep down, Bruce Flanigan knew something wasn’t right.
The Baltimore Sun broke the story at the end of 2016, but it didn’t reach national news levels until it was picked up by HBO’s Real Sports. The segment preview has been making its way around the internet, and the episode is set to premiere Tuesday.
Bruce Flanigan told the Baltimore Sun back in November that he and Juanita had gone their separate ways but that he would run into Juanita’s sister, who used to tell him to go and see his son. She was talking about Juan, but Flanigan had no idea. When he ran into Juanita Dixon, he asked her if she had had a baby by him, but she told him no.
Flanigan notes that he moved on with his life but that when he saw Juan play his first game as a sophomore at the University of Maryland, he knew, “That’s my son!” Later that same year, he ran into Juan at a Marshall’s at a mall near Baltimore.
“It’s a reason why we were there at Marshall’s,” Flanigan said. “God put us there.”
But Flanigan wasn’t ready to walk up to the kid and tell him, “I think I’m your dad,” so he went over and introduced himself, told Juan that he knew his family well, and gave him some basketball advice and bounced.
A cousin of Flanigan’s, who was also friends with Juan Dixon and his wife, Robyn, who stars on The Real Housewives of Potomac, gave Juan Flanigan’s phone number. They talked, and for both men, it clicked.
Juan Dixon told the Sun that Phil Dixon will always be his father and he’s grateful for the 16 years he had with him, but that it’s still awesome to meet the man who biologically fathered him. And their resemblance is uncanny. Just watch the video of the two men here and tell me I’m lying.
Read more at the Baltimore Sun.