Franklin was far from the N.B.A. when he started his team.
A flattering portrait of Franklin is included in “Play Their Hearts Out,” a 2010 book by George Dohrmann that details youth basketball culture in Southern California. Franklin, according to the book, played basketball and football at Los Angeles Valley College. Later, he doted on his son, Gary Jr., creating a club team he initially called the “Runnin’ Rebels.” He preached fundamentals during their practices at Manual Arts High School and spoke openly about his faith in God. Gary Franklin, Jr. went on to play college basketball at Baylor.
Cal Supreme did not have lavish resources. When Brown, the Stanford player, was with the team, it practiced at various Los Angeles-area high schools. Parents subsidized costs. And players paid for their own meals at tournaments.
Yet neither Brown nor his teammates were naïve about the world they inhabited.
“Everybody who played knew what was going on,” Brown said. “We all knew people who were getting paid, we all knew people who were getting free stuff — we all knew it. Now, it’s all coming out. So it’s shocking but it’s not shocking, because we all knew it was happening.”
For years, the sponsorship deals have been heavily dependent on grass-roots coaches attracting the best players to their programs. Cal Supreme appeared to have enough talent over the years to keep Nike interested, producing players who ultimately landed at major college programs like Southern California, Oregon and Arizona, along with several who went to the N.B.A.
Big names circled in Cal Supreme’s orbit. Miles Simon, a guard who had won an N.C.A.A. championship while playing at Arizona, was one of the program’s coaches from 2011 to 2014. (Simon, who now works as an assistant for the Lakers, declined to comment through a Lakers spokeswoman.) Shareef O’Neal, a top-tier recruit and the son of Shaquille O’Neal, played for Cal Supreme before going to U.C.L.A. More recently, Percy Miller, the businessman and rapper known as Master P, was listed on Cal Supreme’s website as a team partner.