Top to bottom, the medical coat fit great.
But whoever tailored it must not have accounted for Brandan Wright’s nearly 7 ½-foot wingspan. The white sleeves stopped just past his mid-forearm.
Otherwise, Wright looked every bit the part as the celebrity dentist for the day at Neighborhood Health at Napier Plaza on Wednesday.
“The biggest thing I’m learning is you better be tight with your hands,” Wright said. “The stuff we do — basketball, making shots, free throws — this is nothing compared to what (dentists and doctors) do. One mistake is crucial.”
Wright, who led Brentwood Academy to four consecutive Division II-AA state titles from 2003-06 before spending one year at North Carolina and 10 seasons in the NBA, likes to say he never really left Nashville. He always kept a home here and worked out in Brentwood during the offseason.
The only difference in basketball retirement is he’s better positioned for the charity work that has always interested him.
Last May, he seized an opportunity when the NBA Players Association offered to match grants for charitable foundations. He operates Team Brandan Wright, an all-encompassing girls AAU program aimed at achieving at least partial scholarships for basketball players. The foundation provided a digital learning community for players when COVID struck in 2020.
“We focus on all the aspects of health: Exercise, mental health, emotional health. We were talking about this last year, we need to add dental health into this theme,” Wright said.
The Neighborhood Health clinic is the smallest of its Nashville network, but it’s the most instrumental because of its proximity to the Napier metropolitan housing development. The living spaces have no minimum income requirements for residents. Tenants commonly make walk-in appointments, and the dental work can be done for free in some cases where insurance is unavailable.
Some first-time patients have severe hygiene issues, clinic hygienist Alisha Summers said. Attracting new patients who return is the primary goal, which is why Wright stood next to an actual dentist Tuesday morning and talked to kids while they had work done.
“It’s always been a passion of mine,” Wright said. “So many groups poured into me when I was a child. Having opportunities and the people I met on my journey, it’s easy to get out here and do the same thing.”
Wright’s journey has been a grand one. Before a decade-long NBA career, he played for two respective legends in former Brentwood Academy coach George Pitts and North Carolina’s Roy Williams.
Both have retired in the past two years.
“(It means) I’m getting old,” Wright joked.
The four consecutive state championships he helped Brentwood Academy capture still rank highly in his memory. No high school basketball team in Tennessee had done it before the Eagles.
“It’s probably one of the top accomplishments,” Wright said. “During the time it was hard to fathom what was going on. Then you talk to different people and they’ve won a couple high school championships, but we won four — and to beat the teams we did and the people we did, in that fashion, it’s a hard thing to fathom.
“It was just one of those special groups. Sometimes you have that chemistry and you make a run — not only in sports but in life. You see some people and say, ‘They’re in a groove right now.’ That was us. We were just moving in the right direction.”