What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

Common teams up with Tony Parker, Drew Brees for new boxing documentary

‘I’m from Chicago,’ says the Oscar winner, ‘it’s no different than Washington, D.C., Oakland, Detroit, Flint … It’s connected.’

8:49 AMLOS ANGELES — Hollywood’s creative community came out on Tuesday night for the premiere screening of a documentary that aims to deliver hope. They Fight follows a group of Washington, D.C., athletes who are part of the Lyfe Style Boxing training program.

Coached by Walter Manigan, the young men are also mentored by him on their paths to the 2017 Junior Olympics. Centered on boxing phenoms Ragahleak “Peanut” Bartee and Quincy Williams (who have both won numerous national titles), the film is produced by Oscar winner Common, as well as Argent Pictures, which has partners in the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees, the Charlotte Hornets’ Tony Parker, NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks and Michael Finley, who retired a two-time All-Star and NBA champion.

“I just relate to people having a chance,” Common said before making his way into the premiere, which played host to guests such as black-ish creator and Shaft screenwriter Kenya Barris. “And this is a story about young men coming up in a tough area, having to deal with difficult situations and having mentors, black men, who showed them a way of elevating themselves, learning about themselves and fighting through situations. … I’m from Chicago — it’s no different than D.C., Oakland, Detroit, Flint [Michigan] … it’s connected. I felt like [the story of] their struggle and their progress needed to be told.” The film also follows Manigan’s journey toward locating a permanent home for his gym.

Finley, who said the story of They Fight reminded him of his own story, has been quietly producing films for years — Lee Daniels’ 2013 The Butler among them. “I can relate to … coming up in rough neighborhoods, where you have a choice to go the wrong way or the right way,” Finley said at the premiere. “But then you get a mentor in your life who sees something in you that you may not have seen in yourself. … This documentary hits on that, and it’s similar to my upbringing in the basketball world.”

They Fight airs nationwide Nov. 11 on Fox, and it also debuts in select New York City and Los Angeles theaters on Friday.

Inside the ‘most lit’ LeBron-tinged spot at ComplexCon — ‘The Shop’ comes to life

‘A haircut makes you feel brand-new … like you got some new shoes on.’

2:37 PMLONG BEACH, Calif. — On the corner of “HBO” and “The Shop,” a fictional set of cross streets inside the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, stands a haven of camaraderie, conversation and, of course, cuts.

Yes, at the third annual ComplexCon, there was an actual barbershop celebrating HBO’s new The Shop, which debuted in August. The show takes viewers inside the barbershop, a staple of African-American male culture, for unfiltered conversations with the biggest names in sports and entertainment — all steered by LeBron James and his creative and business partner Maverick Carter.

In the season premiere, James discussed fatherhood with Golden State Warriors All-Star forward Draymond Green, comedian and cultural icon Jon Stewart, WNBA champion and MVP Candace Parker, Super Bowl champion/social activist Michael Bennett and hip-hop superstar Snoop Dogg. In episode two, The Shop welcomed record-setting recording artist Drake, who broke the internet by opening up to James and Carter about his beef with Kanye West — and the drama behind the reveal that Drake is in fact a father.

The idea behind the series translates easily into one of the largest activation spaces at this year’s two-day ComplexCon. A team of barbers manned stations inside the hardwood-floored area, where they provided free fades, lineups and shape-ups to celebrities, influencers and even your average convention attendee. A DJ spun outside the makeshift building, and sneaker cleaning was offered out back. All the while, podcast host and social media maven Denise Jones conducted on-camera interviews with folks sitting in barber chairs as Bevel blades hummed across their heads.

“I think it’s the most lit booth at ComplexCon,” said celebrity barber Marcus Harvey, whose clientele includes NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill, NBA analyst/former All-Star Chris Webber, three-time NBA champion Klay Thompson and the legendary rapper Nas. “The barbershop is the last brick-and-mortar for anything.”

When HBO first announced The Shop, Harvey, who’s been working in the barber industry since he was 12 and has cut hair since he was 15, couldn’t believe it. “I was like, ‘Oh, s—!’ ” Harvey said while lining up rapper Nick Grant. “They’re showing some love to the culture, for real. … We always talk about the culture, the culture, the culture, but if you really think about it, the culture always starts in the barbershop. Every movement is started in the barbershop. Your barber is the first entrepreneur that you met. So for there to even be a show where the background is … community and entrepreneurship, it’s a whole ‘nother level. It’s dope that HBO could see that people are always going to connect with the barbershop.”

Hill, in town for ComplexCon fresh from inking a Fila lifetime endorsement deal, pulled up for a cut. So did Nas, an investor with the company that produces Bevel products. Geiva, a female master hairstylist for men based in New Jersey, shaped up rapper A-Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. And a few chairs away, Cena Barhaghi, co-founder and creative director of the popular streetwear brand Pink Dolphin, got hit with some clippers.

“A haircut makes you feel brand-new,” Barhaghi said, “like you got some new shoes on.”

Seems like the only two people who didn’t come through the booth were Carter and James. But understandably so, given the Los Angeles Lakers played a back-to-back on the same dates as ComplexCon. “I’ve already cut ‘Bron,” Harvey said. “On my barber bucket list is Barack Obama. Once I get Obama in my chair, I’m retiring for five days. I’ma fast. I’ma go on a Himalayan hike. And I’m gonna talk about what we talked about to myself.”

Who knows? Maybe Obama will make an appearance on The Shop this season. LeBron, if you’re reading this, make it happen.