Categories
Entrepreneurs Grind

Kith: The Making of a Modern Brand

In the Jewish religion, a bar mitzvah is the ritual induction of a boy into manhood at the age of 13. It’s recognized as the time when he, not his parents, becomes responsible for his actions.

Ronnie Fieg took this transition quite seriously.

Fieg’s first cousin is David Z, a legendary sneaker and sportswear retailer in New York City. Fieg’s parents were paying off his bar mitzvah celebration with the gifts from the guests, and as is customary, David came to the celebration with his gift in hand: an envelope of cash. Fieg saw this as an opportunity and told David, “Thanks, but no thanks; I’d rather have a job working for you instead.” The next day, Fieg started as a stock boy at David Z.

In the late 1990s, David Z was located on Eighth Street in Greenwich Village, one of the most influential blocks in the country for street culture. All the big hip-hop artists spent their weekends hanging on the block. They would start on the corner with a Gray’s Papaya hot dog, maybe grab a pair of Parasuco Jeans in one of the lesser-known shops, and end up in David Z’s buying a pair of GORE-TEX boots. This was where Ronnie learned the business of sneakers and streetwear. As he tells GQ, “When Lauryn Hill spits ‘In some Gore-Tex and sweats I make treks like I’m homeless,’ the week that she recorded that album, I sold her the boots. And when you see Ma$e and Diddy in the ‘Been Around the World’ video and they’re wearing Dolomites, I sold them their boots. Anytime you’d see Wu-Tang with custom Wallabies, I used to get them custom-made for them. Jay-Z was there every weekend. ‘Cruising down Eighth Street’—when he spits that on the [‘Empire State of Mind’] track, that was him every Saturday, cruising down Eighth Street. I used to help him with his Timberlands every Saturday.” For Fieg, working at David Z was like going to the Harvard of street style.

Fieg worked his way up from stock boy to sales clerk to assistant manager to manager to assistant buyer and, eventually, buyer for multiple David Z stores at around the age of 25. As the head buyer, Fieg had direct exposure to the brands, and luckily for him, David Z moved volume, which gave him influence. He formed a relationship with ASICS at a Vegas trade show, and the brand performed well in the stores, so ASICS decided to give him the opportunity to design his own silhouette.

This was precipitous; back in the day, his mom had bought him a pair of ASICS Gel-Lyte IIIs at Tennis Junction in Great Neck instead of the more popular Reebok Pumps he wanted. At first, Fieg hated them, but eventually he grew to love them, wearing them until they had holes in the soles. He wanted to replace them, but they’d been discontinued. When ASICS gave him the chance to design his own, the Gel-Lyte III was his obvious choice. He pulled them out of the archive and created three versions, a total of 756 pairs. He called in some favors from a few friends, and they threw an event at David Z. The next day, they sold a few pairs, and he shared the story of the shoes with one of the buyers. The day after that, Fieg’s mother called him, exclaiming, “Your shoe is on the cover of the Wall Street Journal!” The guy Fieg told the story to was an editor at the WSJ, and wrote a story about limited-run sneakers. The next day, there was a line around the block. That same day, the president of Adidas America showed up and, as Fieg told GQ, “I told him the story, and that’s how we started talking about working on a shoe called the Black Tie.” Fieg had begun to build his following.

While David Z had a thriving business focused on moving quantity, Fieg was coming up in the era of Union and Supreme. He was obsessed with what they were doing and describes his thought process this way. So, in 2007, he started Kith, a small T-shirt and jacket line, and in 2010 he decided he was ready to launch a Kith shop. He partnered with Sam Ben-Avraham, owner of another legendary New York retail chain, Atrium. His first shop was 800 square feet, and during development he slept in the store for five straight days.

Since the opening of that shop, Kith has become a retail juggernaut. Currently, the brand has seven permanent locations: downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, Miami Beach, Los Angeles, Kith Shop at Bergdorf Goodman on New York’s Fifth Avenue, Kith Shop at Hirschliefers on Long Island and Kith Kids, in the East Village, along with seasonal pop-up locations in places such as Aspen. They recently quadrupled the size of the original Lafayette Street store and opened the Arsham/Feig Art Gallery on the top floor, with Kith collaborator artist Daniel Arsham. There are also multiple locations offering their Kith Treats concept, a cereal bar that focuses on combining cereal and ice cream for decadent ice cream desserts.

Why is Kith thriving when most other retail brands are dying? The answer is that it is a naturally sharable product that is built on the three pillars of modern marketing and entrepreneurship in the Age of Ideas: creative, distribution, experiential.

All Kith stores are designed by Snarkitecture, a firm founded by artist Daniel Arsham, focused on “investigating the boundaries between art and architecture.” Arsham’s work makes the stores more like immersive art exhibits than retail stores, and that makes Kith a place to experience, and even gather, rather than just shop. The stores are highly curated from start to finish; whether it’s their sneaker displays, book selections, wallpaper or website, everything reinforces the brand’s status as a culture factory.

While people go to Kith for the practical reason of purchasing sneakers, they also come to be a part of the movement, to say they have been there, to take photos of themselves in the store or wearing their piece of culture. Think of today’s best stores as contemporary art museums, but instead of taking photos in front of an innovative canvas or sculpture, you’re taking photos in front of branded installations and products: It’s a similar kind of creativity, in a different medium and setting.

Next, Fieg made collaborating core to his operation, not a side project. He collaborates with brands ranging from the commercial (Rugrats, Power Rangers, Coca-Cola, Cap’n Crunch) to high style (the now-shuttered Colette, BAPE, Bergdorf Goodman) to footwear legends (Nike, Timberland, Adidas). Through this process, Kith is constantly exchanging intellectual capital, social capital and customers with some of the most influential brands and people on the planet.

And because Kith is launching these collaborations throughout the year, customers always have another reason to visit or follow, another happening to be a part of. This constant activity and content is vital in a saturated media landscape. Combined with their experiential stores, this makes Kith the ultimate naturally sharable product. It’s a model that makes sure all channels, offline and online, are overflowing with great content. From the stores to the product to the partners to the cereal bar, Kith is brimming with interesting stories to tell and imagery to share, both for the traditional media and social media. And that kind of content is immensely valuable in the modern age—just take a look at the #Kith hashtag and you’ll see how a sharable product can transform into a movement.

Finally, Kith is tapping into two massively cultish communities: sneaker geeks and street-style junkies. These communities are constantly looking for what’s next, and Kith is always there to give it to them. Kith’s followers are digital natives involved in a global conversation. Fieg’s decades of street credibility give the brand authenticity and the market knowledge he and his team possess helps Kith stay ahead of the curve—both invaluable assets when dealing with these types of communities. More than that, popular culture pulls directly from these two fringe communities to decide what’s new and next, so these communities amplify Kith’s brand presence and message, allowing it to have a significant impact on the larger cultural conversation.

Kith is exciting not only because the product is great, but because the business is great. Ronnie Fieg and his team understand how to drive commerce via culture and have done that by building a product that naturally fits into the cultural conversation. He invests his resources in creativity, allowing the community to do the heavy lifting of amplifying his message and building one of the next great brands, and businesses in the process.

Alan Philips’s new book, The Age of Ideas, is available Oct. 23, 2018. To read more of Philip’s work, head to his website.

Categories
Sneakers Style

20 Shoes Rappers Love

Since the formal introduction of sneaker culture into hip-hop with Run DMC’s famous 1986 track “My Adidas,” the rap game and sneakers have been a match made in heaven. Many rappers have dabbled in footwear design and some have even made it a part of their living—here’s looking at you, Kanye West.

For many of these heavy spitters, sneakers are a way to get a leg up on their competition. They’re social currency—the more expensive, the better. The influence of the sneaker world can be heard in music as some of hip-hop’s most prolific artists have expressed their love and addiction for fashionable footwear. There’s Drake’s “Pound Cake/Paris Morton 2,” which featured an insane Jay-Z feature when Hov raps, “A pair of Jordan 3’s tryna chase this cash.” Then there’s Nelly’s classic sneaker anthem, “Air Force Ones.” Nobody can’t forget the subliminal shot Ye threw at Michael Jordan on the track “New God Flow,” when Yeezy started it off by saying, “Hold up, I ain’t trying to stunt man/But these Yeezys jumped over the Jumpman.” The trend continues and it’s looking like there’s no stopping it now.

Here are the sneakers your favorite rappers can’t get enough of. Fair warning: Be prepared to buck up—you won’t be able to find many of these at retail value.

1. Yeezy 700 Wave Runner
https://www.flightclub.com/yeezy-wave-runner-700-mgsogr-cwhite-cblack-802501
Courtesy of Adidas
Adidas Yeezy 700 Wave Runner

The Wave Runner isn’t one of Ye’s signature models, but it’s certainly one of his most popular. Making its debut to the public in August of 2017, this Yeezy exclusive features a mesh upper sole combination of gray and black suede with premium leather and blue mesh underlays. Adidas was able to provide new-age, enhanced technology of comfort and stability to the base of the shoes by adding their signature Boost technology on the midsole. This sneaker is the ultimate combination of high-brow fashion blended with casual dad vibes.

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https://www.flightclub.com/yeezy-boost-700-mgsogr-cwhite-cblack-802501
2. Nike x Off-White Jordan 1 UNC
https://stockx.com/air-jordan-1-retro-high-off-white-university-blue?gclid=CjwKCAjw5ZPcBRBkEiwA-avvk93p6jRH92hBhDJyDhvvtTFCd6X647CSrCpWEKC4ocn8R-cr4LIVwRoCwngQAvD_BwE
Courtesy of Nike
Nike x Off White Jordan 1 UNC

This iteration of the Jordan 1 might be Virgil Abloh’s flashiest creation yet. Carolina Blue is a classic Jordan colorway, harkening back to his college roots. That, along with the orange Off-White tag on the Nike swoosh and the classic text label on the shoe make this an instant hit. Most recently, Logic was spotted wearing them on the red carpet at this year’s VMAs.

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https://stockx.com/air-jordan-1-retro-high-off-white-university-blue?gclid=CjwKCAjw5ZPcBRBkEiwA-avvk93p6jRH92hBhDJyDhvvtTFCd6X647CSrCpWEKC4ocn8R-cr4LIVwRoCwngQAvD_BwE&utm_source=af&utm_medium=imp&utm_campaign=10078&impactSiteId=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkE
3. Jordan 3 Katrina
https://stockx.com/air-jordan-3-retro-katrina?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIh8OzmdSm3QIVmYWzCh0bRQT0EAQYBCABEgJuRfD_BwE
Courtesy of Jordan
Air Jordan 3, Katrina

The Katrina was first sold by Jordan Brand in an effort to raise money for Hurricane Katrina victims but was retroed earlier this summer. The classic white, red and gray colorway is simple but can work with most any outfit, so it’s become a celeb favorite. For example, Travis Scott hooped in them in this year’s H-Town Classic put on by James Harden.

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https://stockx.com/air-jordan-3-retro-katrina?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIh8OzmdSm3QIVmYWzCh0bRQT0EAQYBCABEgJuRfD_BwE&utm_source=af&utm_medium=imp&utm_campaign=10078&impactSiteId=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkEyviyVp1o01A0&clickid=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkEyviyVp1o01A
4. Yeezy 500 Blush
https://stockx.com/adidas-yeezy-500-blush
Courtesy of Adidas
Adidas Yeezy Blush 500

The 500 is quickly climbing the ladder in the Yeezy rankings with the shoes appearing on the feet of NBA World Champion Nick Young, Fabolous and Drake before he decided to sign with Nike. This monochromatic colorway is one of the cleanest the Yeezy line has to offer, which makes it an easy choice for every outfit.

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https://stockx.com/adidas-yeezy-500-blush?utm_source=af&utm_medium=imp&utm_campaign=10078&impactSiteId=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkEyviQRp1o01A0&clickid=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkEyviQRp1o01A0&utm_term=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkEyviQRp1o01A0&utm_content=one
5. Nike x Off-White Converse Chuck Taylor
https://stockx.com/converse-chuck-taylor-all-star-hi-off-white
Courtesy of Nike
Nike x Off White Converse Chuck Taylor

This is a unique spin on a classic shoe, doubling down on the trend of the transparent upper in a sneaker. This is a Wiz Khalifa favorite—he’s even been spotted performing in them.

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https://stockx.com/converse-chuck-taylor-all-star-hi-off-white?utm_source=af&utm_medium=imp&utm_campaign=10078&impactSiteId=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkEyvE0Jp1o01A0&clickid=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkEyvE0Jp1o01A0&utm_term=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkEyvE0Jp1
6. Travis Scott Cactus Jordan 4
https://stockx.com/air-jordan-4-retro-travis-scott-cactus-jack?gclid=CjwKCAjw5ZPcBRBkEiwA-avvkz8bAXpO2e09-0Ni08R0DMGHz0WWXLrdKdcNAOphZRJ5L7fbtfMFghoCCOgQAvD_BwE
Courtesy of Jordan
Travis Scott Cactus Jack Jordan Retro 4

This might be one of the best sneaker releases of the year. Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack Jordan 4 turns heads, not just because of the contrast between its red lining and Carolina blue upper, but the Cactus logo on the heel. The multi-platinum rapper did a great job of paying tribute to his Houston roots with this vintage montage of the ex-NFL Oilers team’s colorway. Travis outdid himself with this one.

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https://stockx.com/air-jordan-4-retro-travis-scott-cactus-jack?gclid=CjwKCAjw5ZPcBRBkEiwA-avvkz8bAXpO2e09-0Ni08R0DMGHz0WWXLrdKdcNAOphZRJ5L7fbtfMFghoCCOgQAvD_BwE&utm_source=af&utm_medium=imp&utm_campaign=10078&impactSiteId=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkEyvE1Vp
7. Nike x Off-White Air Presto
https://www.stadiumgoods.com//air-presto-x-off-white-260086?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&adpos=1o4&scid=scplp259704&sc_intid=259704&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIjuGNrNem3QIVleDICh2NYAp0EAQYBCABEgL-ZfD_BwE
Courtesy of Nike
Nike x Off White Prestos

The Off-White Air Presto is one of Abloh’s hardest-hitting releases, and hip-hop’s heaviest hitters have responded in kind, with this sneaker worn by Chance the Rapper, A$AP Rocky and Drake. The distressed nature of the shoe along with the colorful lace combinations make it versatile.

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https://www.stadiumgoods.com/catalog/product/view/id/259706
8. Nike Cortez Kenny 3
https://stockx.com/nike-cortez-kenny-3-kendrick-lamar-tde-the-championship?gclid=CjwKCAjw5ZPcBRBkEiwA-avvk8aqyWAA55Q26f0pXQsezm2WPgaluBNm_CDHGPuR93FT_kM1hxGvPBoCtHUQAvD_BwE
Courtesy of Nike
Nike Cortez Kenny 3

The Cortez Kenny is a simple shoe with its mostly black upper, but the red tab on the heel and down the tongue make this shoe pop. It’s been sported by Kendrick Lamar along with a host of other celebrities throughout the summer.

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https://stockx.com/nike-cortez-kenny-3-kendrick-lamar-tde-the-championship?gclid=CjwKCAjw5ZPcBRBkEiwA-avvk8aqyWAA55Q26f0pXQsezm2WPgaluBNm_CDHGPuR93FT_kM1hxGvPBoCtHUQAvD_BwE&utm_source=af&utm_medium=imp&utm_campaign=10078&impactSiteId=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo
9. Homage Jordan 1s
https://stockx.com/air-jordan-1-retro-high-homage-to-home-nn?gclid=CjwKCAjw5ZPcBRBkEiwA-avvk8uLigrGzZPqIfbsXPecaFHLPyLs-rrr4x0CV3gEFUjbJfqVZzgBDRoC9fQQAvD_BwE
Courtesy of Jordan
Jordan 1 Home 2 Homage

This odd combination on the Jordan 1 is abstract enough to make anyone’s heads turn. It’s a combination of the home and away OG Chicago Jordan 1’s sneakers all in one and is pretty slick. Famous Dex was seen walking around in these.

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https://stockx.com/air-jordan-1-retro-high-homage-to-home-nn?gclid=CjwKCAjw5ZPcBRBkEiwA-avvk8uLigrGzZPqIfbsXPecaFHLPyLs-rrr4x0CV3gEFUjbJfqVZzgBDRoC9fQQAvD_BwE&utm_source=af&utm_medium=imp&utm_campaign=10078&impactSiteId=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkEyvBRVp1o
10. Balenciaga Triple S
https://www.balenciaga.com/us/triple-s-shoes_cod11271302nb.html
Courtesy of Balenciaga
Balenciaga Triple S

These shoes are… something else. Designed by Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia, they’re chunky and come in a ton of different colorways to play with. They’ve outfitted Migos, and been worn by a ton of other rappers who have the money to cop.

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https://www.balenciaga.com/us/triple-s-shoes_cod11271302nb.html?utm_campaign=Skimlinks.com&utm_content=10&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_source=linkshare&tp=53667
11. Yeezy 350 V2 Butter
https://www.goat.com/sneakers/yeezy-boost-350-v2-ice-yellow-f36980?gclid=CjwKCAjw5ZPcBRBkEiwA-avvk7dtR5jS3Nn38pgiy4E9wavaFA6nYC4qOihtcyGJIKLk3vv6XBI5BRoCQ9wQAvD_BwE
Courtesy of GOAT
Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2

This is a simple and smooth Yeezy colorway that West himself has copied in wide-scale releases for the Yeezy line. They’re not easy to track down, but one of the more accessible Yeezys and also one of the easiest to wear.

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https://www.goat.com/sneakers/yeezy-boost-350-v2-ice-yellow-f36980?gclid=CjwKCAjw5ZPcBRBkEiwA-avvk7dtR5jS3Nn38pgiy4E9wavaFA6nYC4qOihtcyGJIKLk3vv6XBI5BRoCQ9wQAvD_BwE&clickid=8e9382aa4ed611eb81b400290a24060d&cjevent=8e9382aa4ed611eb81b400290a24060d&utm_sour
12. Nike x Off-White Jordan 1 Chicago
https://stockx.com/air-jordan-1-retro-high-off-white-chicago
Courtesy of Jordan
Nike x Off White Jordan 1 Chicago

This shoe was 2017’s sneaker of the year at the coveted Footwear News Achievement Awards and has been spotted on countless celebrities from rappers such as Playboi Carti, Drake, Chance The Rapper and Travis Scott, to athletes such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Roger Federer and social media stars like Luka Sabbat. It was the sneaker that started the Off-White craze with Nike and has remained a sneaker culture mainstay.

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https://stockx.com/air-jordan-1-retro-high-off-white-chicago?utm_source=af&utm_medium=imp&utm_campaign=10078&impactSiteId=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkEyvG3tp1o01A0&clickid=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkEyvG3tp1o01A0&utm_term=x-TWRZwm7xyLRWlwUx0Mo3YlUkEyvG3tp1o0
13. Air Force 1
StockX
Air Force 1

Through the years there have been many different variations of the Air Force 1s, but for some reason, these sneakers have been super popular in hip-hop and rap culture. Nelly famously made a hit song about them in 2002, and that record led to future sneaker collaborations with rappers (Jay-Z later had an Air Force 1 Roc-A-Fella collaboration with Nike). As many sneakerheads know, not all basketball shoes are actually good for hooping. The Forces, however, are the real deal. Not only can you ball out in them, but stylistically they provide a fresh clean look that can be paired with anything in your closet.

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https://stockx.com/search/sneakers?s=air%20force
14. Jordan 3 Retro 88
Stock X
Jordan 3 Retro 88

Ladies and gentlemen—Jay-Z’s favorite sneaker. Not only is Hov one of the music industry’s most iconic figures, but over the decades he has been heavily recognized for his fashion sense and street style. The Jordan 3’s aren’t just Jay’s favorite sneaker, but many other celebrities love them as well. This version is a fan favorite inspired from the sneakers Michael Jordan wore during his legendary 1988 Dunk Contest showdown with Dominique Wilkins (you know the one where he dunked from the free-throw line). The 88s remain one of the most popular shoes in hip-hop.

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https://stockx.com/jordan-3-retro-white-cement-88-dunk-contest-2013
15. Jordan 4 Off-White Sail
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Jordan 4 Off-White Sail

When the Off-White Sail Jordan 4s were released this past summer, they caused quite the stir. Just about every female celebrity and influencer rushed to get them, and these shoes remain one of the most desirable newer sneakers on the market. This colorway is truly beautiful, and the sneakers look like they could fit quite nicely with some of the paintings and decorations that you have in your house. The mesh upper and translucent panels complete the design, while the cushioning provides extra support and comfort.

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https://stockx.com/air-jordan-4-retro-off-white-sail-w
16. Jordan 4 Retro Red
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Jordan 4 Retro Red

Speaking of Jordan 4s, these Retro Reds have also been causing some commotion. Released towards the end of November, many celebs have already been seen rocking these bad boys. Rapper Saweetie was recently seen wearing these kicks the week of Christmas, and had them on when boyfriend Quavo gifted her a Bentley. If that is any indication, then wearing the Retro Reds might be good luck for getting everything you have ever wished for.

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https://stockx.com/air-jordan-4-retro-fire-red-2020
17. Louis Vuitton Trainer Sneakers
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Louis Vuitton Trainer Sneakers

The same way luxury clothing has completely taken over in the music industry, luxury shoes have also become a thing. There are many variations of the Louis Vuitton sneakers, but the Trainers remain among the most popular. The design of the shoe takes high-top sneakers to another level, and aesthetically the shoes are vivid and rich in quality. The Louis Vs are also rich in price, so you will need at least $1500 if you want a pair (which is probably why we only see them on celebs). 

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https://stockx.com/louis-vuitton-lv-trainer-sneaker-boot-high-black-grey
18. Burberry Mesh Nubuck Union
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Burberry Mesh

Through the years, Burberry has been referenced in many different rap songs, so it should come as no surprise that rappers are now wearing Burberry sneakers. While there are colorways that have the Burberry design that we are familiar with, these particular ones seem to be more popular due to the neutral black color and basketball shoe design. Despite not being as popular, the Burberry design kicks are still in-demand, and rapper CupcakKe rocked a pair last summer causing quite a frenzy on social media.

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https://stockx.com/burberry-mesh-nubuck-union-black
19. Vans
StockX

Rappers love Vans. In fact, just about every celebrity loves Vans. In the last couple of years, Future, ASAP Rocky, Lil Wayne, and even Kanye has been snapped by the paparazzi rocking them, and honestly, Vans are back ‘in’ again. Vans will forever be one of those legendary shoes that can be paired with anything in your closet, and you can definitely ‘swag’ them out as well. For that reason, we will always see rappers donning them. 

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https://stockx.com/vans-old-skool-notre-off-white
Puma
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J. Cole Puma

For a while, Puma sneakers were not considered  ‘popular’ in the hip-hop world. Over the last several years, the tide has slowly changed, and we have even seen many rappers collaborate with the brand. Jay-Z has a deal with Puma as a creative director, Big Sean also has collab with a brand, and even J. Cole has gotten in on the action. The revival of Puma has sparked new partnerships (Nipsey Hustle’s deal for example), and we imagine that there will be plenty more in the future. So yes, it is ‘cool’ to wear Pumas again.

20. Puma Sneakers
https://stockx.com/puma-rs-dreamer-j-cole-blood-sweat-and-tears
Categories
Sports Strength

#TheUnknownHustle: Aaron Rodgers

Despite setting records at Pleasant Valley High School (Chico, CA), Aaron Rodgers was only a three-star recruit and did not receive a single scholarship offer from any FBS schools. He passed on the only walk-on offer from Illinois and attended Butte Community College instead.

Rodgers was only noticed when a University of California coach was recruiting a Butte College tight end. Once he transferred to Cal, he distinguished himself as one of the nation’s top quarterback prospects and left for the NFL after two years.

After college, he was in familiar territory. He dropped to the 24th pick of the first round after being projected as a top five pick. Then he spent three years as the backup to Brett Favre before finally getting his chance. But once he was given the opportunity, he performed, leading the league in passing and being named NFL MVP two times respectively on his way to a Super Bowl MVP ring in 2011.

Categories
Culture Gaming

Tony Hawk Isn’t Done Innovating

Tony Hawk created this Hot Wheels track, Sim City lookin’ “death loop” that he sets up, every couple of years or so, for the new Evel Knievels of the skate world. It’s not designed to kill, per se, but Hawk did break his pelvis once mid-way through the 360-degree trip. He first attempted it in 1995. He first cleared it in 1998. And until this past August, over the give-or-take 40 years that skateboarding has been a popular sport, no woman had ever given it a go. Then Lizzie Armanto, on Hawk’s Birdhouse team, attempted the loop.

Hawk had partnered with NextVR to broadcast this competition to attentive watchers who wanted to experience the full-throttle adrenaline-kick of doing a loop de loop untethered, relying on gravity, from the comfort of their iPhones. It was not only a momentous achievement for women in sports, but also an inventive ollie into the virtual reality space.

Hawk, now 50, isn’t done pioneering. Though fans continue to beg for the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater to be remastered and re-released, Activision—the game’s developer—isn’t budging. So Hawk is developing his own mobile game with an end-of-year release. He also still skateboards whenever he can, whenever he’s not gaming himself or going unacknowledged in TSA lines. But is skateboarding hurtling toward a virtual existence? Hawk doesn’t think so—though he isn’t completely ruling it out. And if it does, he’ll be the first to ride the wave.

I saw some big things happened during your loop challenge back in August. Can you tell me a bit about that?

Tony Hawk: So I have this loop that we used for a tour a while back. It was something that we were doing in the show and less than 20 people have ever actually done it, or done similar ones. Every few years’, I’ll put it up for a new crop of skaters who have requested to try it. This time we put it up in conjunction with NextVR, so people could watch it live. Over the course of an hour, two new skaters were successful.

After NextVR left, Lizzie Armanto—who is one of our skaters on Birdhouse and an exceptional athlete and inspiration to woman in terms of skating and action sports—came back to it as they were leaving and said, “I’d like to try it again.” Even though the event was over. I was fully supportive of that. So a few of us started helping her out and placing the pads in the right places. Less than an hour later, she was the first woman to successfully do it.

It’s crazy to me that in terms of sports, skateboarding is still considered a young sport, but in 20 years time, I’m not sure how many females have attempted the loop.

Hawk: None, really. Up to that point, none had tried it. We had a few that came to try it. The day before [the loop challenge] I put it up and I allowed people to actually test it. And one girl did give it a go and she decided it wasn’t for her. These are girls that I invited based on their abilities. Another girl brought her stuff and refused to even go down the starting ramp, because it’s frightening. I mean, I don’t blame them at all. It’s one of the scariest things. And, and there’s a big price to be paid if you do it wrong. I actually broke my pelvis on one of them a long time ago because it was a different design. It was really slow and I paid the price, so I totally understand how they feel once they see it in real life. Lizzie was one of the ones who tried it that day, but she wasn’t really getting close, so I was surprised to have her come back the next day and then follow through again later on.

Can you explain why incorporating VR so that anyone can technically experience the “death loop” is a momentous thing?

Hawk: I mean [the fact] that we can do live events anywhere online is amazing to me, but the idea that we can do it in VR, you can see it in actual 3D and you can see the scope and the fear that people go through in that moment in real time—I think that’s amazing. When [NextVR] approached me about it, they said, “What kind of event would you like to do live?” There are all kinds of things we could do with skateboarding. But I said no one’s ever really seen this loop in real time. Every time you see someone do it, it’s something that happened over the course of an hour with a lot of practice and a lot of help. And so to see that unfold in real time in full 3D is leaps ahead of anything that we’ve done.

You first did it in 1998.

Hawk: I tried one in 1995, but it was designed poorly so I ended up not successfully coming out of it that time. In 1998, we built a proper one and I finally did it.

How do you see VR’s place in the skateboarding world going forward?

Hawk: I would like to see a game that incorporates VR—something that makes you feel like you’re skating without getting motion sickness. That’s probably the biggest challenge. We have almost every system in our house. In fact, my daughter is playing Rick and Morty right now as I’m talking to you, that’s not a joke. So I love the concept of it. I love the technology of it and incorporating skating is exciting to me, but I gotta find the right fit and doing a live event was a step in the right direction.

Your video game franchise is legendary. I heard that Activision tried to buy your name and likeness when you made the first Tony Hawk Pro Skater, but instead you struck a royalty deal where you earn a percentage of every copy sold. How did that come about?

Hawk: The original deal I signed was a royalty deal; that was established from the get-go. It was more that when the game was about to be released, they offered me a buyout of future royalties and for me, that was a big decision because the money they were offering me was more than I’d ever seen. But luckily, I was in a financial position that I was pretty secure with things that were going on and other sponsorships and competitions and future deals. So I rode it out. I basically told them I’m going to give it a chance and it was the best financial decision in my life. But it’s hard when people offer you big money to buy you out or if you’re running a company for the big exit, that’s when you really have to realize that you either believe in what you’ve been doing or you were only in it for the quick buck.

Based on all of your years being involved in major business decisions, do you have any tips for young entrepreneurs for how to get the better end of a deal?

Hawk: You’ve got to try to keep control of your brand. If you are offered money to take it over, if you can fight for that control, that’s probably your best option. Because when someone else takes your vision and runs with it, they’re going to do things with it that you probably don’t approve of or didn’t want them to ever do. That’s the key—you gotta keep enjoying your brand and don’t try to get the easy quick buck. Get out of it because you’re just going to see it crumble and realize that you could’ve taken it a lot further with your own passion.

You mentioned that the original deal you signed was a royalty-based deal, but did you have any foresight to see how the game would be successful?

Hawk: My only sign that it was going to be successful is that as it was being released, they offered me that buyout. And also a lot of my friends in the skate industry had been playing it. I sort of leaked some copies to people before it got released and they all just started calling it “the game.” Have you played “the game?” And I knew that we had a buzz amongst skaters and people that like video games. [Activision] started talking about what we would do for a sequel before the first game was released. So all of those were signs that there was going to be a success beyond anything that we anticipated.

When it first came out and it was flying off the shelves, how did that feel for you?

Hawk: It was crazy. It changed my life. It changed my life in terms of opportunity, in terms of recognition factor, finances—suddenly my name was synonymous with video games. A lot of people thought that I was new on the scene because they suddenly knew my name and I had been a pro skater for almost 20 years of my life at that point. So it was super exciting. It allowed me to exit competition in a way that I felt good about. And to explore new opportunities like doing arena tours and other endorsements and promoting skating and starting a foundation—all of that was related to having a video game and having that recognition.

I read that by your senior year of high school in the late ’80s, you were making $70,000 a year. Then in the early ’90s, skateboarding fell out of favor with sponsors and you had to sell your car, house and borrow $8,000 from your parents.

Hawk: That’s true. I borrowed money from my parents to buy a video editing system because I knew how to do that. I had worked with computers from an early age, before they were a staple of every home. And so I knew how to edit video but I didn’t have the equipment and I thought my career as a skater was ending and so I borrowed money from my parents to actually buy an editing system.

Back then you weren’t digitizing things to video, you were actually doing it linear on videotape. So I bought this very, even then it was an antiquated video system. It was a three-quarter inch deck, two decks for the source, one deck for the edit, and made it work. I made a few videos for other skate companies. Ironically, I made a video for a video game company, NEC back then. That was before I had a video game deal, obviously. And I learned a lot in the process and then shortly after that the Video Toaster came out and then suddenly a video was nonlinear. It was digitized and I was ahead of the curve when all that happened. So I was able to use those skills and when I started my own company to do all of that stuff behind the scenes.

Courtesy of the artist

So if God at the gates of heaven said, “Before you enter, you have to tell me which version of Tony Hawk Pro Skater is your favorite,” which would you choose?

Hawk: [laughs] Favorite? So curious as to what platform you’d be using. I think if I had to choose one that I think resonates the most in terms of playability and soundtrack and people finding this series was our second Tony Hawk Pro Skater. That one I’m very proud of in terms of the authenticity, the character, the locations and the game play. I feel like that’s the one that put us on the map.

Does it annoy you that people constantly asked for like the old Pro Skater games to be remastered?

Hawk: No, not at all. It doesn’t annoy me. There are so many legal issues with that. That’s the thing I can’t really explain is that I can’t do it on my own. Activision can’t use my name unless we came to a new deal and I don’t think they’re really interested in it. So it doesn’t annoy me. If anything I’m honored that they still have a reverence for it. I wish there was some way to do that. I really do.

What can you tell us about the mobile game you’ve got in the works?

Hawk: I can tell you that there are some somewhat similar controls to previous series that people are used to you, but we’re taking advantage of the mobile platform and I’m excited about it, but that’s all I can really tell you right now.

You don’t have a release date in mind, do you?

Hawk: I believe it will be near the end of the year.

Watch the full #Face2FaceTime with Tony Hawk on ONE37pm’s YouTube channel.

Categories
Culture News

Richard Branson’s Reactions to Everything Ryan Reynolds Says in This Video Are Priceless

In a hilarious commercial announcing a partnership between Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic and Ryan Reynolds’s Aviation Gin, the Deadpool actor tries his hardest to impress the billionaire serial entrepreneur with business jargon and dramatic “merger” talk. The look on Branson’s face is one of confusion that eventually boils over into annoyance, with the Virgin founder muttering “for fuck’s sake” and walking off the set.

Sure, it’s all acting, but play along while watching for a dose of laughter.

Funny, right? Reynolds has been using humor on social media to promote his gin brand ever since he became the owner of Aviation in February.

And the humorous gin promos kept coming in the ensuing months, once proclaiming it “tastes like god cried in your mouth,” up until this week’s well-played Virgin-Aviation announcement. August was a particularly excellent month for quirky self-promotion.

Need more video stimulation from the actor-turned-businessman? Here you go. 

Categories
Culture Gaming

Spider-Man and the Police: Even the Wall-Crawler Can’t Get Over America’s Divide in PS4 Game

Superheroes have remained a surprisingly resilient crossover force in America’s fraying political divide. Marvel and DC properties, for the most part, seem to have been tailored to walk the line between what entertains both blue and red America. Superheroes have remained safe topics to discuss during family gatherings, and they seem like a harmless subject on which to build a video game. Then along came Spider-Man on PlayStation 4.

Insomniac’s recent breakout hit has received near-universal praise for its rich story, its fantastic rendering of New York City and its enormously fun gameplay. However, as enthusiasts swung their way from skyscraper to skyscraper in a bid to clean up the Big Apple, another conversation began. It was one that didn’t have a whole lot to do with the excellent traversal mechanics or the stellar voice acting from Yuri Lowenthal as Peter Parker. Instead it was about how the game treated Spider-Man’s relationship with the New York Police Department.

From the very beginning of the game, it’s made abundantly clear that your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is very much in cahoots with the local PD. His first main overworld contact is the gruff police captain Yuri Watanabe (played by Laura Bailey), who asks Spidey to repair police communication all over Manhattan. Spider-Man gladly obliges and sets off on a number of Watanabe’s requests, happily coordinating with the police to forward their objectives without question or concern about the ultimate goals. There’s an odd bit at the beginning when he even refers to himself multiple times as “Spider-Cop,” much to the chagrin of Watanabe.

If you haven’t noticed (and you probably have), America has been going through a prolonged cultural moment with how its citizens view the police. It should absolutely be noted that for many, this isn’t a “moment” at all, but rather how they’ve lived their entire lives.

Many long-held fears and outrage exploded onto the national scene with the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and since then widespread condemnation of police practices with respect to minority groups has manifested into a number of active movements and overt symbols upon American life. And that sense of anger remains just as palpable today, from the Detroit police officer fired for posting a racist picture on Snapchat this week, to last month’s shooting of an unarmed black man in his own Texas apartment.

That sense of injustice formed the Black Lives Matter movement. That fury inspired Colin Kaepernick to begin lasting NFL protests. That backlash started the Blue Lives Matter campaign in defense of police officers. And the whole conversation is what makes Spider-Man’s treatment of the police so compelling.

It didn’t take long for the first criticism of Spider-Man’s relationship with the police to come out. Just three days after the game’s release, a very unsubtle post by Tom Ley ran on Deadspin titled, “They Turned Spider-Man Into A Damn Cop And It Sucks.” That unambiguous headline raised the first mainstream positions on the, to some, disconcerting nature of Spidey’s police work.

“It’s dumb to expect video games to be responsible reflections of real life, but it is also impossible, for me at least, to not feel some ickiness about the game forcing me into cahoots with even a fictionalized version of the NYPD, an organization that routinely oppresses some of the most vulnerable residents of the city I live in,” the author Tom Ley wrote. “What this new game does is put Spider-Man up on a perch where he doesn’t belong. He’s no longer performing heroic deeds out of just the goodness of his heart, but also for the purpose of solidifying the existing power structure’s grip on the city.”

This was far from the first mention of the tilted perspective of Spider-Man’s latest (and many say greatest) video game outing. A groundswell of people across the social sphere were all too eager to question the Wall-Crawler’s intentions with regards to the police. Though very, very few seemed to have problems with the gameplay, story structure or combat. Many seemed to not understand the exact direction of this game’s subtext.

Of course, this backlash had a backlash. It didn’t take very long after the first wave of criticism for the backlash to rise up and question what exactly was the problem. To many on the other side of the debate, the question was: What’s so wrong with Spidey helping the police?

Forbes was quick to take the other side and declare that Spider-Man doesn’t actually glorify police abuse and that people who saw such subtext were looking too hard for indignation.

“Of course, the cops are on Spider-Man’s side throughout the game. There’s no way around that,” writes Erik Kain. “In this fictional universe, the cops are good guys. The escaped convicts are bad guys as are the armed thugs from Fisk’s organization and the Demons. The cops, or at least the ones working with Yuri and Parker, are heroic and hapless, always in need of help.”

Kain wasn’t alone in defending Parker’s partnership with the police. Many turned out on social media, and in the media itself, to claim that such an outrage was invented, if not overtly coordinated.

The National Review took the far position and claimed that Spider-Man caused “SJWs” (Social Justice Warriors, a pejorative against the left) to be “triggered” because the police weren’t the villains of the piece.

“To be clear, in this game, the player, as Spider-Man, helps the police: 1. stop muggings; 2. stop break-ins; 3. rescue people from car accidents; 4. defuse bombs and oppose terrorists; 5. and most importantly, SAVE LIVES,” Chris Pandolfo writes. “But those good things are problematic for the SJWs, who demand that all entertainment media shove SJW propaganda down everyone’s throats. Criminals can’t just be bad guys. The police can’t just be the good guys. And our heroes need to fit into a leftist narrative, or they can’t really be heroes.”

From developer Insomniac’s end, it’s difficult to ascertain their reasoning for depicting Spider-Man’s relationship with the police one way or another. They did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

And it’s not the only curious decision that is included in the game. In researching the evolving conversation, it became clear that many picked up on something I noticed during my play through: There is a prominent black police officer, who plays a pivotal role in the story, named Jefferson Davis. Jefferson Davis was also the name of the only president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. I don’t mean to presume at all that this character was named after the infamous historical figure. I’m merely pointing out that I’m far from the only one who raised an eyebrow when the character said his name.

It’s interesting to consider whether this game would have had inspired the same conversation had it been released just a few years ago. Video game depictions of police have usually steered relatively clear of criticism. But the past few years have put a megaphone to this country’s opinions about law enforcement. More light has been shed on the perceived abuses of police power and those active in holding law enforcement accountable have made their voices heard.

In a climate like this, there’s no such thing as being apolitical, even in video games. Much was made earlier this year over Far Cry 5 and its depiction of a rural religious cult gone wrong. Before the game came out, it was expected to levy a pointed criticism against the perceived cultural forces that elected Donald Trump. Instead, many, many, many people found the game’s aggressively apolitical nature robbed it of any substance. In trying to cater to everyone, it lost them all.

That seems like a close analog to Spider-Man’s police problem. In ignoring America’s struggle with law enforcement and running with what would possibly have gone unnoticed five or 10 years ago, the game instead gave many people a modern setting that they didn’t recognize. In trying to act like there isn’t a problem, Insomniac underlined it.  

The good folks at Insomniac probably didn’t mean too much by having Spider-Man glorify the police. But in contemporary American pop culture, every artistic decision will only continue to underline this county’s deepening divisions.

Categories
Grooming Style

Unisex Skin Care Is Here to Give You Skin as Nice as Hers

The days of stealing your girlfriend’s, roommate’s or roommate’s girlfriend’s fancy skincare products are coming to a glorious end.

We’ve arrived at the bountiful, stressless era of unisex skincare.

Mass-market skincare products have largely remained stubborn in their gendered ways. That market is still dominated by female consumers, but as men make their presence (and vanity) increasingly apparent—spending $47.2 billion on grooming globally in 2015, expected to rise to $60.7 billion in 2020—a new wave of unisex products that don’t care what gender your skin belongs to is moisturizing the skincare market from all sides. Context, Deciem, Meant, and ASARAI just a few of the millennial-targeted brands to hit the skincare scene in the last couple of years. Each one promises ‘grammable luxury, ingredient transparency and gender neutrality. 

Meant
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Meant

For Meant, the problem was as much about a needless gender divide as a needless dearth of products. Founder and CEO Lindsay Knaak-Stuart recalls, “My husband had a shaving cream and I had a shaving cream. He had a body wash and I had a body wash. In all aspects of my life I was a minimalist, but in my shower I was not.” Taking her newfound bottle reduction obsession to its logical conclusion, she found, like a more refined Dr. Bronners, that using nourishing, organic ingredients in her products allowed them to do double duty without sacrificing results: A gentle shampoo that cleanses the face and body just as well. A daily conditioner that moonlights as a shaving cream. While her customers are still “about 95% women,” bridging the narrow gaps between high-end grooming products made any self-imposed gender divide in their packaging and marketing seem even more absurd. “Meant is all about less is more,” Knaak-Stuart says. “I’ve never really understood the gender divide in men’s and women’s personal care products… I think it’s mostly just talking down to men. By not going millennial pink I’m more likely to pique the interest of a co-habitating guy.” 

In Australia, skincare upstart ASARAI didn’t take quite the same minimalist approach with their set of “uber natural” facial care products that include a luxurious red clay mask, vitamin superfood face oil and (I can attest) delightful “gel to milk” morning cleanser. But their unisex approach to the brand came just as instinctively. “A trademark of our millennial generation is breaking the rules and redefining what we believe in, so creating a skincare brand with gender fluidity came very naturally to us,” says Jay Rynenberg, co-founder of ASARAI with his wife Patrice. Invested in improving gender diversity in the beauty industry—much like their renowned Australian unisex forbearers, Aesop—ASARAI’s hazard yellow packaging serves as a welcome reminder that inclusivity needn’t look bland either. It can look like it should be behind emergency glass that you feel like breaking every time you shower. 

Courtesy
Courtesy
Courtesy

While the skincare industry has undoubtedly plumped up the differences between men and women’s skin, there are some distinctions. As Dr. Jeremy Brauer, NYU Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology explains, “There are a number of ways that men’s skin is different than women’s. Not only is men’s skin thicker, it tends to be oilier.” Women’s collagen levels also deplete a bit more rapidly causing slightly more visible aging, especially after menopause. And the pH of men’s sweat is 0.05 lower than women

But—and this is the crucial point—these differences have almost no bearing on what ends up being good for your skin. As Brauer puts it, “When it comes to skincare ingredients, the patient’s gender isn’t really a factor.” All skin likes to be clean, soft, and dewy. And those statistical gender differences are far from absolute. Some women have oilier skin. Some men have drier skin. Many men definitely have thinner skin (wink, wink). We’re all just individuals who like nice things. “I always customize my skincare advice to the individual patient, regardless of gender,” Brauer says. So just because men’s skin tends to be oilier on average doesn’t mean it demands an industrial-grade solvent blended with discarded peppermint candy canes to get fresh after a workout (looking at you, Irish Spring).

The bigger challenge, as it so often is, is getting men to admit they have a problem. Dr. Brauer explains, “While men are much more advanced at and interested in grooming than ever before, there are many that still need to work on the basics…The basic trifecta is to cleanse, protect with a broad spectrum sunscreen, and moisturize. Also, it can’t be said enough, but drinking water.”

So stop stealing a spot of cleanser here, dribble of lotion there from the ladies in your life from the shadows. Steal them proudly. Or better yet, pick up a bottle or two of your own. There are plenty of wonderful unisex brands to try if hers is still too pink for you.

Categories
Sports Strength

Meet the NBA’s Next Generation

Platinum recording artist Kendrick Lamar rapped, “I got hustle though, ambition, flow, inside my DNA.” The lyrics are off of the song “DNA,” which is on K. Dot’s Pulitzer Prize–winning album DAMN. When it comes to some of basketball’s best-known families, Kendrick’s word applies. But when you have a legacy and name to protect, you better ensure your progeny has got what it takes. When it comes to the NBA’s next generation, a few major prospects don’t fall too far from the tree.

SHAREEF O’NEAL

Shareef O’Neal is a rising freshman who will be suiting up for the UCLA Bruins Basketball Program this upcoming 2018-2019 season. O’Neal was a Jordan Brand All-American at the Crossroads School. His father, Shaquille, was a force to be reckoned with in college and in the NBA, finishing his career with four NBA rings, a 15-time NBA All-Star and a member of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary Team. Changing the way the center dominates the game, you’d have thought his son Shareef would follow the path his father set for him.

But O’Neal’s game isn’t much like his father’s. O’Neal is a 6’9” forward who displays an array of skills his father didn’t have, such as being a solid mid-range shooter and a versatile offensive threat who can attack the rim as well by using his crafty ball handling skills.

Ranked as the No. 29 player in the nation in ESPN’s top 100 high school players in the class of 2018, O’Neal had major Division I powerhouses knocking on his door. Despite a recruiting scandal (O’Neal de-committed from Arizona after the FBI claimed to have a copy of a phone conversation detailing a $100,000 payment for DeAndre Ayton’s commitment), UCLA won him over. With Arizona, Arizona State, and cross-town rivals the USC Trojans gunning to become Pac-12 champs, UCLA has a good shot with a second-generation superstar in the making.

BOL BOL

O’Neal will be facing off against the Oregon Ducks where they recruited a “giant” secret weapon to make a run to the national championship.

Meet Bol Bol, a 7’2” center who is ready to make a major impact the moment he steps onto the court in Eugene. Bol is the son of one of the tallest NBA players in history, Manute Bol. Like his dad, Bol’s tall wiry stature causes fits on the defensive end. In addition, he’s able to develop a sweet touch around the rim along with draining long-range threes, attributes that will cause major mismatches as the season progresses.

While attending Findlay Prep, Bol became a McDonalds High School All American, averaging 20.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Bol has always been a walking attraction the minute he stepped foot on the court. After his eighth grade year, he was receiving offers from schools such as New Mexico State and he was only 6’5”. The only question that scouts are contemplating is whether he’ll continue to grow. Only time will tell as the Ducks are on every major hoop insider radar for this upcoming season.

COLE ANTHONY

While Shaq and Manute’s sons are prepping for the next level, there has been a young product positioning himself as this year’s best high school player. Say hello to Cole Anthony. No, there is no relation between him and Melo, but he is the son of 11-year NBA vet and NBA TV analyst Greg Anthony. Cole is the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2019 according to 247sports.com.

This Queens native is already dubbed the next “it” point guard. His freakish athleticism, court awareness, shooting ability and in-game tenacity has major Division I products such as Duke, UNC, Kansas, Georgetown and Kentucky on his coattails. The famed SLAM Magazine has covered Anthony as he’s joined the ranks with greats such as Stephon Marbury, Lance Stephenson, Kenny Anderson and Mark Jackson as the Big Apple’s next HS hoops superstar.

Unfortunately for NYC prep fans, he will not stay at home to finish his career. Anthony transferred from Molloy High School and into prep school powerhouse Oak Hill Academy. Hooping for a prep program such as this sets any elite baller up for the next level. Some of the NBA best such as Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo, Carmelo Anthony and Brandon Jennings have played for the storied program. Often ranked in USA Today’s Top 25 High School Rankings, Oak Hill Academy will have an intense regular season schedule. Cole is poised to be the face of this team and to continue the reputation that holds all thoroughbred NYC ballers: tough, gritty and hard-nosed.

LEBRON JAMES JR.

Filling the shoes of any superstar father is a daunting challenge. But what if your father is LeBron James? Sports fans today may be lucky that we may become “witnesses” of a new GOAT. Yes, you can mention LeBron James as the greatest of all time. But years from now, don’t be surprised if his sons Bryce Maximus and Lebron Jr. dethrone “His Airness.” Bryce is only an 11-year-old with a sweet stroke from three-point range. But LeBron’s eldest, Bronny Jr., will have some major shoes to fill.

Bronny Jr. attends Sierra Canyon High School, which is a modern pipeline for blue-bloods. Scottie Pippin Jr. (Scottie Pippin), Kenyon Martin Jr. (Kenyon Martin), and Cassius Stanley, one of the top rising seniors in the nation, all play on the basketball team. With Bronny joining the program, he is being introduced to attention not a lot of 14-year-olds can handle. With a major IQ, precocious court vision and a developing ability to finish, Kanye West and Drake may have to reserve some seats to watch “the Fresh Prince” lead his squad to a championship. The hoops world will soon know whether he has his father’s killer instinct or will just be an average basketball player.

After all, average can’t and won’t settle when you partake in the highest levels of basketball. It’s a must that you bring your game, not just your name.

Categories
Culture Music

Viral #BTSonGMA Mania Felt Like ‘My Super Bowl’ for One ‘Good Morning America’ Social Producer

The thunderous energy from fans of international sensation BTS—reminiscent of the rowdy crowds NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys attracted around the turn of the millennium for MTV’s Total Request Live—electrified a rain-soaked Times Square on Wednesday for the group’s much-hyped appearance on Good Morning America.

Unlike those early TRL days, when Twitter and Facebook and Instagram were still years away from launching, the South Korean boy band whipped up a storm on social media. The #BTSonGMA hashtag was mentioned 1.5 million times from 4 a.m. to noon, a Twitter spokesperson told ONE37pm upon request, bringing the total number of mentions since September 19 up to 2.4 million. It became the No. 1 global trending hashtag on Wednesday.

It’s no secret that BTS, rightfully dubbed “the biggest boy band in the world” with two No. 1 albums on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart this year as well as co-signs from Nicki Minaj and Steve Aoki, attracted this level of attention on social. Their global fan base, known as the BTS Army, has a dedicated online fandom, one the GMA social team experienced first-hand with jaws agape staring at their real-time engagement. Their impact was felt on social and in real life today, and this moment will likely have a ripple effect on the TV industry in terms of future bookings of more international music acts.

“Any major artist who is promoting a new album, song, tour, whatever it may be, goes on our [U.S.] morning shows, and BTS making their debut on the No.1 rated show makes quite a statement on not only where BTS stands among major pop acts but also in the idea that GMA must be confident their audience will enjoy this,” Jeff Benjamin, a music journalist and K-Pop columnist for Billboard, told ONE37pm, after watching BTS perform in person. “Of course this will help open television executives’ and bookers’ eyes to more Korean and international acts, but not every act is BTS obviously… There is not going to be the same impact as BTS because no act is BTS other than BTS. Yes, I do think BTS is doing an incredible thing by helping change the mindset and preconceived notions about international acts, but a platform like Good Morning America is still highly coveted and there’s a lot of hard work that needs to go into booking it.”


Fresh off of giving a motivational speech at the United Nations this week and ahead of their first sold-out U.S. stadium show next month, BTS performed their empowering hit song “IDOL” inside the GMA studio with all seven members seamlessly flowing in and out of movements during their relentless, dance-laden routine.

RM, Jimin, J-Hope, Suga, Jin, V and Jungkook all joined co-host Michael Strahan for the show’s trademark “Good morning, America” opening, brightening the morning with their loud suits and infectious enthusiasm.

Their morning show debut included an interview with Strahan and Robin Roberts.

Emmy-winning social media producer Anthony Morrison kept BTS fans and the general public up to speed on all things related to #BTSonGMA, from announcement day to performance day, describing the overall experience as his version of the NFL’s Super Bowl.

“I love music—it transcends all culture, emotion, state of being—it’s a universal language,” Morrison told ONE37pm. “I noticed early on that fans all over the world started chiming in on the GMA concert. Not often do you get to galvanize a global community to get behind one single event or movement. … I published [graphics] in Korean and started crafting and publishing tweets in multiple languages pointing to #BTSonGMA. The global community seemed surprised and in awe that we, GMA, would reach out in a way to literally speak their language. BTS was THEIR artist, THEIR idol, and it was up to us, me, to help put them on the world’s stage. What stood apart to me is the access we made fans feel like they had, replying to tweets directly to them, answering their questions, listening to posts and tweets coming in. Leveraging a global conversation was two-fold: Speaking their language, literally and figuratively, and also giving them what they wanted to hear, see and feel.”

“Having BTS on GMA was important to me in digital because it really gave us a chance to shine and show everyone the full strength and abilities of a brand like GMA, on a world’s stage,” Morrison continued. “‘This was our shot,’ I thought to myself, to really bring the world into the world of GMA, through a digital lens. We are more than just a No. 1 show; we were getting a chance to reach new audiences and let them discover us for a change.”

To learn more about BTS’s global appeal and impact, watch Benjamin’s recorded live stream with GMA‘s Ginger Zee, below. “To me, it really felt like [GMA producers] were trying to do their homework and make sure they were covering and approaching the appearance in the right light and manner,” Benjamin explained to ONE37pm. “I’ve been so lucky to watch and cover BTS from the beginning of their career—including seeing their first big U.S. performance back in 2014—to now […] It was amazing to see such a diverse range of fans in the audience. All colors, ages, sexes—it was so awesome to see that and have that amplified on a huge platform like GMA.”

Paula Lobo and Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC

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Grooming Style

Harry Styles and David Beckham’s Tattoo Artist Talks Sleeves

Booked up until the third Sunday of good fucking luck, renowned tattoo artist Mark Mahoney has inked enough celebrities to host a well-attended tattoo Academy Awards. Like, if you could trademark tattoos and Instagram could monetize those trademarks, Mahoney would be richer than 27 Bezoses. He counts Angelina Jolie, Adele, Rihanna, Johnny Depp and Mickey Rourke among his clients. Oh, and Mahoney has stamped two swallows on Harry Styles’s thewy chest and stuck his needle into soccer superstar David Beckham.

Though he admits to being slower at the craft these days, Mahoney, now 60, has been inking for decades, having started out giving tattoos to members of the Hell’s Angels in Massachusetts. He’s appeared in two Lana Del Rey music videos and had an artist residency at London’s Mandrake Hotel. Next, he’ll be a judge at the London Tattoo Convention.

At Shamrock Social Club, his Sunset Boulevard tattoo HQ in Los Angeles, he’s seen it all. Tattoos follow trends as much as any style-oriented business, but Mahoney is still a sucker for the classics. A chest eagle, for example.

But apart from all of the trend-chasing and bad art that graces a few too many lower backs, Mahoney thinks there are still a few choice, underrated spots for a tattoo. And he’s not afraid to dish out his opinion. ONE37pm caught up with Hollywood’s most in-demand tattooer for the most pertinent and permanent advice when deciding what you want to live with for the rest of your mortal life.

Can you share a little bit about your tattooing style? Where do you draw inspiration from?

Mark Mahoney: I think I have a classic drawing style. It’s not very experimental or trendy. I feel tattooing is timeless as classic style. My tattooing style won’t ever be the tramp stamp style that comes and goes. I get inspiration from film noir/old movies and going to church. That’s the combination.

Why not work with color? Do you have opinions on color tattoos? 

Mahoney: I do work with color but for me it is a lot harder to put in than black and grey. I think color tattoos look amazing, it’s just not for me.

What defines a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ tattoo to you? It’s subjective, of course, but what matters to you?

Mahoney: I get old school when it comes to looking at tattoos. I look for clean lines and smooth shading. The technical before the artistic. How it flows with the shape of the body, but at the end of the day a good tattoo is how the wearer feels about it.

Can you describe a tattoo you did recently that you loved?

Mahoney: The last tattoo I did on was my friend [and Smiths guitarist] Johnny Marr was a portrait of Aldous Huxley. Working from a beautiful photograph with dramatic light and dark elements on a guy as cool as Johnny Marr is a good day at the office for me.

What’s one tattoo trend from the last five or ten years that you appreciate?

Mahoney: I guess palm trees, they are trendy these days but always make a good tattoo.

What’s one that you’d rather not do anymore? Tiny tattoos that say, like, “WE COULD BE HEROES,” or little nautical compasses?

Mahoney: [laughs] Hipsters need tattoos too.

Do you get a lot of men intentionally working on a sleeve? What advice would you give them—or wish they understood about sleeves?

Mahoney: For me a sleeve is a hard time commitment. I’m a little slower of a tattooer. I really take my time so it’s a commitment on the customer’s part. Scheduling is the hardest part about being a tattooer. Patience is a virtue I would say. The Sistine Chapel wasn’t painted in a day.

What area of a man’s body doesn’t get tattooed enough?

Mahoney: The chest isn’t done much any more. The chest eagle was one of those classic tattoos I always liked.

Which tattoo artists working today do you most admire? Have they worked for you or been tattooed by you?

Mahoney: Freddy Negrete, of course, who works at the Shamrock with me. Jack Rudy and I worked together in East LA at Tattooland as well and we all have many fond memories together. Also, Jose Lopez—there are so many amazing tattooers these days.

You’ve tattooed so many legends and celebrities over the years. Can you tell us a crazy tattoo story?

Mahoney: I was tattooing an older lady one day, putting a nipple back on her after she overcame breast cancer surgery and there was a huge fight happening out front with Mickey Rourke and some guy. The most important thing is to keep your cool. My customer is always my priority.