*ESPN’s 30 for 30 has been releasing groundbreaking sports related documentaries since the program’s inception last year and that brief tradition of excellence continues with “One Night in Vegas.”
Directed by Reggie “Rock” Bythewood (“Biker Boyz”, “Notorious”), this offering is the story of two men that once loomed larger than life in the annuls of black super heroism.
The once formidable Iron Mike Tyson and the firebrand rebelliousness of Tupac Shakur took the world by storm. Their exploits seemed as if they were pulled straight from the black subconscious, and from America’s fears of emboldened, fearless black men as well. We were fortunate enough to speak with Mr. Bythewood about “One Night in Vegas.”
“Well, I think first off one of the things that was most interesting was to find out how much Mike cared for Pac, and Pac cared for Mike,” said Bythewood of what he discovered in his research. “Mike talks about how he met this skinny kid at the Palladium and he couldn’t get in because he wasn’t dressed appropriately. Mike saw him, got the bouncer to let him in and he rocked the mic and blew Tyson away.”
From a distance it would appear as if a friendship between Mike Tyson and Tupac Shakur would be highly unlikely, but upon closer scrutiny you see that they had a great deal in common.
“Just the relationship … how they were tied in with each other,” Bythewood explained to EURweb.com. “And how they dealt with some of their triumphs and some of their downfalls. Mike was like Pac in the boxing ring and Pac was like Tyson on the mic.”
Ferocity! Unrelenting tsunami-like ferocity and the desire to destroy whosoever dared challenge him. Before Hip-Hop this writer cannot imagine another musical medium in which the aforementioned traits were considered attributes, but Tupac embodied those elements and then some. It is obvious that Iron Mike possessed those traits as well. Tupac, as intelligent as he was, certainly was aware of the almost symbiotic relationship the two shared. Had Pac not died that fateful night of September 13th, 1996 would Tyson have maintained his resurgence of dominance? After being released from prison he then defeated Peter McNeeley, Buster Mathis Jr. and took the WBC title from Frank Bruno in convincing fashion. Despite critics questioning the validity of his opponents, Tyson continued chain sawing his way through opponents right up to the night he defeated Bruce Seldon to capture the WBA crown. Why would we have expected that not to happen again? What was missing when Tyson fought Evander Holyfield a mere 2 months later on November 9th?
“This was the last fight where Mike walked out of the ring as champion. Six weeks later he fought Evander. Would Mike have been a different guy if Pac was still alive? Who knows,” Bythewood wonders.
But the African American community’s relationship with these two figures was not all roses, and the director acknowledges that. He told EURweb.com that he was not trying to sway the viewing audience one way or another.
“It’s not an easy relationship that the community has with Mike and Pac,” said Bythewood. “Their social relevance is one thing. The other part is there are some complications that people had with them.”
For those that are unfamiliar with ESPN’s 30 for 30, the show weaves in and out of the sports world and the “real” world to explore sports from angles we normally would not be aware of. For the director, “One Night in Vegas” is more than simply that.
“In many ways it’s a study of aggression. You have to have a certain level of aggression to get to where they got to,” he explains. “Talent is talent, but it was beyond talent. It was just a level of determination and aggression and at times they had problems controlling that aggression. I think it’s a great study of what you can do if you can channel your aggression and use it to propel you.
“The contemporary athlete has excelled not because of racism but despite of it. What I find interesting about the modern day athlete is, this is in general, even in particular when you look at somebody like Mike Tyson. So many people are underdogs in terms of life and opposition from society. Then they took hold of a particular sport. Whether they’re as big as Shaq or small as Allen Iverson, what I found is this certain concept of aggression when you’re coming from environments where somebody tries to push you down. Some of us get squashed by this. Not a dis, but that’s the way it is. But for some people, some of that pressure propels you forward,” he explained.
We wanted to interject, but it appeared as though the brother was on a roll.
“What if somebody took that aggression in Mike and channeled it into him being a doctor. Would he still excel? I feel as though he would. When aggression is not focused that’s when you have problems. The thing about Pac and Mike is they each had elements of that.”
That aggression is the nuclear fuel of human attributes. It can endear and alienate, build or destroy a relationship. But even Mike Tyson knew of its limits. He even called Pac while still serving out his sentence for rape at Plainfield Correctional Facility when he heard of his friend’s constant rap feuds, beefs and legal issues.
“Mike was calling Pac and saying I’m hearing things and you need to calm down. That’s big coming from Mike. It’s almost like he had some foresight.”
History bears witness to the fact that Tupac Shakur was gunned down that September night not long after being involved in yet another altercation. It appears as though he was aggressive up until the very end.
“One Night in Vegas” premieres on Tuesday, September 7 at 8pm Eastern on ESPN.
Reggie Rock Bythewood tells us that the documentary includes conversations with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Mike Tyson and the venerable Maya Angelou among others. We’re certain it will be groundbreaking television.