Hundreds of items are littered throughout my unwritten bucket list. Pipe dreams like going to NBA All Star Weekend, visiting Dubai, having work published in Rolling Stone, you know, stuff like that. One meaning more than most happens to be meeting and having a full-fledged conversation with Mike Tyson.
For as long as I can remember, Mike’s personality and views on life have been more intriguing than his career inside the ring. Here’s a guy who grew up literally dirt poor, his best friends were pigeons, channeled the anger built inside of him to unleash one of the most iconic early resumes in any sport, went to jail for rape, became one of Tupac Shakur’s closest friends, watched his boxing career never recapture the magic it did in the ’80s, bite Evander Holyfiend twice, became a movie star and a cultural icon in three different decades.
Speaking of his rape case, Iron Mike sat down with the late, great Ed Bradley for a moment of introspection and honesty very rarely replicated by athletes. Despite the stereotypes thrown his direction – some of which may be true – Tyson is a brilliant thinker and a man who has always understand his place in the world. The interview was shot in prison where Kid Dynamite was serving six years for a rape conviction. The topics range from the mistreatment from prison guards, his relationship with Don King, to him contemplating leaving boxing for good to even a detailed account of what happened the night which changed his life and the culture of professional sports for an entire decade (the night the alleged sexual assault occurred).
The overwhelming theme throughout the clip is Mike’s candid and sometimes intense openness. Similar to another misunderstood megastar of the ’90s and 2000s – Allen Iverson – he never apologized for the man he was or the decisions he made. Even surrounded by hardened criminals and apparent prison authority who wanted nothing more to break his spirit through whatever means necessary, Tyson answered every question from Bradley with profound depth. Credit the 60 Minutes iconic host for textbook interviewing 101, too. He never allowed himself become the focal point of the piece. Instead, he lofted open ended questions towards the enigmatic and controversial boxer affording him the opportunity to tell his story, 100% unfiltered and from his own vantage point.
Eighteen years ago yesterday, Tyson was released from Indiana Youth Center following his time served of three years. Mike never regained the mystique his atom bombs disguised as fists did in the ’80s. He’d run through rough patches following his release both in and away from the ring and dealt with them in a fashion only unique to himself. Mike handled life, I guess is what I’m attempting to say. He’s seen the highest of highs in life – hundreds of millions of dollars and being the most feared man on the planet – to the lowest of lows – being convicted of rape, losing a close friend in Shakur shortly after a fight of his and losing a child.
Such is the reason why meeting Mike ranks high on my list of things to do in life. I don’t want to interview the guy. He’s too real for that and the format is too structured. Smoking a blunt with Tyson and giving him free reign to open up about life would be more appropriate. Is it ignorant? Yes. Is it unconventional? Yes, I’d say so. But I’d rather meet Mike Tyson on his own terms anyway.