The New Edition Story, a three-part biopic which aired on BET this past week, was met with much critical acclaim and fanfare. From a personal standpoint, I had been looking forward to the movie for quite some time. My Boston roots ensure that I pay attention when hometown acts are in the spotlight. Accordingly, I was elated to learn that the group was honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I was also excited to hear some new music from New Edition spin-off group, Bell Biv Devoe (BBD), who released their latest album Three Stripes on January 27th, 2017. Having taken a listen this past weekend, I must say I enjoyed it quite a bit. The lead single, “Run”, pulls from the same sample as Biggie’s “Hypnotize”, namely, Herp Albert’s 1979 track entitled, “Rise”.
It’s a funky, groovy track that’s has instant likeability and replay value. The rest of the album consists of few tracks that take you back to that early 90s core BBD sound, i.e. “mentally Hip-Hop, smoothed out on the R&B tip with a Pop feel appeal to it” (see BBD’s Poison album cover), a dance track or two and a couple of slower tempo jams to round it out. Three Stripes is definitely a win for both BBD and New Edition in my humble opinion.
But back The New Edition Story. As mentioned above, I had been looking forward to this project for quite some time and succinctly put, I loved it. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not a big movie buff, so I don’t want to come across like an experienced movie critic in any way shape or form. That said, from a pure fan standpoint, I really enjoyed the film. I was happy that New Edition’s odyssey was not condensed into a 90 minute movie. The fact that it was three 120 minute episodes allowed for more detail, more nuance, and a more complete story to be told. I thought the actors, both the kids who played young New Edition, and the older ones who played teenage and adult New Edition, did a great job portraying the respective members of the group and most impressively, in my opinion, nailing the choreography on the various performance scenes. Much was made about how the members of New Edition were closely involved with the project, even to the point of spending time ample with the actors to ensure minor details were captured. It worked out well.
But again, I’m neither a movie buff, nor a movie critic, so you can take the above with a grain of salt if you’re looking for a professional review. That said, however, there was one moment in the movie that really hit home with me, and that I feel particularly qualified to speak about. In the first episode, there’s a scene where the original five members, Ronnie, Bobby, Rickie, and Mike, sign their first major record contract. The young boys of New Edition and their mothers are portrayed in the scene as being extremely excited. They saw it as a way out of Roxbury’s Orchard Park housing project, and projected immense happiness at the possibilities that loomed. As the story progresses, we learn that it was an awful contract for any artist to sign, and that New Edition’s real money would come several years later. That said however, what struck me about the scene was a cut to a young Michael Bivins, sitting on the steps with his mother, second guessing having signed the contract. He was visibly upset, or at minimum, doubting what had just transpired. He was not all the way joyous, like the others.
As the scene plays out, we learn that young Michael Bivins, who was portrayed as a huge basketball fan who had some skills on the court earlier in the film, was sad because he knew that signing the contract and agreeing to become a full-time entertainer, meant that he could no longer play basketball at his leisure. His dreams of possibly pursuing basketball further were gone. He had just agreed to put down the ball in favor of the mic, indefinitely. And he was having trouble coming to grips with this. Ultimately, young Biv’s mom comforts him and assures him he’s making the right decision. He smiles and the story goes on. But again, this moment stuck out to me. And it did so because, I get it. I understand being a kid from Boston who loves few things more passionately than basketball and the Boston Celtics.
Make no mistake about it; Michael Bivins is a hardcore Celtics fan. He’s constantly wearing Celtics gear (and all Boston sports gear, to be fair). His portrayals in the film are no different. From his younger years through his adulthood, one often sees Michael Bivins in Boston sports gear, and the Celtics are well represented. He’s given many an interview donning Celtics gear. He loves basketball and he loves the Celtics. And why wouldn’t he? Born in August of 1968, by the time he was signing that aforementioned contract circa 1983, he had lived through 4 Celtics championships (1969, 1974, 1976, and 1981). He must have been familiar with the Celtics of the 70s such as Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, Jo Jo White, Paul Silas and John Chaney. He was entering his teenage years when he Cedric Maxwell, Larry Bird, Tiny Archibald, Robert Parish, and Kevin McHale Celtics of the 80s were hitting their stride. Again, Michael Bivins loves basketball and unquestionably has always loved the Boston Celtics. I have too. And this is why the scene in question hits home.
I get it. I understand that deeply rooted love of the sport and the team. I can understand how being asked to put basketball all the way to the back-burner, despite the potential for superstardom, would make a young teenage boy feel sad. This’ll come across as utterly ridiculous to many, but as the youngeons would abbreviate, IDGAF. I actually shed a tear when I was watching that scene. I felt bad for young Michael Bivins. All that love of basketball and Celtics Pride, etc… rushing to the forefront of his heart and soul, knowing he had just made the conscious decision to leave basketball behind? It was tough young Biv, and again, as silly as it sounds, despite the fact that I myself was never that talented enough at anything to be asked to put basketball on the back-burner, I understood the pain. At minimum, at one point in my early teenage years I had to accept that I sucked at basketball, and that I’d never make the Junior Varsity squad (much less Varsity) at my high school. I probably shed a tear (or several) then too.
So scoff all you will. Laugh at me, mock me, and call me a (insert emasculating noun of your choice). I don’t care. As Kevin Garnett once put it, this is a matter of “Celtic business.” If you don’t #BleedGreen, you won’t get it. But I’ll tell you this much, I bet Michael Bivins understands because Michael Bivins is a true Celtics fan. He’s shown throughout his life in the public eye that he’s absolutely an unbridled member of Celtics Nation. And that’s good enough for me. Go Celtics!