Tonight’s E:60 (7 ET, ESPN) will include “Being Rex Chapman,” a story on a person whose name means different things to different people.
To some, he’s the homegrown former Kentucky hoops legend who became the face of an expansion NBA franchise. To others, he was the journeyman pro who spiraled into a valley of substance abuse and personal hell. But to those who view him today, he’s an accidental Twitter star with more than a half-million followers.
In a revealing and honest profile, E:60’s Ryan McGee catches up with Chapman, who hit rock bottom, learned to manage his anxieties – and now, five years sober – has reinvented himself, starring on a completely different stage.
McGee, who worked with producer Blake Foeman on the E:60 feature and also profiled Chapman for ESPN.com, spoke with Front Row:
How did this come about?
I took my high-school-age daughter and her friends to a Charlotte Hornets basketball game. It was retro 80’s night and they kept showing clips of Rex on the big screen. I looked at this group of 15-year-old girls and asked, ‘Do you know who that is?’ And their reaction was, ‘That’s some old basketball dude from the 80’s.’ When I said his name, one of the girls in the group jumped up and said, ‘That’s the funny video guy!’ And that’s where the idea came from.
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) March 27, 2020
Did you have any trouble getting him to do the story?
He’s always a little reluctant. He’s almost a little shy, which I don’t think people realize. And so when I first pitched it to him, we want to do this story about this third act of your life, he started laughing and said let’s not call it the third act because that means that’s the last act. It means a lot to him to get his story out there to let all the people who suffer from opioid addiction know that they can be ok. He was very pointed about that.
When you do an E:60 piece do you approach it differently than you other things you do?
The difference is that you’re working with a team. When I’m just writing a piece for ESPN.com, typically it’s just me and my phone. When you work on a piece like this, it’s a collaboration with a lot of people, and I love that. At the end of the day, I’ll always be an ESPN the Magazine guy, and when I work on an E:60 piece, it has always felt like I was doing a magazine piece, and that’s why I’ve always enjoyed doing them.