“They call him Speedy ’cause he used to be fast. He’s not fast anymore.”
It’s 1 p.m. on a Wednesday, and I’m sitting in Dapper Cut & Shave Barbershop in Ridgewood, Queens, New York. Next to me is Eric “Ish” Ishman, brother of Complex’s own Speedy Morman. They’re technically lifelong friends, but the pair is so close that calling them “brothers” feels more appropriate. Which is why Speedy is (barely) offended by the dig.
“Ish, what you talkin’ about over there?!” Speedy shouts from the barber’s chair at the back of the shop with a wide grin; teeth glinting like the diamonds in his ears. The 24-year-old is preparing to fly to Los Angeles this evening for a video shoot by taking care of some business at home first. He’s partnered with Under Armour to help promote the brand’s latest iteration of the HOVR running shoe, and Complex is on hand to capture every moment of his day. That includes hitting Dapper for his (almost) weekly appointment.
Growing up, Speedy split his time between Ridgewood and Lefrak City. Although currently residing in Astoria, the Queens native remains loyal to his old stomping grounds. His barber, Hippie, has been fading his hair for the past 15 years.
“I live an hour from [Dapper], but it’s worth it,” says Speedy, as Hippie lines him up. “People are like, ‘You travel an hour to get a haircut?’ But real ones know when you have a bond with a barber, you can't go somewhere else.”
Speedy is animated when he speaks, but mindful of sudden movements as not to mess up Hippie’s work. This balancing act is reminiscent of his star sign: Gemini, most known for having two personalities. That duality carries over into Speedy’s personal interests as well, and helped steer him toward his current career.
“[Speedy] has a big heart, but you wouldn’t know that if you don’t really know him.”
“When I was a kid, I watched SportsCenter every morning before school, and I’d watch 106 & Park every day after school,” the former Complex intern recalls. “I always knew I wanted to blend [sports and music]. That's how I got interested in journalism.”
With his sights set on broadcast journalism specifically, Speedy attended Syracuse University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 2016. Setor, the photographer assigned to trail Speedy for the day, also attended Syracuse, so there was plenty of Orange love in the air. “I had a great time, and I learned a shit ton,” Speedy remarks of his college days. “That's where I learned a lot about my craft, and about myself.”
Gym in Speedy’s building, around 2 p.m.
As the afternoon sun peaks in the sky, we hop in a Lyft to Speedy’s apartment building gym. Freshly cut, he’s ready for his daily workout with Ish and close friend (and trainer), Lou. The trio met through Speedy’s deepest passion, basketball. Lou used to coach AAU, and currently mentors rising high school players. He remembers watching Speedy and Ish take the court at Christ The King (alma mater of Lamar Odom, Khalid Reeves and, ironically enough, Speedy Claxton). “Speedy was always fun and energetic,” Lou says. “He has a big heart, but you would only know that if you really know him.”
Decked out in a full Under Armour fit, Speedy enters the gym. He immediately queues up his current favorite album, Meek Mill’s Championships, which blares from his bluetooth speaker. As Speedy raps along to each of the lyrics, Lou leads the duo through a warm-up and weight training.
At one point, the music transitions to Technotronic’s “Pump Up The Jam,” during which the duo unleashes choreography that has the entire room laughing. Speedy and Ish’s tradition of dancing together goes back to their high school days, when they’d “make beats and wild out” everywhere from the lunchroom to the locker room. As someone who surprisingly hates working out, Speedy values the camaraderie it brings.
“I work out because it’s necessary,” he says, leaning into a stretch. “If I had to pick a favorite workout, it would be weight training, chest, or arms. I hate doing legs, as you could probably tell.” He’s also into yoga, but considers the discipline less of a workout and more so time for meditation and relaxation.
“I love meditation, and I’m a huge advocate for it. I walk out of [yoga] feeling zenned the fuck out.” The budding yogi does have to adapt things a little, though; “I don’t take my socks off. You gotta do it how you do it, you know?”
Something Catchy, 5 p.m.
Post-workout, it’s time to eat. Speedy and company head to one of his favorite spots, Something Catchy; a soul food joint just a few blocks from his apartment. It’s a no frills eatery that resembles a cafeteria, complete with unflattering fluorescent lights overhead. The food is cooked on one side towards the back and the tables sit on the other. Speedy and Ish immediately fall into conversation with the staff and other patrons, and point at the food behind the counter like kids in a candy shop. “Come look at this,” Speedy calls, eyes widening at the sight of a fresh batch of mac and cheese.
The menu includes everything from lemon pepper wings and oxtail to yams, but the star of the show is the restaurant’s “rasta pasta”: penne in a creamy sauce with red and green bell peppers, onions, spices, and your choice of protein. Speedy and Ish are adamant that we order it, and check in multiple times with the three people in our group who do to make sure they like it.
It’s clear that Speedy considers the spot an extension of himself—he takes it to heart when Setor’s order is slightly off, refusing to eat before his fellow ‘Cuse grad is situated. Speedy stares me down as I sample a Catchy Fry (crinkle cut and tossed in garlic, parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper), and convinces me to try the iced tea. “Fire, right?” he asks. Definitely fire.
Somewhere between Queens and Long Island, 6 p.m.
“I’m ready for a nap,” Speedy declares, but the evening is just getting started. Before catching his red eye flight, we head to Long Island’s New York Institute of Technology [NYIT] for a basketball game against Queens College; both teams have yet to notch a victory this season. Speedy's covered NBA All-Star Weekend before, but to him, basketball is basketball, no matter the level. The whole car ride up, he presses Lou, who’s driving us, for a scouting report on each squad.
The hoops enthusiast played ball from age eight all the way through high school, and the sport is at the heart of some of his greatest memories. In sixth grade, he nailed a game-winning buzzer beater, and his teammates (and parents in attendance, including his dad) rushed the court to celebrate. Speedy was all of 4’11” and “scared of getting dogpiled or trampled on,” so he bolted off the other way.
“Everything I do and everything I know is because of basketball. It altered my life… and Has taken me places I never thought I’d go.
When he was 17, Christ The King traveled to the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Missouri. Parents and kids alike showed up to watch the best high school players in the nation compete. The talent level was so high that Speedy became the only member of his team that did not go on to play college basketball. He considers the tournament his “first taste of fame;” a small-scale preview of the kinds of events he would go on to cover as a journalist.
“Basketball has taken me places I never thought I’d go,” the former point guard says, staring out the window of the car as the city lights fade. “It introduced me to people who are monumental in my life. If I didn’t play ball, I wouldn’t know Ish. I’d know Lou, but who knows how close we’d be? The teamwork, the friendships, the brotherhood; basketball is directly responsible for who I am.”
New York Institute of Technology-Long Island, 7:30 p.m.
We arrive a few minutes before tip-off. The quiet of Long Island is noticeable, especially compared to the city. It carries into NYIT, which feels more like a high school than a college; the gym can’t hold more than 200 people, there are only six cheerleaders, and a dude is selling candy in the lobby. For some reason, I’m expecting heads to turn when Speedy walks in, but no one pays us any mind, even when Setor’s camera comes out to capture his every cheer and laugh.
As NYIT jumps out to an early 20-point lead, he and Ish are on their feet, easily the most enthusiastic spectators in the gym. The phrase of the night is a whiny (but mostly silly) “’scuuuse me,” which Speedy and Ish have been saying since they were kids, particularly when a player gets crossed up.
A lifelong basketball fan, watching and interacting with players of all skill levels and backgrounds is important to Speedy. But his magnum opus was chopping it up with Kobe Bryant, the ultimate source of his hoops standom.
“[Kobe] dapped me and said... ‘You have a bright future ahead of you.’ In my mind, I was doing triple backflips.”
“Kobe has been my role model since I was a toddler,” the longtime Lakers fan (and current “casual” Knicks fan) explains. “Afterwards, he dapped me and said, ‘You're a great interviewer. You have a bright future ahead of you.’ In my mind, I was doing triple backflips.”
Speedy’s love of basketball seeps into every facet of his personhood, from the slang he uses, to his friendships, to his style. He’s known to many as “Sweatsuit Speedy” because of his affinity for wearing sweatsuits. Today is no different—he’s dressed in a black Under Armour windbreaker and matching sweatpants. “Everything I do and everything I know is because of basketball,” he says. “It altered my life.”
New York Institute of Technology-Long Island, 9 p.m.
NYIT wins by 9, and Speedy chats with some of the players after the game. He’s a few years older, but talks to them like equals, and seems just as interested in their lives as he would be in, say, Kobe’s. They break down the game from major moments to specific plays until all of a sudden, we look up and realize we’re the last people in the gym. “How do we always shut it down, everywhere we go?” Speedy asks Ish, only half kidding.
Out in the parking lot, the smell of cold asphalt is inescapable. Speedy, Lou, and Ish kill the hour drive back to Queens doing more recapping and reminiscing. I learn that Speedy introduced Lou to the church that the three attend every Sunday; loves expensive steakhouses and one-dollar empanadas; and “still [doesn’t] know what the fuck avocado toast is.”
Speedy’s apartment, 10:45 p.m.
Back at the apartment, Speedy packs his bags, including a fresh pair of white HOVRs, before calling his Lyft to JFK. He loves spending time in new environments, but dreads the actual traveling part. It’s not always bad, though. In Hong Kong, his favorite place he’s ever been, Speedy befriended his driver, Kevin. The day after Speedy arrived, the two linked up, and Kevin showed him all around the city on a motorcycle.
“He took me everywhere,” Speedy recalls, his voice growing excited at the memory. “We went to eat in the hood of Hong Kong. We went to the beach, we went shopping… It was like a girl’s day in a movie, but just me and Kevin.” He’s still hoping to get to Bali, Dubai, Brazil, and Colombia, “on some leisure shit.” Something tells me he’s going to make it.
“Maybe I’ll be the mayor of [Queens] one day.”
Speedy’s phone pings; his car is pulling up. As he daps up Ish and Lou and gathers his suitcase, I’m reminded once more of the duality of Speedy. He’s a frequent traveler, who can’t imagine living anywhere but Queens. A prominent media personality, equally likely to rub elbows with NBA champions and D2 college basketball teams with losing records. A family man, who’s down to hang with a stranger and explore a new city. He’s both humble and braggadocious, professional and silly.
With the amount of opportunities that come Speedy’s way, it’s likely that one side of this duality may eventually have to be sacrificed. But for now, his feet are firmly planted right here, in Queens, the only city he can see himself living in.
“Once I'm away, all I can think is, ‘Damn, I can't wait to go back home,’” he says, glancing around, surveying his block. He’ll be back before the weekend, but you can tell he misses it already. “Maybe I’ll be the mayor of this one day.”