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2018 NBA free agency

The story behind the barber who ‘broke’ the NBA’s two biggest free-agent stories

Here’s how an Oklahoma City barbershop owner predicted the landing place of LeBron James and his ‘client’ Paul George

It started with your typical Friday afternoon barbershop talk, as chatter of NBA free agency mixed in with the sound of buzzing clippers at the Fade N Up barbershop on the north side of Oklahoma City.

That conversation resulted in this tweet:

When the man behind the tweet, Corey “Scissorhands” Sutter, opened his shop the next day, he noticed an uptick in likes and shares of that post.

Feeling right nice about the attention, Sutter dropped a bomb on Saturday afternoon:

That tweet quickly picked up steam and was shared at a frenetic pace with speculation that Paul George would stay in Oklahoma City.

Here’s why: The barber always knows. And people made the connection of Sutter being George’s barber as a photo of the two together began to spread.

Thus began Sutter’s rise to fame, achieving a media place during the opening weekend of NBA free agency that’s usually occupied by the likes of Adrian Wojnarowski, David Aldridge and Marc J. Spears.

That night, George, with Russell Westbrook at his side at an event where Nas performed, announced, “I’m here to stay.”

The next day came a Sunday night announcement on behalf of James, via an 8:05 tweet from his sports group, stating he had agreed to a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.

You’ve heard of “Wojbombs.” Last weekend, “Scissorbombs” and “Barberbombs” entered NBA free-agency conversations.

So, how did Sutter do it? How did a lifelong barber with two shops in the Oklahoma City area beat to the punch every NBA writer anxiously sniffing for a scoop?

“The way I got these stories,” he said, laughing, “is not what you think.”

Here’s how it all went down:

While debating basketball’s free agency on that Friday afternoon, one of the customers who is a native of Los Angeles mentioned that he had just gotten a message from his buddy saying that James was signing with the Lakers. “Really?” Sutter said, asking if the intel was true. The customer, who claimed his friend worked in the Lakers organization, pulled out his phone and showed him the text.

So Sutter did what many people do when they get news: He tweeted it out to his 9,000 followers.

When Sutter arrived at work the next day, he noticed an increase in the likes and shares of that tweet. “I was clowning around in the shop, thinking I might go viral.”

As he was embracing his improved social media status, his phone rang. It was a friend who owns a limo company asking if Sutter could drive for Nas, who was coming into town.

Sutter turned down the gig because he had another commitment. Hanging up, he wondered why Nas, who didn’t have a scheduled concert in town, was flying to Oklahoma City.

Then he began hearing that Nas was performing at a Westbrook party, and he began to speculate.

“ ‘I bet you Paul George is going to sign,’ ” Sutter told everyone in the shop. “So I tweeted it.”

The response was immediate (the post has more than 4,000 likes and 1,500 retweets). Asked on Twitter whether the announcement would come at 12:01 a.m., the start of free agency, Sutter responded, “yessir.”

Soon, Sutter was attached to hashtags (#ScissorhandBombs and #BarberBomb).

And haters.

And speculation that he was George’s barber after a photo of the two was shared.

And respect for breaking news.

About that connection of being George’s barber: It’s true that Sutter has provided fresh looks for Shaquille O’Neal, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and other celebrities. But the assumption that he was George’s personal barber, based on that photo?

That was wrong.

“I picked him up while working with the limo company and took him to the airport when he left in May,” Sutter said. “He was really cool, but honestly I didn’t think he was coming back. I told him I wanted a picture with him because this might be the last time I’d see him.”

With no real connection to the Lakers and no link to George beyond a shared ride, we can safely say that the NBA experts at the large media outlets have little to worry about.

Sutter’s real talent might be as a social media expert.

Last year, Sutter’s photograph of a customer who requested the Confederate flag be shaped on the side of his head went viral, earning the shop mentions in international media outlets including The Daily Mail and Russia Today.

“We got some heat on that, but he never came across as racist and our barber gave him what he wanted,” Sutter said. “You have two shops, and both of them are diverse; I have barbers who are white, black, Asian, Dominican and Mexican. I wanted to have a shop where you could have all people of all races getting their hair cut in harmony.”

That’s similar to the environment of Vintage the Barbershop, a predominantly black barbershop in downtown Atlanta, which got a ton of attention after hooking up swimmer Michael Phelps with a fresh cut just before he left for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where he won five gold medals and one silver.

That cut by Raefus Cox, which became known after Phelps posted a selfie with the barbers, helped boost business at Vintage.

The boost for Sutter has come with his social media followers. His predictions helped him add about 2,000 followers on Twitter and has made it difficult for him to travel around Oklahoma City without being noticed. “It’s been crazy, with places like ESPN and Bleacher Report tweeting about me and everybody calling me,” Sutter said.

Sutter’s hoping to ride what’s left of his 15 minutes of fame by pitching a reality television show that can capture his United Nations of barbers. “We have barbers who are funny, we have guys who bring drama,” Sutter said. “We also help some parents raise their kids, and it would be nice to have all of that captured.”

Now that he’s “nailed” two of the biggest free-agent signings, Sutter is asked whether he wants to drop any more bombs.

“Damian Lillard to the Lakers and Kawhi Leonard to the Golden State Warriors,” Sutter responded, laughing.

Summing up his week of fame, Sutter said that if you check his account, he tweets “all kinds of stuff,” ranging from urging people to get out to vote to his love for local sports teams.

As far as the three days of summer that made him Twitter famous?

“I won the weekend,” he said.

Jerry Bembry is a senior writer at The Undefeated. His bucket list items include being serenaded by Lizz Wright, and watching the Knicks play an NBA game in June.