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Friday, February 4th, 2011 at 11:00 am  |  86 responses

SLAM 146: On Sale Now!

Kobe Bryant is staying home for All-Star Weekend.

by Lang Whitaker | @langwhitaker

A few weeks back, I mentioned I’d been in L.A. working on the next SLAM cover story. Pretty much immediately, people started tweeting and commenting and asking if it was going to be a Blake Griffin cover.

Um, no. This issue of SLAM, number 146, drops on newsstands here in NYC over the weekend, in bigger cities the next week or so, and will be nationwide by the weekend of the 19th/20th. And do you know what weekend that is? NBA All-Star Weekend. And do you know where the All-Star Game is this season? Los Angeles. And do you know who the most popular athlete is in Los Angeles? The two-time defending NBA Champ? The back-to-back NBA Finals MVP? The guy who is, yep, more popular than Blake Griffin?

Mmm-hmm. Him. Kobe.

“Son. Prince. King,” Lamar Odom said, when I asked him to describe what Kobe meant to L.A. “He’s been here in L.A. his whole career, so he’s definitely one of the most popular people in the city.”

“People in L.A. love their basketball,” said L.A. native and Clippers point guard Baron Davis, “and they love the Lakers, because the Lakers have been putting it down, winning championships. And everybody loves Kobe here. This is his spot. He captured it. He’s been winning championships. He’s established a legacy and he’s deserving of everything he gets.”

Watching Kobe play over those few days, and spending time concentrating on considering Kobe, I realized that I can’t remember a time that Kobe has ever been so respected by NBA fans. Notice I didn’t say liked — Kobe has his haters and I’m sure he’ll always have his haters. But I do think he’s as respected for his basketball talent and skill and acumen as he’s ever been.

For a long time now, one of my jobs here at SLAM has been to monitor the SLAM Trash Talk email account. Which basically means that every email we get for Trash Talk comes into my account, I file them all away, and then when it’s time to put together Trash Talk for an issue of SLAM, I forward the most relevant ones to Ben and he chooses which letters make the cut. Basically, I’m a human spam filter.

But this means I read a lot of your letters. We used to get a lot of letters that read, “I hate Kobe.” Now we get a lot that read, “I hate Kobe…but yeah, he’s really good.”

And I don’t think Kobe has changed. Ever since he came into the League he’s been super-serious, hyper-focused. For a long time, NBA fans weren’t exactly sure what to make of him. Sure, Laker fans loved him, but the rest of us didn’t quite understand. Was he really a guy almost scarily obsessed with winning? Did he care more about his personal statistics than he did about his team? Was he a player who genuinely wanted to help his teammates improve? Was he really as fixated with the game of basketball as he seemed to be? As time went by, what became increasingly clear was that what we thought didn’t matter. While we tweeted jokes and debated Kobe’s greatness on message boards, Kobe just kept winning. He copped three rings early on, then drove the Lakers back from that terrible 34-win season in ’04-05, back up into the NBA elite, picking up an MVP award and back-to-back rings along the way.

Basically, the more the Lakers won, the more Kobe Bryant made sense to us. So it wasn’t Kobe Bryant who changed. We did. The constant coaching on the floor, the hours spent compulsively honing his game, the personality that only seemed to soften after winning a title, the remarkable focus—all of it was to facilitate winning. He told us that over and over, but we needed confirmation. He wanted to win, and he did, and once he did, it clicked for the rest of us.

When I was at the Lakers practice out in L.A., I ended up talking a lot with Brian Shaw, who played with Kobe on the three-peat teams a couple of years back, and now is an assistant coach for him. I asked him if he’d noticed an uptick in respect for Kobe, and he said he had.

“I think people recognize now that he’s a killer out there on the floor,” Shaw said. “That’s what people are recognizing, and that’s what’s gotten those fans who were hating on him, who didn’t respect what he was doing out there on the floor, to turn, to respect him now.”

A few minutes later, Shaw said, “Year in and year out, Kobe’s been able to will his team into these situations to have a chance to win, and Kobe’s able to get them over the top and win. He walks out there on the floor, it empowers all of the teammates he has to feel like they’re even better than they really are, because they feel like they’re going out there with the best player in the game. And also the fans, they think, ‘We’re not going to lose, because no matter what, we’ve got Kobe on our side.’”

So, all of that’s what I wrote about. As for the cover line — Watch The Throne — the idea came from this. But also, we thought it was applicable because no matter how well everyone else in the NBA is playing, the Lakers are still the reigning champs, and you can’t take that away from them.

There’s plenty of other great stuff in this issue. We have features on guys from Russell Westbrook to Allen Iverson, from Josh Smith to Andrew Bogut. Plus tons of other great stuff.

And here you go…

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  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    Bean!

  • http://SLAMonline.com GotHandles?

    SICK

  • http://nba.com gp23

    So how many times has Kobe graced your cover ??

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    With the utmost respect: Horrible. If there was one guy from LA that should have got a cover…he’s not playing for the Lakers.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/farmer-jones/ Ryan Jones

    This is Kobe’s 85th cover. And every one of them has been deserved.

  • http://crohoops.com Tomislav

    Old-school legend for this issue please.

  • http://www.double-technical.blogspot.com Zee!

    Nice. I’m feeling this. Good job as always slam. And haters please keep hating.

  • Davie

    How can you respect a guy who has no respect for team work?

  • logues

    im not even hating, but this is dumb. the cover looks pretty lazy and plain to me, but i can think of many guys that deserve a cover who have never got one. u guys just cant resist it can u?

  • tRay

    purp and yellow purp and yellow purp and yellow WEST SIDE!

  • http://kb24.com Bigi

    I knew I was gonna love this issue…Perfect timing, don’t worry E, Blake will have like Badu said:Plenty!

  • http://slam Old School

    Can Iverson get a “Turkey” Cover? Just for old times sake…….

  • rob stewart

    This cover looks like my first power point presentation, ever!

  • http://SLAMonline.com BigBoi

    Eboy, luv blake. see Ryan Jones

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    Great cover, smart idea and concept Slam. The King of LA is Kobe and the other guy needs to get his team to .500 win percentage or better, before he gets a cover. Anybody can dunk ask the greatest dunker ever in Demetrius “HOOK” Williams, lead your team to victories. BOOK IT!!

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    I agree Cover could be better, but its a magazine cover not a photo shoot for models. Also Slam a cool cover would have been Kobe with a Kings chair and a cane, sitting down with a Gold suit on with a Purple background and having a Lebron look alike kissing his ring. While Kobe smiles throwing up Westside. BOOK IT!!

  • M-Dot Smitty

    Nice one. Did you guys get a photo shoot with King Kobe?

  • logues

    The Seed: i have no problem with the photo of kobe. the rest of the cover is really plain, esp the font. co-sign rob stewart. just about ANYBODY could have done this. writing 4 words and blowing them up and thats the cover? and if john wall can get a cover, i believe blake griffin is more than deserving to say the least. but who am i kidding, i cant wait to get it in the mail! hoping for a griff poster/slamadamonth

  • Jack

    Yeah it is a kind’ve plain cover. But Kobe deserves everyone he gets.
    \/\/ \/\/
    west side!

  • http://nobulljive.com/ Enigmatic

    I guess putting point guards on the cover wasn’t selling enough, so y’all turned to one of the two (the other being LeBron) who are guaranteed to sell.
    And Kobe and LeBron are ALWAYS deserving of a cover.
    Still, I say f*ck the johnny-come-latelys and the sometimers, most die-hard Slam fans wanted to see Blake on the cover.

  • JTaylor21

    Wacko!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    I want a coat that says “battle” on the arm…

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    @Tomislav: Maurice Stokes. Incredible story, too.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    BTW, we know about the other guy in LA. The wait will be worth it, trust me. I say for an All-Star issue Kobe still makes more sense. And next cover is only about 4 weeks away…

  • unrel

    wow.. i didn’t know there were so many editors on this site..

  • http://slamonline.com AlbertBarr

    To those who think anyone could have done this: you are idiots. I am a print designer for a living and this cover it handled with utmost perfection. Sometimes the simplest solution is the most perfect one. Most of you would assume it needs more so that it doesnt look simple…you would be wrong, and garish, and an amateur. The Slam font and the player on the cover are the star here. Compositionally it is classical and perfect. Tell me hater: what does it need other than what is there? Kobe has been on so many covers that maybe the best concept for a Kobe cover is no concept at all. If you lined up some of SLAMs best covers, this one would definitely still stand out because of the power of the type and the simplicity of the image. At the same time it still has risks being taken…not many magazines would partially cover the name of the person they are using to sell the magazine. Basically, amazing job Slam designers, it would be a dream come true to work for a magazine that is always on the pulse of visual design and pushing it even further. Keep doin good work!

  • http://nicekicks.com Meloman2.0

    this cover is so unneccessary..try something new, why not blake, or even ginobili… cuz im pretty sure kobe will get anither cover come playoff time, and possibly another one if they win the chip

  • Hugo Loon

    derek fisher shoulda been on instead

  • Kobe8is

    KOBE IS THE MAN!!!!
    I’m feeling this. And haters please keep hating! hehe
    Good job as always slam.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Jahmai

    @Ben Osborne, LOVE the cover, LOVE the mag, but you’re basicly saying Blake will be on the next cover, right? Too bad, you’ll have to do a photo-shoot after Blake cut his hair, he looked WAY cooler with the little curly-fro.

  • http://www.melissabrennan.net/ Melissa Brennan

    Whoa Albert, you just made my little day! Thanks!

  • http://slamonline.com Chris O’Leary

    Fortunately for Wayno, the Battle jacket is available. I like the cover. Simple is all that’s needed when you’re talking about Kobe. He’s No. 1 until someone knocks him out of that spot.

  • The Fresh Prince of Nsam

    I’m tired of KB covers, but I understand the marketing strategy Slam, the AllStar is in LA, best votes recipient 4 the game…
    I’m just done with KB covers…

  • http://slamonline.com AlbertBarr

    No Prob Melissa! Great Job!

  • http://slamonline.com AlbertBarr

    Ok, so I just went to your website Melissa…my comment making your day made my day because you are on a whole different level of talent (obviously since you work for SLAM)…I guess I should have gone to a better school;) I love the blog concept as well. If you guys ever need another designer you know how to find me…although I am sure the talent pool in Manhattan is large enough. Cheers!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cheryl

    I’m no designer like Albert, but I found the quasi-3-D element visually awesome, myself. As usual, the SLAM folks do a heckuva job. Can’t wait for my copy.

  • http://crohoops.com Tomislav

    @ Ben: Thanks for sharing. Story about Stokes is well deserved. Too bad his career was interrupted on the very beginning, he could have been one of the best ever.

  • http://yahoo.com kevin armenta

    TOO SICK!!!!! BEST COVER FOR THE BEST PLAYER EVER………..WELL I WOULDN’T GO THAT FAR! HOLLA MIKE

  • HAMMER

    The gr8 KB8! Can’t wait 2 get this 1. Props slam!

  • HAMMER

    Really? People hatin the cover cuz its 2 plain? Oh my god! This isn’t ur Glamour or Seventeen mag people. Its a fu*kin cover! Nitpickers/haters

  • http://Philosophervision@blogspot.com The Philosopher

    Agree with Albert Barr.
    People, man…

  • http://www.twitter.com/TheDiesel Anton

    Is it too soon to have an all Blake issue with 200 pages of dunks?

  • http://slamonline.com AlbertBarr

    LOL @ Anton

  • http://www.slamonline.com peter

    Cover is sick

  • http://Philosophervision@blogspot.com The Philosopher

    Oh yeah, for people who thought Carmelo Anthony really got knocked out;
    The Maurice Stokes situation proves that Anthony not only faked it, but the officials in the game knew that he was faking it. There is just no way.
    The League is not going to have “that” on its watch.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    Lang, nice post. MB, SP, BO, LW and everyone else, nice work on the cover and overall look.

  • Heals

    At stated by others: We can’t say he doesn’t deserve it, but c’mon it’s like every other month now for him. I know pushin mags and gettin sponsors is essential, but there are so many other MORE deserving candidates or even an all-star theme…

  • Jasmine

    Wow are you serious!! He just had a cover not so long ago! Im a huge fan of LBJ ,but even him just got a cover Slam should give someone that doesnt get cover to much like KD or Dwight Howard!

  • Slammmm

    i think Kevin Durant Amare Stoudmire Carmlo Anotny or Dwight howard ^^^ should have gotten a cover >:I

  • str8 from samoa

    AI STILL TOPS DA MOST COVERS. SORRY KOBE HAHA

  • http://nobulljive.com/ Enigmatic

    Dime Magazine beat y’all to a Blake Griffin cover. Dime. Freakin’. Magazine.
    For shame.
    Don’t worry, I didn’t cop that trash, I just saw that online.

  • ciroqobama

    Meh….. welp, lookin forward to Next months issue I guess

  • Ali Saadat

    I WANT IT!!

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Jasmine, Dwight was on cover more recently than Kobe (SLAM 142 vs SLAM 141).

  • Mikey V

    You know I been reading Slam since the Alonzo Mourning cover, for all you REAL slam fans you know that was a LONG time ago. That Slam even had a story about Casey Jacobsen! You wanna know why I been reading slam for so long? Because Slam is different, Slam knows basketball from both the Pros eyes and the fan eyes. They knew about Lebron James and Greg Oden before many of you were even born. Every Issue Slam makes gives us that baketball “Newspaper ” that no other MAGZ comes close to, that’s well worth the 4.99 price tag. Sure I seen KOBE on the cover 10,000 times but so what? Do we really judge a book by it’s cover? No, Slam is great from page 1 all the way to Kickz preview. Slam knows what they’re doing, they know what players to talk about, writing about role players, all stars and High school kids. So if the next Slam has Kobe on the cover, i am still buying it and no one is gonna change my mind!

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Thanks Mikey V!

  • http://hoopistani.blogspot.com hoopistani

    Don’t approve of Kobe getting another cover so soon… but HOLY SH*T THAT’S A HELLUVA COVER

  • Bimmer

    Class Cover

  • slimshady

    this cover is awesome and hecka dope for our collection….but c’mon SLAM? arent there so many others worthy of a cover?

  • http://www.danchamb.com.br Lz – Cphfinest3

    I dislike Kobe, but this cover looks great from an aesthetically point of view. However; as many others have mentioned above and I have mentioned many times before this is just the latest in a long line of boring safe cover-picks. I have been down with SLAM since the Kemp-issue (the first Kemp issue) and is a loyal subscriber for more than a decade. What used to set SLAM apart was the great writers, the knowledge, the edge and the courage to be different from the Hoop, ESPN etc magazines out there. I understand that your business is about sales and ad money, and that Kobe and James covers sell more. But this is becoming a redundant farce, the last few years SLAM has been missing the edge and the courage, you still have great writers (except for that guy who writes his pieces on his phone, he is utter thrash), you still have great knowledge and style, and the magazine still has a great look. But where are the courage to be different, where are the covers of the Rafer Alston’s, John Starks’, Dennis Rodman’s, Reggie Miller’s, Jerry Stackhouse’s etc etc the lesser (but still great) players that needs to be on the cover, needs to gain recognition from a broader audience, needs to have their interesting stories told, needs to be respected for what they bring to the game, where are they? SLAM need to get back to this, back to your roots. The cover sets the tone for the whole magazine and the cover story is always the most important of any magazine. SLAM chooses to push the same covers and same cover stories over and over again, it is basically old milk on new bottles. How many times do you expect us to read about Lebron’s greatness or Kobe’s killerness and work ethic without it becoming redundant and boring (despite the great writers). There are so many great bball stories to be told, really no need to tell the same ones over and over again. Especially since every other media-outlet push the exact same stories. SLAM as a magazine really need to take a long look in the mirror and make up its mind whether the mission of the magazine is to make money selling basketball stories to layman or it is to be the best basketball magazine in the world and make some money along the way; the basketball magazine that the true fan goes to for knowledge, the magazine that educates the young fan just becoming interested in this great sport. This is the soul of SLAM. And this soul is slowly dying by every redundant article and cover. Please get back to the roots, get back to promoting the essence and nerve of this great game we all love so dearly. Until they win a championship there is absolutely no need for another LeBron, Wade, Kobe, Dwight, or Durant cover. Blake Griffin is long overdue (what better way to celebrate the All-Star weekend by celebrating the leagues newest true superstar and the first rookie to be named to the All-Star team in years?), it seems that Dime magazine beat you guys to the punch – it used to be Dime and others playing catch up. Please SLAM think about the essence of the game before the bottomline. I am sure that with time the bottomline will follow. I will never cancel my subscription out of loyalty but when it used to be that when I got SLAM in the mail, the first moment I had I would sit down and read it literally cover to cover. Right now I have three SLAM’s sitting on my desk that I have barely touched. Please SLAM give me back the SLAM I love. Best Regards, Lz – Cphfinest3

  • http://www.danchamb.com.br Lz – Cphfinest3

    *Sorry for the rant and grammatic errors etc. Got a little carried away, but this ish really needs to be said.

  • Fat Lever

    Got to put in work to reap the benefits. Blake has been balling, but it’s still WAY too early to anoint him anything. The Clips are still below .500. All-Star spot, ok, yes. Legitimate basketball magazine covers. Not yet.

  • http://slamonline BossTerry

    I’ve been down since ish#1, but it seems like the same 10-15 guys getting the cover over and over again.. How bout some “B-guys”. Borderline all-stars.. Gay,Bogut,Ginobli,etc. The guys we keep getting stories on, we already know all about them. Sure having a guy like Brook Lopez on the cover won’t sell magazines like hot-cakes, but Im interested in his story.. Just a thought.

  • Jake

    Magazines are made to sell, and kobe has more selling power than Blake Griffin. SLAM will net alot more with this cover than the other options that they had for a cover and lets face it….the guys at the mag have bosses just like the rest of us that want to see strong numbers to start the new year. Plus, I’d rather see a future Hof player, mvp, five time champ than anyone else….no matter who I root for. “to the victor goes the spoils.” Id count a magazine cover as one of the spoils of an NBA war and as long as the lakers are champs, they deserve all the hype and praise they get.

  • Josh

    Uh huh, you know what it is. Purp and yellow, purp and yellow, purp and yellow, purp and yellow. Love Kobe, love Slam, can’t wait to grab this.

  • Mark James

    Man,this sucks im waiting for Kevin Durant to be on the cover again

  • BRAVO

    KOBE MAG LOOKS SICK IM GONA GET THIS FORSHURE SCREW U KOBE HATERS! IF ANYTHING WESTBROOK OR KEVIN LOVE SHUD GET ONE!

  • idrees

    hell ya u know wat it is! (black and yellow black and yellow!)

    give one of the hornets a cover like trevor ariza or david west

  • hoodsnake

    How bout a DWade cover?

  • http://slamonline.com tealish

    Kobe is an all-time great.
    Kobe is relevant.
    Kobe is provoking.
    Kobe is a credible cover.
    Kobe sells magazines.
    SLAM wants to sell magazines.
    Kobe is chosen for cover(s).

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » Post Up: Boom Boom Pau

  • Heals

    No apologies needed LZ…

  • http://sdfklf.com Jukai

    Yeah, I’m with Lz on this one. I haven’t had a subscription for SLAM in about two years now. The last cover I was excited to get was in April 2009.

  • Rondo fan

    wow poor kobe

  • Mark James

    One person we are forgetting about is Carmelo Anthony.

  • goattree

    I also kind of agree with Lz. Been down since ish #4, but have lost the connection to the passion in the pages the past few years.

    When I saw it was Kobe again, I was not excited in the least. All-Star Game in LA, so put an LA player on the cover sure. Why not the guy who’s gunna dominate the entire weekend, not just score a few easy buckets in one game? The name of the company is “SLAM” afterall. Dude is the most prolific dunker in a decade. Not since Vince2K (RIP) have we seen a player impact the game with such a ferocious attack on the rim on a DAILY BASIS.

    Admit you made a mistake, that Dime beat you to it. But also like others have said, obviously I’m still down til forever, just saying I’d appreciate it if you cleaned it up abit. Take a chance once in awhile. don’t give kobe another cover til he gets that 6th ring, please.

    Also thanks for the Rondo cover, it was much overdue.

  • Red Star

    Kobe Kobe and more Kobe! All day every day! Lakers 4 Life!!!

  • http://yahoo.com kevin armenta

    @ LZ: SLAM shows mad love to underrated hoopers.You said that you been collecting for over a decade.You should know that inside the magazine there are articles and stories about hoopers nobody has e ver heard of.PEACE!

  • D.Stokes

    Young Bean

  • http://slamonline BossTerry

    LZ right on point. Believe it or not, my last post I didnt read any of the comments, we pretty much said the same thing, he just said it much better.

  • jay

    great job!!!! that sums it up. it is his weekend with the mini-movie ..star on at the chinese theater..he is not going to abmit it publicly but he is gunning for mvp in front of the home town..book it..he will win mvp!!!

  • Mark James

    I have this cover from my mail so i gave it to my brother because I hate Kobe!!!!!!!!!!! LEBRON RULES!!!!!!!!!!!GO HEAT!!!!!!!!!

  • Sigurður Einar (Iceland).

    1. I have been reading this mag sins Larry Johnson was on the cover. I own over 100 of Slam Magazines and have read all of them. I am from Iceland so Slam is not easy to get
    2. Why are people in USA always talking about the cover? Yes it is great to bee on the cover but it is what is indside the mag that matters. Yes you have read many storys about Kobe, but they are all fun to read and you you dont like to read about Kobe, well…. Then you just read what is left of the magazine(about 95%).
    3. This season has not been as good for the NBA is a thought it would. I was hoping for Miami to be worse or mutch better, not just good(you cant talk about good). My Lakers team looks board( have been a hard core Lakers fan sins 1991), and i always said that Spurs were going to be great. I see great playoffs coming up with a great 2 round and then Boston vs Miami and Lakers vs Spurs. With another epic Lakers vs Boston finals.

    4. Keep up the great work and dont hate people just Love. Life is to short to hate, and if you dont like this magazine(i love it) then dont read it and shut up.

    Peace
    Sigurður Einar Iceland

  • HIGHLANDER

    WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY CONSUMED BY POPULARITY AND IT GOES BOTH WAYS. WHEN IT’S POPULAR 2 LOVE U PEOPLE LOVE U WHEN IT’S POPULAR 2 HATE PEOPLE HATE U PERIOD. KOBE IS A LIVING AND STILL PLAYING LEGEND. HE HAS CARRIED THE NBA ON HIS BACK SINCE JORDAN AS THE MOST SKILLED AND COMPETITIVE SHOOTING GUARD N THE NBA. WITHOUT HIM I DONT EVEN WATCH BASKETBALL. DON’T BELIEVE THE HATERS HYPE AND RECOGNIZE GREATNESS WHEN U C IT.

  • Idrees

    i subscribed exactly jan.11 and STILL haven’t even got ish 145 or 146

  • matt

    if jordan was in the league he would need to be on every single cover. Since Kobe is the closest we will get to jordan, he needs to be on every single cover…my case rests

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