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Friday, October 16th, 2009 at 2:04 pm  |  104 responses

SLAM 133: On Sale Now!

15 years in and still killin’ it.

by Ben Osborne     All photo portraits by Scott Council/scottcouncil.com

Within minutes of learning that the Cleveland Cavaliers had acquired Shaquille O’Neal last June, I sent Lang a text message: “Well, we’ve got our 15th anniversary cover.”shaq_kiss

That’s right, people. SLAM is now old enough to drive in several states. Last January, SLAM publisher Denis Page and I looked at our 2009 publishing schedule and put a plan in place for what themes, if any, each issue would have. Since SLAM started in 1994, we knew we needed to do a 15th anniversary issue this year, and we thought that rather than run one in the midst of last season, we could pair it up with our NBA Preview issue for this season and have a very special edition. What we had no idea of at the time was who would be on the cover…

We had other/plans for Michael Jordan (the top 50 issue we thought of then, and a Hall of Fame tribute we thought of when the buzz around Mike grew all summer long), and the preview aspect dictated that it be guys relevant to the upcoming season.

AI? A SLAM legend for sure, but after last season ended we didn’t know what team he’d be on, or if he’d really “matter” this season (we still don’t, to be honest).

Kobe and Wade were solid possibilities, but the former has been on mad covers recently, and the latter’s team will be in a dog fight to even make the Playoffs, so his ultimate relevance to the season was in some doubt as well.

There was another guy with Miami ties, however, who had to be in consideration, especially if he could get off the sinking ship in Phoenix; none other than SLAM’s favorite big men ever, Shaq Diesel. And you know we were talking up LeBron for the spot as well. He’s been our man since he was a sophomore in high school, and it could be said he is the most important player in the game for the next 15 years.

So, once these two—SLAM favorites, and ultra-relevant to both this season and our 15-year history—ended up on the same roster, boom!

Not that we tried to shoot it right away, though, as we still had a summer of work on other issues ahead of us. I just felt good that in my head I knew what we were doing for SLAM #133, which we knew would be probably our most important issue of the year.

lebron-holds-shaqWe started trying to secure a time for a photo shoot back in August. Problem was, given their world tours, shoe launches, TV deals, etc, the two of them didn’t actually have any definitive plans to be in the same area code until Cavaliers Media Day, which was slated for September 28th at the Cavs practice facility in Independence, OH. That date was very late in our production schedule and terribly risky because it would be too late to have a back-up cover, but shit, if this was the destined cover, we were going for it. After many emails, the Cavs’ outstanding Director of Communications, Amanda Petrak, gave us the green light: Shaq and LeBron agreed to do the shoot, we’d be their last commitment of media day. This meant a guaranteed quick shoot and q+a, and perhaps more since they wouldn’t have anything to do after us.

Photographer Scott Council was hired, flights were booked. With the deadline too late to assign to a freelancer and Lang busy building our preview for the issue, the story was all mine.

That Monday the 28th I took an early morning flight to Cleveland—where the wind and cold made it feel more like November 28th—and drove my rental car out to the Cleveland Clinic courts, where masses had assembled. I took copious notes as the likes of Danny Ferry, Mike Brown and Delonte West spoke about the insanely high-pressured season that is about to tip off (I can think of few examples, in any sport, where a team was more designed to win NOW, than this one, with two of the biggest names and egos in the game, both in the last year of their contracts, playing in the American city most desperate for a championship). I listened to Bron speak, too, but was saving a few of my questions for the exclusive SLAM time later.

Then, less than an hour before our shoot, the lights went out. For real.

A power failure had struck Independence, OH and after a couple hours of milling around—and Shaq meeting with the press in the weight room, where natural light allowed cameramen to shoot video that would’ve been invisible in the gym—it was announced that media day was over. No pictures for SLAM (or anyone else). No quotes for SLAM. No way the amazing cake we’d had made for the shoot was going to survive. 15th-cake

And we were due to print the magazine in days. Thanks, wind. I’m a pretty mild-mannered guy but it was hard for me to stay calm as I digested this information.

Amanda, apologetic as she was, could not guarantee if/when a re-shoot could happen. I just knew the absolute latest anything could happen to get them on this cover was Saturday, October 3. Sure enough, after countless emails between myself, Amanda, the photographer, our printer, our Creative Director Melissa Brennan (who did her thing as usual), we got a 9 am slot that Saturday morning. I wasn’t able to do my second R/T to Cleveland—and besides, I’d needed to write my story already—but Scott was, and he did a great job.

Despite the early morning hour, Shaq and Bron were professional as always, gracing us with the very special cover you’ll see on newsstands in NYC this weekend and nationally next week. (While turning down overtures from many other magazines to give any of them an exclusive shoot.)

Needless to say, if you’re a fan of Shaq, LeBron or SLAM (ideally all three), this issue is a must-have! Besides the sick cover, some more pics of them we snuck in there at the last second, and my cover story (I worked with what I had—a truncated media day—and extrapolated what the day’s quotes and events, in concert with the two players’ pasts, mean for the season. Consider me cautiously optimistic it’s gonna work).lebron_h2u9205

While working on the story I did a phone interview with my main man Mark Jackson, the NBA’s lead TV analyst, and got his thoughts on how the Shaq/Bron show would fare. Action’s quotes didn’t fit in the story because of the media day focus I ran with, but I thought they were relevant here. I’ll say this: Mark is not as confident as me…

“I thought it was a great move for them, put them right in the mix of title contenders,” Jackson says. “But I wanted to know what their next move would be. Shaq helps, he gives LeBron another guy who is not scared of the spotlight. But their perimeter guys will make the difference.”

And not enough of one, Jackson fears: “Anthony Parker was a good pick-up, but matching up with the Magic is still a disaster for them. Styles make fights, and the Magic are a tough match-up for them. Boston has three big guys who can play the pick and roll—Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace. The Cavs still lack that.”

“I think it’s going to be interesting,” Jax concludes. “I like the idea of them all having a good time. It’s LeBron’s team, and that’s no secret. But Shaq will help. They all just have to have one goal: winning a championship.”

Personally, I think that goal is going to be met.

Lang’s official SLAM preview differs with my view slightly. Seeing his views on the champ to be, in addition to every other team, is another solid reason to pick up the ish.

And if you’re fan who, for some reason, doesn’t care about this year’s Cavs, or our predictions for how the divisions will shake out, there’s still plenty of stuff for you, much within the 15th anniversary theme: Vintage photos of the best players to enter the League since ’94, a first-person piece on the last decade and a half by Commissioner David Stern, an awesome q+a between SLAM OG’s Tony Gervino and Scoop Jackson, a sick old-school piece by Russ about the ’94 Dream Team II, and so much other ill shit. Cop it as soon as you see it!

ShaqBronbig

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  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    15 Years! damn i’m old… CONGRATULATIONS SLAM FAM ON A LEGACY OF SUPERB B-BALL ENTERTAINMENT. From Gervino to Osbourne, from Whitaker to Nelson (yeah, even you Kha / Myles), i was always and remain, a big fan.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Oh and nice cover…

  • Jer Boi

    don’t like the cover, cuz i despise the cavs, but if i was a cavs fan I’m sure I’d love it. Anyway, Congrats Slam on 15 years! Best Basketball Magazine anddd website ever.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    The return of Scoop and Tony is reason enough to cop this.

  • Ken

    The photo of LBJ lifting Shaq is going to make me laugh nonstop until the opening night. That’s just amazing on so many levels. If that photo is in the magazine, I’m buying it no doubt.

  • http://realcavsfans.com Anton

    If you ain’t been a part of it, at least you got to WITNESS
    B!tches

  • Izzo

    Makes me wish I didn’t lose all of my Tony G and most of me Russ era SLAM. Oh well.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    BTW, that cake is dope. Are you allowed to say who did the work Ben?

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    Ben, count me in as one of those who doesn’t believe the Cavs have what it takes to win a ‘ship. They’re definitely gonna be fun to watch though.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Working on the baker’s name, TAD. It was definitely a professional. The Cavs offered to hold onto the cake til the second shoot as we wanted to shoot the guys with it, but it melted…

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    I knew it! I knew SLAM was due for another Lebron cover sometime soon. LOL
    On another note, please give someone who hasn’t BEEN on a cover a cover please.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Ken’s right, that pic is funny as hell (even if obviously photoshopped)

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Wow…15 years….I’ve been there for about 14 of them. Didn’t really care for it until y’all put MJ on the cover. Then I was hooked.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Hotness. Glad I could almost help.

  • http://Www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Aww, Farmer Jones… So humble..

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    “Hotness,” because I think the cover looks great. “Glad I could almost help,” because I was involved in the initial groundwork to try to make this happen, but in the end it happened largely without my help. So, yeah.

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

    Thanks Ryan, glad you like the cover. It was the quickest turnaround in SLAM history and first ever designed on a Saturday from home with Ben and DP on ichat. I’m sure you can only imagine the fun times!

  • http://www2.gsb.columbia.edu/faculty/jstiglitz/ PANAGIOTIS VASILOPOULOS

    my kids love numbers i give them numbers,sooo…:the cost of a SLAM issue in Romania is 18 USD. No big deal you might say BUT the base salary at this moment in romania is around 300 USD and that is when things get interesting…: how many of you would give the 6% of your monthly salary to buy a magazine….furthermore, if 300USD is the basic salary of an adult (around 40 years old) think what is the monthly bying power of his son….i really wonder what are the sales of SLAM in romania…with this price policy they could not be that much….ok, we have to think also that Romanians ain’t bball fanatics and i have only seen SLAM in the airport(although it should be sold and somewhere else)

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    LeBron standing next to Shaq really does justice of just how big LeBron really is. Shaq usually dwarfs most players.

  • Ronnie Z

    From cover 1 (when i spotted it on Court Street in BK back in ’94) to cover 4 (My first issue at SLAM) to today I always get jacked up about covers! This one is hottness for so many reasons. Love that only SLAM could pull it off. Grady will love it and he’s only 5. I am proud of the fam! keep it up. It’s been a long time!

  • j4zzm4n

    I congratulate and thank Slam long may your spectaculosity continue. You converted an enthusiast into a fanatic and true hoop head. As they say in my country MAKOROKOTO, MAITA BASA. Here’s to the next 15 years.

  • K3V1N3o5

    They are not gonna win a championship,and LeBron is most overrated athlete EVER!That pic of him picking up Shaq is pretty funny though.

  • K3V1N3o5

    Oh yea,Congrats SLAM!

  • Yesse

    Well Shaq and LeBron will be killing everybody in the league, but i cant give them the championship.There are Celtics and Lakers and maybe even Magic and Spurs so i wouldnt count my chickens yet, but their season will be exciting.

  • http://slamonline.com Brad Long

    The Laker fan in me was hoping for another cover with Phil Jackson and Kobe both holding leashes to a collar around Artest’s neck, but I know Kobe has been on like 15 of the last 20 covers so I get it. The two biggest personalities and eventual HOFers on the same team warrants the coverage and the cover shot is great. ***Special note to Cavs fans*** Cop the issue, it may be the last time you see LeBron in a Cavs uniform on the cover of SLAM.

  • Vikturus

    gz on 15 years and awesome cover (Standing beside Shaq actually makes Lebron look human)! Cavaliers 4 the win this year!

  • http://slamonline.com Brad Long

    One other thing, is there any hope of a contest to win that 15th anny. ball?

  • http://realcavsfans.com Anton

    GCOAT (Greatest Cover of All Time)

  • http://www.slamonline.com James the balla

    I just threw up in my mouth when I seen this in the inbox.

  • http://www.slamonline.com James the balla

    NTGCOAT (Not The Greatest Cover of All Time)

  • http://www.slamonline.com James the balla

    Anton is the Rupaul of commenting

  • JD

    Great cover but couldn’t u add a cover 4 all the contenders? Dwight Howard 4 the Magic, Rondo, Allen, Pierce,Garnett and Wallace 4 the Cs,Kobe,Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, and Pua and Bynum for the lakers, and becuase the Spurs r so deep u could have 10 or so of their players on the cover, u managed 6 covers 4 da preview last year, so i know its possible

  • http://realcavsfans.com Anton

    To offset your barf I’ll buy 600 issues

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    JD: Can’t say too many of those names belong on a 15th Anniversary issue. Last year’s preview was 5 covers (not 6), and it was just that: a preview, not an anniversary issue too. And anyway, next ish is gonna have 4 covers. B.Long: trying to track down the ball…maybe we could do a contest for it if I can find it.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Thanks Anton!

  • http://www.slamonline.com James the balla

    15th aniiversary should of had the best players in the last 15 years. Who have been there basically from day one, and who are still relevant (other then Iverson) A cover between all 3 of those players. All on the same cover. Wearing a SLAM make up jersey, with the team some how mixed in. Kobe, Shaq and Duncan!!!

  • Remo Williams

    ^^^ spurs deep? deeper than the magic/lakers???

    gtfo of hear

  • Justin

    Happy anniversary Slam!! I’m a lakers fan, so don’t really know about that cover!

  • underdog

    Scoop? Kemp? It’s sold.

  • la huey

    i hope everyone stays healthy and keeps their nose clean. opening tip is almost here!

  • pennydunk_1

    Hope there’s some Penny in it

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    B. Long: Ball was designed by SLAM Art Director Stephen Goggi, and he’s keeping it (which seems fair to me). Still no word on the cake maker…

  • Damir

    Shwan Kemp..damn man, it’ s been a lot of time..

  • Damir

    Shawn Kemp?? Damn man, it’s been a lot of time…

  • http://slamonline.com Brad Long

    Thanks for trying, Ben. Congrats on the anniversary!

  • http://slamonline.com The underrated one

    Not abig fan of the cavs, or lebron, but daaam that cover….

  • BigShot__

    Not a bad cover concept, but if I cop this issue it will be mainly for the Scoop Jackson interview. Keep bangin’, SLAM.

  • vic21

    Another difference between Kobe and Lebron? Lebron won’t be able to win a championship, with or without Shaq.

    Nice cover though

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Shawn Kemp the Reignman! Scoop Jackson!

  • don

    would love to get some copy. it would take me two months to get one though, issues arrive here late. dang.

  • http://www.oprah.com doyouwantmore

    The Big Mercenary looks chubby.

  • BostonBaller

    CONGRATS SLAM!! I am proud to say that I’ve been with you for the ENTIRE journey, ish per ish..
    T. Crook

  • BostonBaller

    PANAGIOTIS VASILOPOULOS: If it’s that hard and expensive to get a copy why don’t you email me and I’ll see what I can do about getting you a copy. I already send a copy to Nairobi Kenya from time to time so flying yone your way might not be that bad. (depends on how many USD’s the PO wants. Peace

  • http://www.slamonline.com Pardeep

    Congrats on 15 years of dominance SLAM. Sick cover and I can’t wait to read Scoops pieace. I hope there is a pieace on Vince because I do see his name on the cover. Lakers 2010 Champs though Fisher,Kobe,Artest,Gasol,Bynum and Odom with Phil coaching. Now thats what I call the real “Dream Team”

  • http://www.slamonline.com James the balla

    Pardeep is the man!!

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Congratulations. Looks amazing.
    Similar production to the Olympics 08 cover?
    Well done SLAM!

  • http://www.b2lforums.com/forums/index.php vaLTmac51

    wow, I love this cover!!!!!!!

  • BigShot__

    Interesting how far Steph has fallen since appearing on the fifth anniversary cover. Outside of New York, dude is always going to be remembered for what could have been.

  • http:///realcavsfans.com Anton

    I’d love to have the wallpaper pic of this too.

  • Candyman

    Man, i remember when i read my first slam Mag! I was like 10 or something. It was the one with Alnzo Morning on the cover, i had to sneak in to my big brothers room just to take a look at it. I had to read it fast but i would read a few pages a day. Great stories,real news and thoughts from people who know about basketball. Every single one! Thats why i love SLAM. Good luck and please keep them coming! PS could you show some love to the birdman? Chris Andersen has come along way and his story is a great one to tell all.

  • http://www.basketbrasil.com.br Rubens Borges

    Man 15 years… My first Slam was the Stakrs one. Clank! Congrats to everyone involved…

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  • ENDS

    Same cover as always some one mean muggin’ with out a smile looking down on us. Ho Hum. Its been doen before. it the exact face LBJ has in every Cover shot. I want more creativeness like when y’all had Dwight Flying across the City and the Back became an Adidas commercial. Thats unusual and out of the ordinary.

  • http://slamonline.com Dave

    Bostonballer, putting his love over his wallet. Nice.

  • http://www2.gsb.columbia.edu/faculty/jstiglitz/ PANAGIOTIS VASILOPOULOS

    @BostonBaller……:first of all your gesture is really gentle and appreciated. But the point is not me (i ain’t making romanian money, ain’t buy SLAM here,etc.) the point is the all the young kids here that i bet would love to buy the mag but are clearly unable to do so….

  • andrew

    great cover.can”t wait for another insane issue

  • andrew

    panagioti eisai esi?

  • AJM

    Congratulations SLAM on 15 years of the best BBall Mag ever! And nice cover by the way.

  • TC

    fantastic cover…..copped!

  • http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3445/3357407353_c868c2d95c.jpg larrylegend

    i expect 200+ pages of this issue!!!

  • http://www.slamonline.com James the balla

    Wack Cover, but congrats SLAM!!
    been buying since Bron N Bassy

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Rubens, you must mean swish.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Congratulations SLAM.
    I do wonder though: Back then you guys had a variety of different players on your covers; many times players who were underrated and underexposed by the rest of basketball media.
    So why now, when you guys have had success, are you guys putting Kobe Bryant and LeBron James on autoplay for your covers (with the occasional Allen Iverson appearance)? No offense, but Kobe and LeBron appear on pretty much every second/third cover you guys put out…

  • Tower

    SHAWN KEMP!!

  • http://www.another48minutes.com Gerard Himself

    this issue seems too good to be true. I still need to get it, but what Ben already wrote here, the LeShaq pics, Scoop…. can’t wait to get it!

  • K-Nasty

    Thanks for 15 years of greatness, SLAM. As Kelly Clarkson would say, “My life would suck without you.”

  • Ace jones

    Love SLAM Greatest BasketBall Magazine In The World

  • http://www.myspace.com/weezyleezy337 Gametime Weezy

    i “heart” slam

  • KH10

    SLAM is still the best in the biz , but i remember when it was so much better than it is now, too many adverts and not enough quality writers.

  • Kent Kanada

    I know big name faces often sell the cover to readers who dont religiously buy SLAM, but in my opinion I like to see up and coming guys, guys we havent seen yet but should, guys with some style we havent seen. I am tired of the same ol guys in fuckin rotation. Put Chris Andersen on and the Nuggets, that would be dirty.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Spaceship Jay

    Lol, the Big Mercenary.

  • Michael

    teddy i think its something along the lines of: “shifting units”. sure, we would all like a cover of (randomly picking here) monta ellis and anthony randolph but it aint gonna happen

  • http://yahoo.com kva45

    IM A KOBE FAN! BUT KOO COV!I WILL DEFF HAVE TO DRAW IT!KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK SLAM!

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  • Darko

    Nice ass Cover

  • Wyclef

    Two legends. I’m not talking about O’Neil or Lebron, obviously I meant Shawn Kemp and Scoop Jackson :)

    Oh and Melissa – I’m a huge fan of your AD work. Slam is one of my fav magazines in that sense too.

  • BostonBaller

    It’s not who is on the cover to start the season, it’s who graces the cover at the end of the season. I’m missing Bible study on the 27th to see the season opener!! Let the Season begin!

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Anyone on here still wondering who made the amazing cake…
    White Flower Cake Shop
    Beachwood OH
    http://www.whiteflowercake.com

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  • http://www.facebook.com/BLK.ATK.4 Elijah

    Congrats SLAM..I’m Fifteen years old as well..but a few month older..LOL. Noted that Bron and The Diesel will tear shit up in the East, i stick by Kobe and LA..cuz yall know he gonna repeat

  • feelinit

    wow slam…maybe if shaq was 10 years younger this would be a dream team.

  • Rome Dog

    I like how Shaq and LeBron are just palming the top of the cake, Shaq is actually smelling the frosting! Happy 15th but your still JAIL BAIT!

  • lol

    how long does it usually take subscriber to receive this???……….

  • http://www.myspace.com/sam4stewart sam412

    After Orlando’s 7-0 preseason record so far I want to see them gracing a cover somewhere in the early parts of the season.
    I mean they were already good on paper but it seems like they got some chemistry.

    Maybe like a Vince, Jameer, Rashard, Dwight split.
    keep up the good work and congrats!

  • Abaci

    Congrats on 15 years SLAM. My first issue had Gary Payton on the cover and was voted the worst cover ever (score) in slam #100. i was flipping thru this ish at a stop light and was stoked at the tip of the hat to Souls Of Mischief ” 94 ’till Infinity”. Then when i got home and read the article i was floored to see you name dropped not only S.O.M. but also Del tha Funkee Homosapien. Awesome. Still fresh after all these years…

  • andrew

    wow great cover.thanks again slam

  • j rich

    the reason the suns were a sinking ship is because shaq weighed them down

  • j rich

    the reason the suns were a sinking ship is because shaq weighed them down

  • asia fans

    yea i wonder which idiot decide in a hurry to take shaq in to suns just because he was on sale. Its was like adding a tank to a group of horse. wtf?? now suns are hell better without him

  • MVP420

    i never recieved this issue!!? whats up slam? good money gone bad. i dont want to go out and buy it, im a member!holla back SLAM MAG

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