Originally published in SLAM 117
The 6th Man: The year was 1999 and things were not looking good in the ol’ Association. The lockout had been completed in time for a 50-game season to go down, but many people had written the L off, at least for that season. Thankfully, regardless of what you think of Vince Carter, Paul Pierce or Jason Williams now, trust that they were hella fun to watch before calendar years started with a 2 (actually, P-Double wasn’t all that “fun,” just extremely effective. But Air Canada and White Chocolate? Good times). To honor this triad’s role in helping revitalize a League that had been doing its best to destroy its fan base and put SLAM out of business, the genius that was Tony G (TG is still all that, by the way; have you ever seen fishing lures covered the way Antenna does?) devised this tri-cover concept, and let myself (Pierce), Russ (Carter) and Scoop (Williams) state our respective cases for who should win ROY. My man Paul ended up being Tony’s “winner,” which was cool, but also beside the point. We were honoring new blood, and as a concept, the cover was a hit (sold well and holds up beautifully some nine years later).
There’s nothing that Michael Beasley, Eric Gordon and Derrick Rose need to save these days (though it would be cool if one of them could make the Knicks relevant), but these three are part of a movement just the same. This is the second year in a row that high schoolers can’t go straight to the League, and the result is that there are some unbelievably talented and NBA-ready young men playing in college. Beasley, Gordon and Rose stand out even in their historically awesome class, and since there is some healthy debate going on as to which of them is the best of all, the timing for this homage to SLAM 35 just seemed right. Enjoy.