Originally published in SLAM 130
The 6th Man: At this late point in the season (Conference Finals in full effect as I write this, the real Finals as you read it), my mind always wanders to Michael Jordan. For more than a decade, from his excruciating battles with the Pistons to his series clincher over Bryon Russell and the Jazz (save for that spring we all lost to baseball), MJ always owned my attention this time of year.
With the most complete skill set ever assembled, killer instinct and a flair for the dramatic, Michael Jordan’s quest for titles was, to me, the most captivating TV I’ve ever watched (for real). And what’s so ill about Mike is that while the postseason represented the apex of the MJ Experience, it’s not like he was a dud the rest of the year. Did he “turn it up” for the Playoffs? A fraction, I suppose, but dude was also pretty outrageous during the 82-game schedule many other players slogged through. Mike could—and did—score 50 points any night of the season (quick stat: Of his 37 career 50-point games, he had at least one in every month the NBA plays, from November to June).
Jordan’s numbers were so good, so consistently, that when we got the idea to do a New Top 50, the idea of a new MJ cover went hand-in-hand. Add in the facts that Mike (without whom SLAM probably wouldn’t exist, much less be in our 15th year) hasn’t graced our prestigious front page since Issue 100 (not counting KICKS 10, another mag that would be nada without MJ), and that he’s about to become the Basketball Hall of Fame’s most famous inductee, and this cover was a lock. Just like Mike when the game was on the line.