Originally published in SLAM 144
The 6th Man: Two days after arrangements for this cover shoot and interview were finalized—by John Wall via the Wizards communications department and John’s man, Brian Clifton—Clifton called me back. “Ben,” he said. “J and I just want you to know how much this means to him. You guys have been cool with John for a long time, but his own SLAM cover? That’s something he’s dreamed about.”
Call me a sap if you want—I love that stuff. Think about the explosion of basketball coverage since SLAM has been around. Beside the fact that, newspaper struggles notwithstanding, there is still a traditional beat writer or three in every city; there are also new magazines, new websites and new cable channels with new people covering the game and its players every single day. From a writing and news perspective, I think we compete with, if not beat, every single outlet there is between our mag and site. I suppose that’s a matter of taste, though. Here’s what is inarguable: There is no spot in basketball media that carries as much prestige amongst players as our cover. As our publisher says all the time, and Clifton’s call was the latest confirmation, kids who play basketball at a high level in this country—and increasingly, the world—dream of being on the cover of SLAM.
And because of our long history covering the game’s next stars online and in print before most of you have even heard of them, that cover progression begins early. In John’s case, it went something like this: big-upped his play at Reebok’s Breakout Camp and Reebok U on our site in the summer of ’07, highlighted his play at the ’08 Elite 24 Game in SLAM 122, called him and Lance Stephenson future college stars on the cover of SLAM 128 in the spring of ’09 and put him front and center of our SLAM 137 Kentucky cover this past spring. And now he’s got his own SLAM cover, which will be put front and center on newsstands-and kids’ bedroom walls-everywhere. From unknown kid to high school stud to college star to ROY favorite. We were there.
And that’s why we’re still here. On top.