Originally published in SLAM 147
The 6th Man: I have a confession to make: I didn’t think Blake Griffin or Amar’e Stoudemire would be as good as they have been this year. I’ve loved every cover we’ve done this season (Derrick Rose, John Wall, Chris Paul/Rajon Rondo and Kobe Bryant) but according to the readers who have hit us via snail mail, email, web comments and Twitter, there’s been a couple of glaring omissions. Well, now they’re fixed!
Honestly, I don’t think anyone foresaw quite how well these guys would play; it just took us a minute to get them on our front page because we didn’t want to bump any of the other guys. Each of these cover subjects had a couple of question marks heading into the season. For Blake, they were his knee and the simple reality of being a Clipper. The knee has proven not to be a problem with every poster-quality dunk he’s dropped on the League. The Clippers have sort of still been the Clippers, with the horrible start and some bad mid-season losses, but at least Blake has generally been above general Clipperness—and he’s brought Baron Davis back from the dead. In any event, there’s no person or thing that has been able to keep Blake from being an effective and very entertaining power forward, and that is why he has earned his way on to our cover.
On the opposite coast, the questions about Amar’e revolved around life without Steve Nash and the pressures of playing in New York. Any doubts about STAT’s ability to perform without having Nash as his point guard were put to rest in a nine-game stretch that lasted from November 28-December 15 in which Amar’e scored 30 points or more in each game, eight of which were Knick wins. As for the pressures of New York, well, Amar’e has only thrived on those. On and off the court he has been a team leader and a great salesman for both his personal brand and the Knicks in general. Like Blake, Amar’e has done more than enough to get the attention of a SLAM cover.
People sometimes say SLAM is about hype rather than production. This is false no matter what: Even if we use different metrics than other media outlets might, you have to earn a SLAM cover. And if we don’t always come to these decisions in exactly the same timeframe as you, the readers…well, write another letter.