Originally published in SLAM 21

The 6th Man: It was late July. It was mad hot. The kind of heat you find in a microwave. The kind of heat that makes wherever you’re at feel like the southern tip of Hell. Sorta like Boston Garden during the playoffs back in the day. Only more humid (and without the rats).

Welcome to Georgia.

The SLAM crew was ensconced in some photo studio on the outskirts of Atlanta, waiting for Stephon Marbury and Kevin Garnett to arrive for our cover photo shoot. They’d promised to be there by 5:15. It was now 5:11-they were still technically on time-and the photographer, his assistants and we were nervously pacing the room like a group of Dennis Scotts convinced we’d been wronged by The Man. We’d been setting up since noon (actually they’d been setting up and we’d been chilling out eating Krispy Kreme donuts and drinking Jooky) and everything was ready to roll.

We weren’t concerned so much about Steph; he spends his offseasons in ATL, but KG had promised to fly in from his home in South Carolina and…you know, with that type of stuff you just never know. A 7-1 guy crammed on a commercial flight in the middle of the summer? Right before he signs a multi-multimillion dollar contract? We could only hope. No, make that pray.

We heard them before we saw them. Steph’s hip-hop bumpin’ bright-red Range Rover pulled in, followed by KG’s airport limo. It’d been a while since they’d seen each other, and they were definitely excited to get on our cover. That enthusiasm-combined with our immeasurable sugar rush-made for some of the best photos we’ve ever had in SLAM. If I do say so myself.

The guys hadn’t seen each other in a few weeks, but they have the type of chemistry that you don’t really see in the NBA anymore. Mike and Scottie? No way, this isn’t some big brother/little brother type of situation. Isiah and Joe D? Maybe, but I just couldn’t see those two spending their off hours together. These guys, however, chill. You can tell.

We figured instead of coming up with our usual “Is-this-great-or-does-it-really-suck?” type of headlines, a new approach might be in order. We let Stephon name KG’s story-”Kevin? Something like ‘The Young Assassinator’”-and let Kevin take a crack at naming Steph’s joint-”Why don’t y’all name it ‘The Chef’?” Done.

It’s rare to have two of the best players on the same team not killing each other over ego stuff. Let’s hope the Timberwolves raise whatever money they have to keep these guys. Easier said than done, I know, but still, Steph & KG-along with our poster boy Googs-are the future of the NBA. And yeah, we can’t wait.

Peace,

Tony Gervino

Issue 21 Marbury Garnett