Originally published in SLAM 34
The 6th Man: There are times I don’t even know what the hell I’m talking about, so I feel for you guys.
Case in point: A couple of issues ago, some kid wrote something to the effect of “Why hasn’t Shaq been on the cover?” and I answered, flippantly, “You figure it out.”
I’ve since been medicated for my problem, but that still doesn’t explain Shaq’s status as a persona non grata in the pages of SLAM. Well, the story goes something like this…
I had been at SLAM for about a week, when the publisher told me about some cat in Chicago who could really write his ass off, knew hoops inside-out and wanted to be down with the magazine. I called him. He wasn’t home, so I called Scoop. (See, that was a joke right there.)
My first convo with Mr. Jackson revolved around our prospective cover boy, Shaquille O’Neal. Neither of us had ever met the man; all we had was a napkin with a beeper number scribbled on it. It was for Shaq’s man’s man. See, we had to go through like 15 people to get a 20-minute interview with O’Neal, and that was five years ago.
We finally hooked up with him in Chicago, and the interview sucked. Sucked bad. Every answer was crap. (Sample dialogue: How good is Alonzo Mourning? “I’ve always respected Alonzo’s game.”) If I remember correctly, we had to give the tape recorder to a fifth-generation lackey who scurried to ask Shaq the questions before coming back down to the hotel lobby with it.
It took us five years and 31 issues to get over the incident.
Of course, over the years we’ve both made overtures. Like you, we’ve seen Shaq’s game grow and have often wondered about doing another story. And if I had a 20 for every phone call I got from a record company/movie company/sneaker company PR person promising us some time with Shaq, I would be writing this Sixth Man from the back seat of Puffy’s Bentley. (And Puffy’d be driving.)
But, we’ve decided to let bygones be bygones. This could be his year to lead the NBA in scoring (for real), and he has the horses this season to take his team deep into the playoffs. And thanks to NBC, TNT and TBS, we’ll all be watching every freakin’ step.
So hope you enjoy the Shaq story as much as we’ve enjoyed chasing him around.
See, that was a joke right there.
P.S. For some reason, our printer malfunctioned and my “Most Likely To’s” were incorrect. What I meant to say was Most likely to…average 20 ppg—Paul Pierce; …average 10 dimes—Jason Williams; …be Rookie of the Year—Paul Pierce; …surprise a lot of people—Cuttino Mobley; …tear his ACL-Raef LaFrentz