Originally published in SLAM 50

The 6th Man:Do you really love this game? That was how it all started—the very first words in the very first Sixth Man, 50 issues and seven years ago. I read those words for the first time at 3 a.m. in a Delaware supermarket, where a new b-ball magazine screamed out its name from the racks. SLAM, I thought. I need to get with this. And here we are.

Do I love this game? Yes, I do. I’m typing these words on the shaky screen of an Apple G3 Powerbook (show me some love, Apple) on the train back from Philly, where I just watched the Raptors beat the Sixers in overtime despite 51 from AI. This wasn’t for a story, not for any real reason at all, other than it was a potentially great game occuring close enough to go see it. The fact that it turned out to be one of the best games of the first half of the season—with Vince Carter adding 39 and Keon Clark pounding in 23 and Alvin Williams dropping Jordanesque fallaways (not to mention Allen Iverson on one move) and the Raptors opening the second half with a 21-0 run to erase Philly’s 16-point halftime lead—was just gravy. Just the little things behind the scenes, like Sonny Hill greeting all of the players and Mo Cheeks heading home with Vince’s game-worn Shox tucked under his arm, made it worthwhile regardless of the  score.

I do love this game. Always have, always will. We all do. So when people tell us that SLAM is too positive, or wonder why we don’t take people to task more often, it’s for a very simple reason. We love the game. Like Biggie once said, there ain’t no more to it.

So this issue is our gift back to those who have made our love that much stronger. From the sequenced triple cover of MJ scoring a perfect 50 (of course) in the ’88 Dunk Contest, to the long-overdue story on Dominique Wilkins, to the 31 pages dedicated to the players who have helped make SLAM what it is today—we’re just trying to recognize those who have made us what we are, and to share those feelings with all of you.

Do you really love this game? I hope so.

Peace,

Russ Bengtson

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