Originally published in SLAM 89
The 6th Man: I don’t like watching either one of these teams play. It might have something to do with me being a lifelong Laker fan (no pity, I know), but mostly it’s the Pistons’ brutishness and the Spurs’ soul-deadening efficiency that has me flipping right past their games on LeaguePass. Needless to say, I don’t like seeing these cats go deep in the playoffs, either, but thankfully for you, SLAM covers don’t get decided on my whimsy. If they did, Derek Fisher would’ve had, like, five by now…
No, this time of year, we’re about winning (What up, Jim Calhoun! Congrats on the HOF invite!), and so two teams that have won three of the last six titles are rep’d on our covers. Most of our Stateside readers were greeted by the no-joke visage of Ben Wallace, while those of you in Rome, Paris, Buenos Aires and, we assume, San Antonio, peeped a trio of goofy-looking Spurs. Those covers send very different messages, but you know what they have in common: Come playoff time, Ben, Tim and their respective crews are dead serious, and both have rings to show for it. As for those covers, it’s April 19 as I write this, one day before the end of the regular season, so we have no idea who will be alive when this issue hits. The Pistons and Spurs, at least, seemed like safe bets. If they end up in the Finals, remember how smart we looked; if they go out early, blame our deadlines.
And you can blame ESPN for this being Scoop’s last appearance in SLAM. Check Tony’s greatest-hits list on page 29, and Scoop’s final Game Point in its usual spot. I never got to know Scoop that well on a personal level, but I got a pretty good sense of what he’s about by editing his work the past few years. I won’t front, it wasn’t always the easiest job, but it wasn’t because dude can’t write—quite the opposite. Always challenging, never boring, Scoop’s work in these pages and elsewhere was singular, and that’s what made it difficult to edit. That’s also what made it such a necessary read. Thanks for blessing us, man.
Finally, as you’ll see, we’ve got a couple new looks this time out. First is Iso, where we’ll spotlight a baller who’s done something truly worthy of shine. The other is Check Your Man, where we’ll catch up with cover-worthy cats in between covers. You may notice some other tweaking here and there. Why? As Tim and Ben would tell you, the winners are the ones working every day to get better.