Originally published in SLAM 90
The 6th Man: As you can see, this isn’t actually the first time Ron Artest has appeared on a SLAM cover. Thanks to our man DJ Rhude (stay up, man—our thoughts are with you and your fam), Ron Ron has already shared space with the SLAM logo. And, given his immersion in hip-hop (check out truwarier.com if you still don’t know), this year-old mix tape cover might be the best representation of what Ron is about.
Of course, no man’s essence can be boiled down to something as simple as “hip-hop and basketball,” just as no complicated issue should ever be so bluntly generalized. One day, maybe, our friends in the mainstream media will figure this out. In the meantime, we’ll keep seeing columns like the one that ran on the front of The New York Times sports section two days before we finished this issue, in which the paper’s lead NBA writer said (without context, because she couldn’t find any herself), “It seems as if the league is hip-hop, and hip-hop is the league—especially on the night of Nov. 19, 2004.”
If you need to Google that date to know its basketball significance, you probably shouldn’t be reading this magazine. And if you don’t immediately know why such a statement is problematic, you definitely shouldn’t be reading this magazine. I don’t have the space to get into this like I want to, so I’ll settle for saying that this is precisely the sort of ignorance that makes us jump to Ron’s defense. Yes, dude has a hard time checking his emotions, and yes, he’s made a lot of public, hard-to-accept mistakes. But he’s also a devoted family man, a hands-on philanthropist and—the primary reason he’s on our cover—one of the most complete basketball players on the planet.
Sadly, in the minds of many, he’s just some dude from the projects with a fledgling record label who started a fight and scared a lot of folks in the suburbs. We won’t front—Ron was pretty scary that night in Detroit—but the idea that this somehow proves that “the league is hip-hop, and hip-hop is the league” makes Ron’s own perspective seem pretty sane. As such, we’re more than happy to let him explain himself in our pages, and we can’t wait to see him back on the court.
P.S. Scoop’s old spot now belongs to The Backboard, a first-person forum with a different player/author each month. It’s a chance for noteworthy ballers to speak some truth on the issues that define the game.