Originally published in SLAM 98
The 6th Man: Fancy, huh? Through the magic of digital manipulation, we can make it look like Dirk Nowitzki and Chauncey Billups are in the same place at the same time, each holding the same ball for our latest “don’t-call-it-a-gimmick-cover” gimmick cover. The truth is that we did these shoots in different cities about a week apart, but the lack of a literal connection shouldn’t dilute our point: Dirk and Chauncey are very much connected by the way they’ve led their teams to elite status this season. The fact that neither of them will likely win the NBA’s MVP award this year is beside the point.
Regardless of who actually claims the 2006 Most Valuable Playa trophy, the two guys pictured above have made incredibly strong cases. As Lang points out in his Dirk feature, the big man’s very solid digits are actually down a bit this year, but his points have come more efficiently than ever before. Chauncey’s credentials don’t hinge on his no-joke numbers, either; as Khalid makes clear, Mr. Big Shot’s value has at least as much to do with when he makes plays as the plays he makes. The bottom line with both these cats is just that—wins and losses—and with a little more than a month left in the season, both Dirk and Chauncey had their teams in contention for the best record in the League and a legitimate shot at making the Finals.
Now, to answer the beef that’s sure to follow. Yes, we used the phrase “No Doubt” on both of those covers, an obvious and intentional contradiction that shouts out our history (check SLAM 35 and pretend like you’re aware!) while also giving our loyal readers something to complain about. We’re still hearing about the supposed “travesty” of AI leading our ’96 Draft remix, but remember: It’s OK if you don’t agree with us, even though that makes you wrong. Point being, no matter how much you’re feeling Kobe’s eye-popping season or Paul Pierce’s quietly amazing run or Steve Nash’s attempt at a repeat—and here I’d like to make public my theory that Mike D’Antoni is to Nash what Steve Spurrier was to Danny Wuerffel, which is kind of a diss, and which the college football fans out there should appreciate—you can’t argue with either Dirk’s or Chauncey’s place in the discussion. “No Doubt” is just there to get your attention—and if you’re reading this, I guess it worked.