Originally published in SLAM 2
The 6th Man: IT WAS EARLY March and the playground by my apartment was covered with two inches of ice rivaling Lillehammer’s best. So my best friend Rob and I were shooting baskets in the gym around the corner. We got a great hoop, one of those slightly loose breakaway rims that anything near the hole rings with a boiiiing, just like TV.
“So if he makes it, he’ll be the first Dominican in the NBA, right?,” said Rob, launching a shot with his toes just outside the three point line. Net.
“Yeah, I guess so,” I said as my miss clanged loudly. Boiiing. “But who cares?”
“Yeah,” said Rob, rattling off another swish. “Who cares?”
Who cares. We were talking about Felipe Lopez, the 6’5″ Harlem high schooler and the top vote getter in our SLAM All-American poll. Now you can be damn sure his family cares if he makes the NBA. The thousand-or-so screaming Dominicans who watch his every move probably care. Felipe cares.
But to my mind, I like Felipe just as he is. I’ve had as much fun this year watching Felipe play as watching Jalen Rose or Dennis Rodman or even Shawn Kemp. (At least Felipe can come say Yo after the game). And I’ve had even more fun this year playing hoop.
And that’s what SLAM is all about. The guys in this magazine aren’t statistics, they aren’t meat for future Rotisserie leagues. They’re players, just like you and me. Well maybe they’re a little better. For now. But I’m working on some new post-up moves, and if I can just… nail… this NBA three…