Originally published in SLAM 4

The 6th Man: “YO T, WHO’S ON THE NEXT cover?”


Sometimes I think this publishing gig takes years off my life. Back in the day, it was easier just, you know, readin’ magazines and cutting out pictures for my school locker. I never had to think about things like…

“Yo T, who’s on the next cover?”

All the time. Every day. But hey, that’s what everybody-family, co-workers, my boys, kids on the subway, everybody – is lookin’ to find out. (I always say “Jamaal Wilkes” anyway.)

Last issue’s cover was cake. If you’re writing about hoops, ’95-style, Shaquille O’Neal is the cover, no question. This issue, however, was a much tougher call. As a matter of fact, after two weeks of deliberating, we came up with three guys who could fit the bill- Chris Webber, Penny Hardaway and John Starks.

And so we huddled some more, debated, flipped coins and had an office free throw contest, winner chooses cover.

I won. I chose Starks.

Why? ‘Cause I think Starks is the most compelling story the NBA has to offer. Think about it, folks: Here’s an All-Star, a guy whose team would not have even gotten tickets to the NBA Finals last season without him, tripping from hero to goat in the span of 16 unsightly bricks during Game Seven of the Finals against the Rockets. That night in June, he looked like World B. Free on acid-seriously- squeezin’ off shots from crazy angles. Bam. Bam. Bam. Clank. When he left the floor that night, he looked like one of those cats from Dawn of the Dead.

This season was to be his redemption. John was going to establish himself as the premier two in the league.

He started strong. Then the wheels came off. He shot. He missed. He stopped shooting. He sulked. He rode pine. His teammates froze him outta the offense and he looked…scared out there.

As of this writing, John is still shoulder deep in a slump, haunted, I’m pretty sure, by his performance in Game Seven. Whether he’ll finally regain his confidence, and with it, his shot, is the real story, and it’s an interesting one, I believe.

Anyway, read on. This issue’s solid. We’re bringin’ Webber, Penny, Tar Heel coach Dean Smith, the mighty UMASS squad, and Chicago’s Ben Wilson. And Starks’ three, which, even when he’s not hittin’ it, has perfect form. Plus a whole lotta stuff I can’t get into ’cause the next issue’s already here. Peace.

Tony Gervino

Issue 4 John Starks