Originally published in SLAM 102

The 6th Man: There’s this movie called Equilibrium, which came out in 2002 and which apparently features a paranoid, conspiracy-theory-espousing plot best described by the film’s tagline: “In a future where freedom is outlawed, outlaws will become heroes.” In other words, it sounds like the kind of movie Gilbert Arenas might find interesting.

I’m cheating, of course—I know Gilbert likes this movie, because he references it in the interview for one of this month’s cover stories. I originally Googled the movie for fact-checking purposes, but I ended up with much-needed inspiration for this letter. Let me know if this makes sense…

As you’ve no doubt figured out by now, this month’s cover love is split between arguably the two most deserving cats in the L who had yet to grace our front page. On one side, you’ve got Chris Paul, the prep All-American, ACC-polished cat whose Mr. Clean image belies his bad-ass game. On the other you’ve got Gilbert, the eccentric, low-top-wearing guy who seems to shoot his mouth off as often as he shoots the ball. Polar opposites, in other words, beyond the obvious basketball gifts with which they’ve been blessed.

By the time you read this, the 2006 FIBA World Championships will be over, and win or lose, Team USA will have done it with Chris Paul and without Gilbert Arenas. Chris seems to be exactly the kind of guy Jerry Colangelo, Coach K and David Stern want repping American hoops—a nice, polite kid who happens to be an incredible point guard. Meanwhile, Gil’s got this black cloud that seems to follow him; despite the fact that anyone who knows him (us included) will tell you he’s one of the nicest dudes you could meet—and a ridiculous ballplayer to boot—he doesn’t seem to fit the establishment mold.

I have no bold pronouncement to make about all this; my point, if I have one at all, is that I really like both of these guys, and I’m guessing you do too. No matter which one you might relate to, you can be a CP3 fan and a Gil fan (unless, perhaps, you’re Mike Krzyzewski), and both their games and (hopefully) this magazine give you a chance to appreciate each of them. And I could be wrong, but I think that’s why we love this game.


Ryan Jones

Issue 102 Chris Paul

Issue 102 Gilbert Arenas