Originally published in SLAM 109
The 6th Man: Of all the times when it would help this job to have the ability to predict the future, none would be more valuable than as I write this in the middle of April. We haven’t even heard this year’s postseason theme song, and we’re trying to pick players for our cover that will still be relevant when this issue goes off sale in mid-June.
Of the two incredible-looking covers we decided to go with (shout out to Nic D’Amico for the sinful execution), consider Dirk the safe one. Most of the members of the staff here think the 65-plus win Mavericks are going to take this year’s title, making their leader an obvious choice to be honored.
Shaq and the Heat? Who knows what the future holds for the defending champs, disrupted as they were by injuries all season. But if they get healthy and on a roll, a repeat of last season—particularly the Easten Conference-winning part of it—seems eminently possible.
What’s more, while a quick Mavs’ flameout would make us feel burned, we also decided Shaq barely even needs a lengthy Playoff run to warrant front-page love. I can’t say this magazine has ever “slept” on Shaq (how could we ever ignore the most dominant player in SLAM’s history?), but as of January it was pretty hard to imagine the Diesel getting a solo cover again unless it was a special issue. Think about it. On January 30 of this season, Shaq had played six games. Not only was he no longer the man in the NBA, he was no longer the man on his own team. Obviously unfazed, Shaq started February off with some solid outings and then reminded everyone how damn funny he is with his impromptu breakdancing exhibition at All-Star practice, which proved to be the humor highlight of the weekend. Joke time was over after All-Star as it was Dwyane Wade’s turn to miss time and Shaq decided to carry his team on his back like he was 28 again. Remarkable work all around by the Diesel, who, as you’ll see, also remains the NBA’s best interview.
On the off chance that neither Dirk nor Shaq appeal to you (which would admittedly make SLAM an odd magazine for you), we did make sure to offer plenty more good stuff. Among my favorite things in this issue are the unveiling of our latest high school All-Americans, a poignant old-school piece on forgotten point guard Johnny Moore and a poster of the player who always generates the most hits on our website, Kobe Bryant. Now go dig in.