Originally published in SLAM 114

The 6th Man: It’s Sunday night, Nov. 4th as I sit and write this, with Kobe and the Lakers taking on the Jazz in the background. As of halftime, Kobe Bryant is still a Laker. Actually, over the last few days it’s seemed like he’s staying. But that came after several weeks where a trade seemed imminent. After a period where Kobe was definitely staying. Which came after a summer when he said he’d have to be traded…and on and on, the Kobe/Lakers saga has gone.

Truth be told, all the drama has been—occasionally—entertaining (those radio interviews KB did last spring were amazing), and it’s definitely good for slamonline.com—all our bloggers know the best way to draw triple-digit comments is to write about him. And it’s had little effect on dude’s game; he was the best individual player in the L last year, and it doesn’t looks like he’s ready to relinquish that title.

One thing the will-Kobe-stay-a-Laker-or-not situation has been horrible for was getting him on our cover—regardless of how many emails I’ve been sent begging for a new KB cover. How were we—the mag whose long lead time led to an issue with Shaq and Dirk on the cover just as they were being eliminated from last year’s Playoffs—going to put Kobe on the cover in a Laker uniform if we literally had no idea if he would even be on the team when the issue came out? Well, Kobe solved that problem. In a concept that came entirely from his people, we shot your boy in his USA jersey during Lakers training camp. We didn’t love the idea at first, since the Olympics are still nine months away, but KB was adamant. After the shoot happened, as the trade rumors swirled, we began to feel a lot better about the uniform Kobe’s wearing. After all, considering the dramatic effect his defense, intensity and scoring ability had on the US team last summer, we’re quite sure the US won’t be trading him.

Some more unique pics, accompanied by Executive Editor Lang Whitaker’s interpretation of the game’s biggest—if hardest to understand—star can be found on page 70. Enjoy. (And stop emailing me about Kobe!)


Ben Osborne

Issue 114 Kobe Bryant