Originally published in SLAM 141
The 6th Man: You know which story I heard the most about from SLAM 140? The Steve Francis feature. On one hand, this wasn’t a total surprise: Stevie Franchise’s acrobatic game definitely captured the imagination of fans for much of the last decade, and then no one heard peep from him for a couple of years. Steve’s particular case (All-Star starter to out of the spotlight entirely in less than five years) is extreme, but the overall appeal of former high-profile players is broader than that.
Our “culture” (in this case meaning the star-generating basketball media, which SLAM is absolutely a part of) has a tendency to build young ballers up to remarkable heights, then stick with the ones who live up to the hype while acting like those who don’t pan out have basically disappeared. I get it: Everyone loves who’s hot and who’s next. Shoot, we’ve got “QUINCY MILLER” in bold letters at the top of this month’s cover. And yet, as a basketball-only publication blessed with experienced writers and a flexible publisher, we have an opportunity few other media outlets have: We can feature the guys who have “disappeared,” too.
If the Lenny Cooke feature in my first issue as E-i-C (SLAM 106) was one instance of that, and Francis another, then this issue brings perhaps the best example yet in Schea Cotton (leading huddle above). You young guns might not even know the name, but let me tell you: Even to someone who grew up on the East Coast, this L.A.-bred baller was the biggest name in prep hoops in ’94-95. Sports Illustrated did a feature on him. We had him in multiple issues. He was on ESPN when that meant only one channel. And then he was out. Not literally, of course. He got hurt, played a year of college, played pro ball overseas, got into coaching and even maintained a certain status in the L.A. area. But to the larger basketball landscape? Gone. Well, now we’re putting him back on the map, thanks to a lengthy feature by our man Aggrey Sam (pg. 66).
And while we’re talking about players who got ghost, check the Old School feature on Angelo Cruz, too (pg. 72), and trust that for every future star we help break, we’ll try and make sure there’s a former future star we help remember.
P.S. Don’t sleep on our Finals coverage either. Multiple writers at every game and the best designer in the business make this year’s Finals recap a must-read for any fan who wants to relive the most exciting Championship series in years.