Originally published in SLAM 40

The 6th Man: I’ve gotta be honest here—over the past five years or so I’ve paid to attend exactly one professional basketball game. It was just last year, a late-season Sixers game at the First Union Center (that’s F.U. to you), and to be really honest, I don’t remember much, except that we were sittin’ way up high, and you could purchase any Sixer replica jersey you wanted as long as it was World B. Free’s. True story.

What I’m trying to say is this—I’m not the best person to argue that the League-wide attendance slump is ridiculous. But I still don’t get it. I understand that for the price of four tickets you could buy something nice, like a week’s worth of groceries, a decent mid-sized car or 400,000 Matt Maloney rookie cards. I also understand that Michael “The Human Sellout” Jordan is busy transporting his children (to the world’s finest golf courses, apparently) instead of making some poor shooting guard his… Well, you’ve seen Oz, right? Still, the idea that arenas are staying half-empty for compelling games—about 47 people showed up to watch the Nets battle the defending champion Spurs—is just plain silly.

Say it with me, people: The League is as good as it’s ever been. I know, I know, Magic and Larry were team players, Sir Charles was John Belushi with a vertical and Michael was the best ever, but think about it: Iverson vs. Marbury. Garnett vs. Webber. Scottie vs. Vince. Shaq vs. Kobe. There are great matchups every night. Not to mention rule changes that allow cutters to do virtually anything they want (except make mock throat-slitting gestures).

Take those two guys on the cover, for example. J-Will and C-Webb (page 60) lead an offense that averages ABA points on the regular and throws behind-the-back passes on every possession. Then there are people like Eddie Jones (page 40), who plays textbook D on one end, then flushes on someone’s head down the other end. Say it with me, people: I love this game.

Russ Bengtson

P.S. Chuck, you’re still our role model. That explains the profanity.

Issue 40 Webber Williams