Originally published in SLAM 54

The 6th Man: On the same day Michael Jordan busted two ribs, Ron Harper was singing. “Back again…back-to-back, back again…on the West Coast, one mo’ time…” Tyronn Lue was shrieking like a pre-pubescent Michael Jackson, Derek Fisher was laid out all over his seat with a silly J.R. Rider smile stretched across his face, and Mark Madsen was speaking in tongues. Or maybe it was Spanish.

No, it ain’t a dynasty yet—three is needed for that—but this is the next best thing. With Dikembe Mutombo playing the best ball of his life and AI hitting big shot after big shot, the best of the East could still only hang one loss on the Lake Show. Magic calling them “the best team ever” may have been a bit much, but unless CWebb jumps divisions, Kobe and Shaq are most likely gonna be sporting Olympic (as in, five) rings in three years. And if Shaq sticks around long enough, they could be sporting Eightball jackets in ’07.

“Back again…I went back-to-back-to-back the first time…I only went back-to-back this time…I may have to come back to go back-to-back-to-back again…I know how my friends feel now…”

R. Kelly believes he can fly, Ron Harper believes he can sing. They’re both wrong. In the corner, Derek Fisher—loopy smile still in place—is holding court. “Obviously, when you accomplish something, five minutes after you accomplish that everybody wants to talk about what you’re gonna do next.”

Right. Like there’s any doubt.

Well, you get the point. The Finals get covered later. But you gotta know some other stuff before you get into the issue. First off, Eddy Curry’s diary run ended last issue—good luck to Big Junior in the L. Picking up for him is LeBron James, a 6-7 junior from Akron, OH. He’s the first junior to do the diary in SLAM history, but it’s not LeBron’s first first. And it definitely won’t be his last first—but you can check the diary (and Ryan’s feature) for the rest.

Oh—and the photo above. That was L.A., Game One. AI and Aaron had done the prep work, taken their shots, stretched. All that was left was to read Trash Talk (AI peeped it after Blue). So, if someone has any advice on how to beat the Lakers, that’s where they’ll see it. Otherwise Harp may come up with a new song next year, and I don’t think anybody wants that.


Russ Bengtson

Issue 54 Shaq