Originally published in SLAM 56

The 6th Man: I was walking down Fifth Avenue on my way to the office when I saw the second World Trade Tower fall. I’d like to get around the image—I’d much rather write about the return of Michael Jordan, the Lakers’ search for a threepeat—but I can’t. Then again, how can I write about what really matters? Many people have written about the events of September 11th in the month and a half since, and the truth is, I don’t think any of them—no matter what their education or experience understands what occurred any more than I do.

The truth is that things can never go back to normal, but the truth also is that things have to. Will Kobe and Shaq get their third ring? Will Michael average 25, 6 and 4 and win MVP? Will Lavor Postell (above) ever get to do in a game what he does every night in the layup line? Will Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler be able to succeed in the NBA together? Even now, a month and a half after the world changed, none of those things seem terribly important. But they will. And that has to count for something.

As time continues to pass, what seems irrelevant will once again become relevant. Is Sam Perkins really retired? Will Speedy Claxton get his legs back? Will Penny Hardaway be able to stay healthy for an entire week—I mean season? Will Stephon Marbury be able to win in Phoenix? Will Jason Kidd be able to stay sane in New Jersey? Will the Hakeem Olajuwon/Patrick Ewing matchup be the same now that they’re based in Toronto and Orlando respectively? Will LeBron James stay in college long enough to get his name on the back of a jersey? Will the Clippers have so much fun this season that they will—on occasion—forget to play basketball entirely? Will Jason Williams get Shane Battier to, uh, loosen up?

I want those to be the questions that keep me up at night, not the other, more somber ones. And I’m convinced that they will. Soon.

Peace (really),

Russ Bengtson

Issue 56 Jordan