Issue 120 is still on stands and the annual champs issue is coming soon, but there was no way we were going to let the basketball story of the summer go by without honoring it. And honor it we did.
I thought the best way to introduce this issue—which is on stands in NYC as we speak and should be national this weekend (note: like KICKS and PUNKS, this does NOT go to subscribers; it is a special issue)—to our online audience would be the same way I introduced it in the mag itself. Here’s my editor’s letter:
“These days, the NBA boasts players from nearly every corner of the globe (and is only too happy to, well, boast about that fact). Still, the NBA is ultimately an American game, with the games that count being played on American (and Torontan) ground, and the annual awarding of a ‘Word Championship’ to the Lakers, Spurs or whoever else always coming off as a little disingenuous. Our man David Stern knows this, which is why he is quietly exploring the feasability of launching NBA franchises across the pond. But, given the cost of oil and international drama, such expansion has got to be at least a decade or more from happening.
All this to say: when you want the world to see its best players compete in games that matter, the Olympics are where it’s at. This is surely true for all Olympic sports, but you know us: basketball is all that matters. And it is Olympic basketball that gives players—and the companies who are invested in their success—a chance to show and prove on the biggest of stages. Michael Jordan knew this in ’92. LeBron James knows this today. We at SLAM certainly know it, which is why we were so eager to devote a cover to this year’s Olympic team. We were actually planning to devote a regular SLAM cover to the players charged with bringing Olympic gold back to the States, but then Nike stepped in and offered to make our Olympic coverage so much more special by sponsoring an entire issue. The result is the very special—dare I say, unprecedented—issue you hold in your hand.
If you think about it, hardcore hoop fans are coming off about as good a main course of an NBA season as you could hope for. Kobe and LeBron reaffirmed their greatness, Chris Paul reached stardom, and the League’s two most storied franchises got back to the Finals. What more could you ask for? How about a dessert of our American cover subjects, coached by one of this country’s greatest basketball minds, going up against international stars such as Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili and Andrei Kirilenko, all with a pride-laden gold medal on the line?
Use this issue to get you ready for it all, and then enjoy the show.”
That’s it for my letter from the mag, but to expand a little further, the issue includes a long cover story on the creation of Team USA by Lang Whitaker (who was in Vegas with the team each of the last two summers), a “Slamadacentury” that lives up to its name, regular features on Jerry Colangelo/Coach K, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Yi Jianlian, The US Women’s Team, Basketball in China and a sick old-school piece on the Dream Team. There are also two two-sided posters and a feature on the new Nike Hyperdunk (and the chance to wear the pair Kobe wore in the Aston Martin video—signed by KB himself), exclusive new shoes from Converse, Nike and Jordan Brand in the KICKS section, and a look at who might be in the 2012 Olympics in Bethlehem Shoals’ story on this past spring’s Nike Hoop Summit in Portland.
You really should find the issue and buy it, since nothing on here will do justice to the exclusivity and uniqueness of it, but if you want a little more for free, check this microsite that we built for the issue. It’s live now and partially complete, and the whole thing should be good by tomorrow.
Lastly, you guys know by now that Team USA was introduced to a New York City audience on Monday. SLAM was well-represented at the event, with myself, Khalid, Russ and Susan working the room (catching a lot of props for this issue along the way, incidentally) and Michael Tillery doing what he does best: getting mad quotes so that you can learn what the athletes are about in their words. You wouldn’t know it from the way the event was covered by many outlets, but there were plenty of topics discussed that had nothing to do with the LeBron-to-Brooklyn nonsense (one thought: what if the Nets move to Newark instead, as they probably should? Would Bron rep Brick City? That’s even cooler). Thankfully, Michael covered most of the topics and we’ll have all his work up on the site shortly. In the meantime, make a plan to get your newsstand in the next week or so!