SLAM magazine is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and the institution remains a massive and lasting influence on our basketball lives. That doesn’t mean the publication has been without its missteps over the years, as the mag’s editors were brave enough to reveal in an interview with Miami Heat sharpshooter Ray Allen on Tuesday.
Allen, who is enjoying a day “off” in preparation for the third Game 7 of his NBA Finals career, recently pointed to a 1996 draft feature from SLAM as continuing motivation for the persistence he’s shown since entering the NBA that year, persistence that has paid off enough to make him the NBA’s all-time leader in both regular and postseason three-pointers, and a lifesaver for his Miami Heat on Tuesday night.
“I’ve had one gripe my whole career about SLAM and I still keep it ‘til this day. It’s probably one of my sole motivators on a daily basis and I don’t know if I ever told anybody this. When that article came out with all of us on the cover [of SLAM 15], it had the (predicted) accolades on the inside. It said most likely to win MVP, most likely to do this. One of them said most likely to fade into obscurity…..and it was me. I was 21 and I knew what obscurity meant, but I had to look it up because I needed to make sure. It pissed me off because I felt I was going to leave my mark on this league.
Whoever wrote that pissed me off and it gave me motivation my whole career. I was like I want to be somebody who I’m going to leave my lasting mark on this league. As much as it pissed me off, it was a good thing because it always made me remember that there were people who thought I wasn’t going to be good. So that was motivation.
Allen, it should be noted, is one of six players from the 1996 draft class to actually play ball in 2012-13, amongst go-to guys like Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, and barely-clingers like Marcus Camby, Derek Fisher, and Jermaine O’Neal. He’s the only member of his draft class to play past the second week of May.
It’s true that SLAM really boned this one, but this also speaks to the sports media’s changing culture. In a lot of ways, especially in regards to the morning and afternoon shifts on basic cable TV, we’ve gotten a lot worse over the years. In far more instances, though, the scene has become smarter, more confident in its takes, and well-vetted in terms of research and preparation. In 1996, a magazine like SLAM had to do off the wall stuff like calling out busts and creating either/or lists.
In 2013? The same approach would be laughed off of the internet. At least, by those who don’t watch basic cable sports TV during the late morning and early afternoon hours.
So before ripping on SLAM, understand what things were like in 1996 – in the nascent days of the internet, with irreverent sportswriting still finding its legs. And credit Ray Allen, who entered this league in 1996 while being disparaged by some as a shooter and little else, and is still churning along some 17 years later. Saving a defending champion’s season, giving us the gift of a Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
If this is what obscurity means, then we should all be so lucky so as to fade into it.
(Pretty sure this isn’t what “obscurity” means.)