Rawness Grips the Rock for a SLAM

Dr. James A. Naismith invented basketball in the 1890’s as a game of endurance and fundamentals. Over 100 years later, it has become a culture of coolness. It is a sport much associated with hip-hop and style.

SLAM magazine captures the essence of this ever-growing popularity contest. Published nine times annually, SLAM, has maintained the spunk and attitude that founder and publisher Dennis Page imagined when he created the first issue in 1994. Catering to the young basketball aficionado, SLAM is full of big, in-your-face stories about the latest developments and fashions in the game, with particular attention to the NBA and NCAA.

Though SLAM may seem confrontational and in need of a lesson on table manners, its unique style is what makes it appealing to readers. It lays everything on the table in the basketball world and leaves it open for ridicule and interpretation.

In November’s issue, the story, “The Hall of Shame,” is about the secrecy of the NBA Hall of Fame election process and how fans do not appreciate unknowns making the decisions of who gets in and who is left in the dust. SLAM and the NBA, past and present members, also show their resentment towards the voters.

“Whoever is voting needs to take a look in the mirror and ask if they’re doing right by the game. What we have right now is a mess,” (Oscar “Big O” Robertson, HOF class 1980).

November’s cover boy is the highly-touted freshman O.J. Mayo of the University of Southern California. With Mayo gracing the cover, it reinforces SLAM’s commitment to featuring up-and-coming or bona fide super stars that are making noise in their respective league. Donning USC apparel and standing in front of a white Bentley and art deco-style home complete with the typical So Cal backdrop of palm trees, the bad-tempered and egotistical Mayo also carries on the tradition of the cool and/or bad-boy reputation of his SLAM cover predecessors.

Though SLAM’s writing staff has changed over the years, it has preserved its roots of capturing the rawness of the basketball world. Like it does in the article about the athletically unsuspecting University of Arizona swingman Chase Budinger. “Sure, it’s great to follow your heart and everything, son, but let’s be realistic,” (“Air Bud”). Perhaps SLAM’s most well-known writer is former editor Robert “Scoop” Jackson, who brought his Chicago-bred street wise style of writing and basketball knowledge to the magazine. Jackson and others may have set a standard for the magazine, but its current talent perfects the difficult task of making it appear as if the same writers have been around since day one.

“That home is, of course, Cleveland, where after reaching the NBA finals, the Cavs are now hoping to actually win a ring. With GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown both imported from San Antonio, the Cavaliers are trying to become the Spurs of the Midwest,” (“The Perfect Imperfections of Drew Gooden”).

The magazine’s photography staff accentuates its hard-nosed writing and overall style. The photos really do a professional job of capturing the character of the subject, whether it is a monumental portrait on the life of an NBA superstar or the tooth and nail grinding life journey of a young man escaping poverty in a third world country to play basketball in the states.

The main photo of the article “The Mighty O,” has Brazil’s Oscar Schmidt, the all-time highest scoring player in professional history, captured in the familiar position of shooting over an opponent.The photo’s gritty pixilation coincides with the fact that Schmidt never made it to the NBA.

SLAM stays true to its devotion to hard-hitting tales from the hardwood. As long as there is a young kid dribbling a ball through his legs for hours on end, SLAM will have a place on newsstands.

–Nick Shekeryk

nvsheker@syr.edu

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