In August, a special edition of SLAM magazine was released to commemorate the basketball periodical's 20th Anniversary. Inside the issue, several of the pages are littered with some of SLAM's most memorable covers. At the top of one of the pages reads, "When has a player truly made it? When they appear on the cover of SLAM!"
To many in the NBA, landing the cover of the basketball magazine is viewed as a sort of rite of passage. In the special anniversary edition of SLAM, the periodical's writers interviewed several of the players, current and retired, who have been featured on the cover. LeBron James, who has covered the magazine a record tying seventeen times, stated during the Q&A session that his first memory of SLAM was, "Wow, I'm on the cover?!" Multi-time featured star and former MVP, Kevin Garnett, stated, "I've always loved basketball and I've always loved hip-hop music, so it's an honor to have been on the cover of a magazine seven times, that represented both - dreams do come true." Former Pacer, Jermaine O'Neal, reflected on how much it meant to him to be selected for the cover, "I've had the opportunity to be on the cover twice and that definitely was an honor. To this very day, I have my covers on this big huge mantle, it's in my memorabilia room with things I have accomplished in my career."
Unfortunately, since 1994, only a select few Pacers have been designated by the periodical as ‘making it' big enough to be featured on the cover. The cover of SLAM No. 33, released in April of 1999, read, "Reggie Miller: The New King." In March of 2004, the headline story of SLAM No. 76 was "Jermaine O'Neal: Setting the Pace." SLAM No. 90, circulated in August 2005, boldly proclaimed, "Free Ron Artest." Issue No. 128, released in June 2009, featured the image of a high school kid from New York, who would later don a Pacers' uniform, with the words, "Future Shock: John Wall & Lance Stephenson, Ready to Rock the NCAA."
Now, with the release of SLAM No. 174, Paul George will add to that legacy:
Over at SLAM Online, the magazine explains that the ‘George-covered' issue of the magazine is not quite set to hit newsstands. However, with regard to the early preview, the writer states, "...everyone's been so late on George we figured he was due for some early, extra shine."
A sneak peak of the article written by Tzvi Twersky that accompanies PG's cover shot, highlights the face of the franchise's expectations for himself and his team. Twersky points out that George's name is being tossed around as a possible MVP candidate and the Pacers are No. 1 in the East, but employee No. 24 wants more. In the issue, George tells SLAM:
"This is definitely where I want to be, but it's not where I want to end at. I want to be MVP. I want to be Defensive Player of the Year. I want to be First-Team All-NBA. I want to be a Gold medalist. I want to be a hall of famer. I want to be a Champion. Everything that's the highest or the greatest that you can do, I want to do that."
Also within the article preview, Solomon Hill offers his perspective on what distinguishes PG from so many others, by stating:
"Paul's mentality is what makes him so good. His mentality that he wants to be the best two-way player. It's that he's not just about scoring; he wants to get stops as well. When you have guy like that, it really shows you the bigger picture. It's not about trying to put up as many points as you can; it's about being efficient on the offensive end and stopping your player. That's something that's really different about him."
Both of these quotes underscore George's long held desire to be more than just a scorer, passer, or defender - he wants to be a ball player. It is his desire to be one of the GOATs.
Of course, it is unknown whether George will ever accomplish all of his lofty goals, but it sure is going to be fun for Pacers' fans to be along for the ride.
As for the here and now, Paul George has "made it" - it is his time. He has landed his first cover of SLAM. Like the headline of SLAM No. 174, states, "If you don't know Paul George, now you know."
(Make sure you read the rest of the article when SLAM 174 hits newsstands in the coming days.)