For 3 a long time we’ve coated many superb basketball characters, however some stand above the remaining—not solely due to their on-court abilities (although these are at all times related), however due to how they influenced and proceed to affect basketball tradition, and thus influenced SLAM. In the meantime, SLAM has additionally modified these gamers’ lives in varied methods, as we’ve documented their careers with traditional covers, legendary pictures, superb tales, compelling movies and extra.
We compiled a gaggle of people (programming word: 30 entries, not 30 individuals complete) who imply one thing particular to SLAM and to our viewers. Learn the full record right here and order your copy of SLAM 248, the place this record was initially printed, right here.
“Skip to My Lou” was not Rafer Alston’s first nickname. The pseudonym that may follow the purpose guard all through blacktop supremacy and an NBA profession was born the summer season after his Rucker Park debut. That prior summer season, the frail 14-year-old from South Jamaica, Queens, was all the best way uptown balling comfortably with collegiate starters. Regardless of a substantial distinction in age and measurement between him and the opposite gamers, not one might stay in entrance of him. He dealt with the rock as if it have been a yo-yo and handled defenders like turnstiles in subway exits. “Right here comes The Energizer!” shouted Rucker Park MC Duke Tango.
“He simply retains going and going,” stated Duke’s co-host, Al Money. Rafer’s new notoriety climbed to some extent the place Harlemites would anticipate a lopsided rating simply to witness The Energizer bounce to his personal drum.
The next summer season, Rafer obtained the keys to that very same Rucker staff. Throughout a selected sport through which he felt the gamers and crowd lacked synergy, he premeditated a transfer in hopes of manufacturing stimuli. The opposing guard discovered himself alone with a 3-on-1 quick break rapidly approaching. Rafer bounced the ball in entrance of him and shuffled his toes with hope that his defender would take the bait. As anticipated, the opp reached for the ball. Raf then snatched it again, wrapped it round his personal waist and dimed his slashing teammate. Spectators erupted onto the courtroom and Al Money instantly renamed The Energizer “Skip To My Lou.”
For Rafer Alston, life has solely been straightforward as Skip To My Lou. When he wasn’t acting on a playground, he was persistently weathering obstacles and downhill winds. As an 11-year-old prodigy, he was too younger to grasp the neighborhood fuss round his capability. All he knew was that he was higher than the opposite youngsters, however their dad and mom have been current at video games and his weren’t. Mama Alston labored two jobs and pop was so consumed by medication he stole Raf’s Michael Jordan rookie card. Maybe a wholesome dwelling life would’ve prevented one of many biggest highschool guards ever from solely enjoying a mixed 10 video games his junior and senior years.
He averaged over 30 factors each seasons at Benjamin N. Cardozo Excessive College, regardless of enjoying below 20 minutes per sport. He saved his identify ringing on the AAU circuit with Riverside Church by besting future legends like Chauncey Billups and Allen Iverson, however his dream was by no means to be a playground legend earlier than age 18. It occurred anyway––earlier than he performed a single minute for Jerry Tarkanian at Fresno State, this very publication put him on the entrance of its December ’97 situation with the quilt line: “The Greatest Level Guard Within the World (you’ve by no means heard of).” The stress meant little to Rafer. His solely aim was to develop into an NBA level guard like his idols Mark Jackson and Kenny Anderson.
Even when Alston’s identify was known as within the 1998 NBA Draft, it was the start of yet one more scenic highway ripe with rocky terrain and opposing nature. Being confined to George Karl’s Milwaukee Bucks bench rapidly taught the rookie that the League had little regard for these superb AND1 mixtapes. After two seasons, he practically stop his dream job. Then shut good friend Troy “Escalade” Jackson (Mark’s little brother—RIP) satisfied him to affix the D-League. One 10-day contract begat one other and in a pair years, Rafer was lobbing alleys to new Dunk Contest GOAT Vince Carter in Toronto, zipping by defenses with a rookie phenom named Dwyane Wade in Miami, then working an offense via Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming in Houston. His sport was additionally price practically $30 million.
As we speak, just one NYC playground legend has performed in an NBA Finals. After being traded in the course of his tenth season to the Orlando Magic, Rafer led prime Dwight Howard and Co. to the mountaintop of the 2009 NBA season for a championship bout with Kobe Bryant’s Lakers. Video games 1 and a pair of noticed tough performances from Alston. Coach Stan Van Gundy pulled his ground normal apart and instructed him to desert the earlier contests and return to whichever fashion of play was most enjoyable. In Recreation 3, Alston dropped a blinding 20 factors on 8-12 taking pictures, ushering the Magic to their solely win of the sequence. The spotlight of the sport was when he spun off of Derek Fisher and hit Lamar Odom with a stutter-step earlier than jelly rolling Pau Gasol. As he ran again on protection, the Magic’s energizer smiled and pointed towards his idol, who simply occurred to be commentating the sport for ABC.
“I needed Mark Jackson to know that regardless that I’m getting previous,” stated Alston after the sport, “I nonetheless have somewhat Skip left in my sport.”
Hell of a journey.