Monday, April 15, 2024

THE 30 PLAYERS WHO DEFINED SLAM’S 30 YEARS: Sebastian Telfair


For 3 a long time we’ve lined many wonderful 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 basic covers, legendary pictures, wonderful tales, compelling movies and extra. 

We compiled a bunch of people (programming be aware: 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.


Context issues. Context is important. Context is why a man who by no means averaged double digits in 10 NBA seasons belongs on this subject each bit as a lot as the present and future Corridor of Famers he’s surrounded by.

Context begins in Coney Island, Brooklyn, NYC. As soon as an iconic vacation spot in twentieth century American tradition, extra not too long ago an emblem of what occurs when cities shunt poor individuals into crowded neighborhoods and starve them of sources. The form of place about which a fellow Brooklynite wrote a well-known rhyme about crack rock and soar pictures. Perhaps greater than any single neighborhood in America, a spot the place a soar shot—or extra accurately, a deal with and court docket imaginative and prescient and unequalled level god swagger—was, for a really choose few, the way in which out.

Sebastian Telfair was one of many few, an heir of an immense Coney Island legacy who needed to earn the suitable to say it.

The legacy was Stephon Marbury’s, a dude whose highschool profession was loopy sufficient to encourage a Spike Lee joint and made him the plain option to originate this journal’s Basketball Diary. He, his metropolis, his borough and his neighborhood had been all foundational to what SLAM was and have become. And, nicely, Steph and Bassy are cousins. Steph blazed the path Bassy needed to comply with, set the bar he needed to clear. A blueprint (pun supposed, as you’ll see), sure, however the reverse of a handout.

So Bassy adopted, youthful and smaller and fewer of a certain factor, and but plain simply the identical. Visibility and strain boosted by the lineage, and he embraced all of it. What did we are saying about handles and court docket imaginative and prescient and level god swagger? From the primary day he suited up for Lincoln Excessive, it was arduous to think about a highschool basketball participant being extra assured, harder or extra enjoyable to observe.

Then got here one other man to attach and examine him to, this one a 12 months older, and from someplace nicely past the 5 boroughs. In 2001, LeBron James and Sebastian Telfair had been co-MVPs within the ABCD Camp underclass all-star sport. (Should you had been within the constructing, you keep in mind Bassy being one of the best participant on the court docket.) By the summer season of ’02, Bron and Bassy had been arguably one of the best gamers of their respective lessons, and definitely essentially the most talked-about. After that summer season, they had been linked—for higher and worse—for good.

A sneaker business veteran later referred to it because the weekend that “modified every part” within the grassroots hoops sport. With the assistance of events at a kind of footwear giants, LeBron and his individuals flew into New York on a Friday afternoon in ’02 to hyperlink with Bassy and his crew. They went straight from the airport to IS8, a tiny public college health club in Queens that hosted legendary metropolis league video games, for the primary of two runs in opposition to a few of New York’s greatest expertise. In between, on Saturday afternoon, they reconvened on the Hunter Faculty health club in Manhattan for a photograph shoot. The end result was the primary SLAM cowl for each, and nonetheless one among our most memorable entrance pages in 30 years of doing this.

Bassy had two extra years of highschool after that, a interval during which he gained back-to-back NYC public college metropolis titles, a state championship, and the New York state Mr. Basketball award. He additionally held down our Basketball Diary as a junior, identical to Starbury and LeBron earlier than him, additional cementing his SLAM legacy. Fellow Brooklynite Jay-Z, then on the peak of his hip-hop reign, was noticed courtside at his video games, a second captured in Via the Fireplace; the movie stays an irreplaceable doc of a proficient hoop dreamer in an unforgettable basketball second, a time when a 5-10 excessive schooler might get lottery cash and a sneaker deal earlier than the three-point shot and the positionless revolution remade the sport. Followers overfilled highschool gyms to observe him play, together with the lady in Via the Fireplace who famously declared, “I named my cat Bassy!”

He was the topic of a e-book, too, to not point out a pair extra SLAM covers, a 2004 lottery decide whose NBA profession by no means grew to become fairly what he hoped. A 12 months or two of faculty may’ve helped, and comparisons to his cousin and his man from Akron did him no favors, nor did touchdown on rosters that had been ill-equipped to compete for titles or to assist a younger participant who had proven that, with the suitable group round him on and off the court docket, he might win and deal with the highlight whereas doing it. He performed for eight groups in 10 seasons earlier than he known as it a profession in 2015. And don’t get it twisted: not simply anybody can spend a full decade within the NBA.

What’s his legacy? One of many best, most influential highschool gamers in NYC historical past. The primary true level guard drafted straight out of highschool. Coney Island royalty. Film star. And a participant our personal story merely wouldn’t be the identical with out. 


Photograph by way of Getty Photos.



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