For 3 many years we’ve coated many superb basketball characters, however some stand above the remainder—not solely due to their on-court expertise (although these are all the time 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 numerous methods, as we’ve documented their careers with traditional covers, legendary photographs, superb tales, compelling movies and extra.
We compiled a gaggle of people (programming notice: 30 entries, not 30 folks whole) who imply one thing particular to SLAM and to our viewers. Learn the full list here and order your copy of SLAM 248, the place this checklist was initially printed, here.
An argument could possibly be made that 2019 was an essential peak in highschool basketball. Hear us out for a bit. Whereas 2017 and 2018 noticed LaMelo Ball and Zion Williamson carry new ranges of eyeballs into the highschool hoops house, it led to newfound momentum and curiosity in 2019. And though this new group of children might haven’t garnered the identical kind of consideration that LaMelo and Zion did individually, as an entire—collectively—they had been rock stars, too. Extra particularly: Jalen Inexperienced, Josh Christopher and Sharife Cooper.
They checked all of the bins on and off the courtroom—each had the right combo of expertise and aptitude that drew giant crowds in particular person and made for some very enjoyable spotlight mixes on-line. After which, off the courtroom, additionally they occurred to be the cool children of their class: swaggy and fashion-forward, they knew make the most of social media (and construct an viewers) impeccably and had been top-tier professionals when it got here to on-camera interviews.
Jalen, out of Fresno, CA, was a top-three prospect within the class. His velocity, explosiveness and hangtime made him an automated fan favourite. You then had Josh, additionally from Cali, however residing in Los Angeles. His household was no stranger to the game, along with his brother Patrick having logged some minutes within the NBA with the Utah Jazz, in addition to in Summer season League, the G League (D-League on the time) and abroad.
After which there was Sharife. Whereas Jalen and Josh had been taking pictures guards, Sharife was a pure level guard. And though he was smaller in stature, his confidence and swagger had been on the exact same degree as theirs, or anybody else’s, for that matter. He hooped out of Atlanta and shared the courtroom at McEachern HS with now-Cavs ahead Isaac Okoro. Like Josh, he additionally got here from a household of athletes; his sister, Te’a, hooped collegiately earlier than becoming a member of the L.A. Sparks within the WNBA.
All roads led to a mid-August weekend in NYC, when all three arrived within the Massive Apple to partake within the SLAM Summer season Traditional Vol. 2—the place the shoot for the enduring trio’s cowl got here to life. It’s a kind of issues the place you look again and spot that every one facets of the aesthetics had been spot on: the seamless backdrop shade, their uniform colorways, their poses, their sneakers, their facial expressions. Probably the most spectacular half is that it took little artwork path from our finish to get them to execute the duvet shot or some other flicks. We simply put them in entrance of the digicam and allow them to do their factor.
That’s what makes this trio so distinctive: it was all easy. They understood media—each social media and conventional media. They understood branding. Regardless of their younger ages, they’d a powerful understanding of the sport, on and off the courtroom. And the hoops group took discover. This half isn’t subjective. It’s quantifiable. For those who have a look at the view counts and engagement for video posts centered on this trio again in 2019, the numbers are as excessive as anybody we’ve ever coated.
Talking of protection, another excuse Jalen, Josh and Sharife maintain such a robust presence in SLAM’s coronary heart is that their rise got here at a time after we had been making an enormous push in the highschool media house. Sure, SLAM had all the time coated HS hoops in some capability—test our digital archive for LeBron’s HS shoots, our print HS Diary column, our beloved PUNKS part, and early in-depth protection of the Ball brothers and Zion Williamson, amongst many others. However there hadn’t been a devoted HS workforce internally centered on the house till then. By 2019, we had shooters attending HS video games throughout the nation on a nightly foundation and devoted social pages throughout Twitter, Instagram and YouTube that solely served HS hoops, and nobody within the trade was churning out “Day within the Life” episodes with the highest recruits within the nation as persistently as we had been. So, whereas we definitely helped elevate the profiles of the trio on the time with our protection, additionally they helped elevate our profile within the HS house by permitting us in and trusting us to inform their tales.
And if we would have liked another excuse to have Jalen, Josh and Sharife up in our rafters, they had been additionally members of the inaugural SLAM Summer season Traditional Vol. 1 in 2018, and all three returned the next yr for Vol. 2—a recreation and postgame celebration that our viewers nonetheless talks about to this present day. You don’t imagine us after we say they had been rock stars? Simply take a look at the video on-line of children operating by the streets of New York Metropolis following the gamers’ bus after the sport. For a lot of blocks.
Right this moment, all three are nonetheless pushing exhausting on their NBA desires—Jalen is taking part in a serious function with the Houston Rockets (the place he coincidently hooped with Josh for 2 seasons), whereas Josh and Sharife are nonetheless solidifying their locations within the L.
One factor is for sure, although: All three are legends in SLAM’s historical past.
All portraits by Jon Lopez.