One of the best and most memorable covers in Slam Magazine‘s history hit bookstore shelves 18 years ago. The fold out cover featured 11 rookies from the historic 1996 NBA draft that included high schoolers Kobe and Jermaine O’Neal, draft day trades Stephon Marbury and Ray Allen, early rookie of the year candidate Kerry Kittles, fantasy beast from the start Antoine Walker, Shareef Abdur Rahim, Marcus Camby and some white kid named Steve Nash who many of us initially thought didn’t belong next to a future NBA star like John Wallace (boy were we wrong).
Over the years, Slam has brought out the cover concept for other NBA draft classes and like the class of 2002 with Jay Williams, Dajuan Wagner, Qyntel Woods and Nikoloz Tskitishvili, it wasn’t always a hit.
In 2004, Slam used elements of the “Ready or Not…Here They Come!” concept to make a pretty cool cover with high school All-Americans Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Shaun Livingston and Bassy.
3 years later, we even saw their sister magazine XXL use elements of the concept on a “Leaders of the New School” cover featuring rappers like Lupe Fiasco that you may like and a few guys like Rich Boy, Lil Boosie, Young Dro, Plies and Gorrila Zoe that you probably don’t ever care to hear from again.
But it would be 18 years since the original classic until Slam took a shot at truly duplicating the cover and like the talented 2014 draft class, it looks like they have a winner.
And like the original cover which was missing Allen Iverson, this cover is missing a player who many thing will have a good career – Dante Exum. But you gotta love how Julius Randle and Jabari Parker are in the same spots that Kobe and Ray Allen were in and that Ray didn’t “fade into obscurity.”
In honor of that original cover, here’s some behind the scenes pics and highlights with Kobe, Ray and the other great rookies of the 96 class.